“Aquaman Annual” #2 by Jeff Parker, Yvel Guichet and Alvaro Martinez is two separate stories of battles again the Giant-Born, with Aquaman and Wonder Woman teamed up in the first story and then Mera and Wonder Woman in the second.
An Annual format story should make maximum use of the all the extra pages, and “Aquaman Annual” fails to do this by having the second story rehash part of the first, and because both stories have no originality or suspense. “Born of Giants” can be summed up thus: there are some bad guys, the heroes find them and fight them, there is some battle repartee and then the villains are defeated. Then rinse and repeat.
The only real item of interest in the plot is that the bad guys are the “Giant-Born,” otherwise known as the Titans from Greek mythology, first seen in “Aquaman” #29. Their kind was overthrown by the younger gods, the Olympians, and in the DC Universe, Aquaman and Wonder Woman are the descendants of the Olympians.
Parker begins Part 1 of “Born of Giants” with an information dump that leads into a flashback. This timeline maneuver is designed to drum up suspense from splash page of Arthur and Diana immobilized and ready to be eaten, but it falls flat. The inevitability of the Giant-Born’s defeat and the squalor of their existence makes for a dreary reading experience.
The Giant-Born’s rights to live on Earth, if they have any, are not discussed, even though their story has unavoidable and uncomfortable parallels with those of endangered species or indigenous cultures in the wake of colonialism. In Part 2, Parker makes a cursory nod to the politics of displacement by having Mera and Wonder Woman ask the Giant-Born, “Did you try to find another way to survive?” before they are cut off by angry genocidal ranting by their foes. Thus, Mera and Wonder Woman give up on “diplomacy,” and the anger and nastiness of the Giant-Born justifies the use of extreme superheroic force. Greek mythology is rich material and is hard to beat on its own as good reading. Parker’s interpretations add nothing and there is no subtlety to his use of it.
The Giant-Born are like aliens in old horror movies, which exist to provide something for the heroes to sweat over. Parker makes the Giant-Born’s behavior and appearance deliberately repellent, such as their parasitical dining habits. Despite their lineage, they are easily defeated. They are also boring villains, and none of them stand out as individuals, not even Celeana, the leader in Part 1, who at least has a name. It seems that the only reason Parker plucked the Giant-Born out from their coffins was to enable a crossover between “Aquaman” and “Wonder Woman.”
The human victims don’t fare any better by characterization, and even Aquaman and Wonder Woman are extremely thin on character development. The tiff between Wonder Woman and Aquaman is hackneyed-sounding. It was clearly contrived to add some interaction between the two, but it only serves to reinforce how the story has little weight or substance. In Part 2, Mera and Wonder Woman’s bonding comes off better, but the feel-good sisterhood is also thin on specifies and is equally manufactured. The only light, natural-feeling note was the joke in Part 1 about the Titans’ hideout and trap being a movie set.
The pacing and transitions in Guichet’s art are fine, but his linework and compositions are not attractive. He often tilts panels for no good reason at times, or zooms in without a good reason to do so. Instead of adding visual interest, this makes the action jumpy and disorienting. Guichet’s anatomy also has issues. Diana’s and Arthur’s faces and bodies are also distorted or foreshortened badly in several panels. His architectural detail is good, but the effect is nullified by Eyring’s boring and inattentive color and lighting choices for both the backgrounds and the very cluttered battle scenes. Martinez’s art in Part 2 has relatively better anatomy, but his battle scenes are similarly too packed. His background effects with water are pretty, though, and thankfully the coloring and inks preserve their delicacy.
“Aquaman Annual” #2 lacks substance and doesn’t give the reader any bang for the buck, but it does close the Giant-born plot thread. This quick dispatching is ultimately a relief due to the thinness of characterization and plotting.