“Not for Atlantis. Not even for its King. But for a friend? For you, Arthur? Yeah.” – Prisoner-of-War of the Others
After over two years, the new car smell of the New 52 concept has worn off. While their Villains Month stunt worked like gangbusters, DC’s starting to fall into a lot of problems. It feels like their best course of action is to take their old properties, put a fresh coat of paint over ’em, and call it a day. Hey, that’s what Marvel and DC do regardless, but with DC, it feels like more of a crutch than ever. They’ve been too focused on reintroducing old characters and topics with little emphasis on introducing new ones.
Not to say that they’re completely barren of new characters. They’ve come up with a couple of good villain designs (I love Mob Rule from Flash, personally). They just need more new heroes. Even though he feels like just another Green Lantern at this point, Simon Baz was a good start. Luckily, Geoff Johns had another good idea in his post-Flashpoint writing that I’ve found as more of a breath of fresh air. Johns (and artist Ivan Reis) created the Others.
Introduced in the second Aquaman arc, the Others is a team made up of wholly original characters. While their origins have yet to be fully explained, they were essentially the superhero counterpart of Aquaman’s high school rock band before they broke up and he hit the big time. They each wielded different special abilities, as well as different ancient weapons from Atlantis. Originally, the team was made up of:
Aquaman: King of the Sea, wields his special trident, etc. You know the drill.Ya’Wara: Loincloth-wearing jungle queen with a special globe that allows her to teleport anywhere around the world.Prisoner-of-War: Haunted soldier who acts as a host to the many ghosts of his fallen comrades. Wields golden manacles that create forcefields.The Operative: Elderly secret agent with an excess of experience and connections to seemingly every government. Has a magic key that can open any door.Kahina the Seer: Scimitar-using woman with the ability to see the future.Vostok-X: Russian cosmonaut with a helmet that allows him to survive without air, food or water.
First brought up in Aquaman #7, the team got back together due to their old enemy Black Manta hunting them down to steal their artifacts. Over the course of the story, Kahina and Vostok-X were killed off and while there was much bad blood over Aquaman basically forgetting about the Others since joining the Justice League, all is well by the end.
Since then, the Others came back in Aquaman #20 in a story by John Ostrander and Manuel Garcia, followed by this month’s Aquaman Annual #1 by Ostrander, Geraldo Borges, and Netho Diaz. The first of which had very little to do with Aquaman, but did replace the fallen Kahina with Native American teen girl Sky Alchesay. It’s also said that Vostok-X’s successor is out there, destined to take up the mantle in the future. I’ve heard rumor that the annual is DC’s test to see whether or not John Ostrander should get a real run at the team and write an ongoing of the Others.
Sweet Jesus, I hope so.
Now, granted, the last time we had a comic of Aquaman leading a team, we got the most famously bad Justice League lineup in history. Still, with my list of DC comic reads dwindling by the week, I would certainly jump at the chance to read these guys. The Others feel like a breath of fresh air with a fresh start. A DC team with no baggage outside of Aquaman. No talks of how they were before the Crisis or before Flashpoint or with endless comparisons as to which version is better. They’re new and I like them.
I also like their designs. More specifically, the way they don’t feel all Jim Lee and over-produced. The Operative wears a suit that keeps him in amazing physical condition, but it looks like your average superhero costume. It’s not too busy. Prisoner-of-War wears something that’s simple, yet totally unique: a burlap sack of a mask, military fatigues, a green shirt, his manacles and a row of dog tags. Then there’s Ya’Wara wearing her tiny, tiny scraps of… okay, they can’t all be winners.
While they were introduced with the usual Johns darkness and grit, they still formed a ball that Ostrander has so far been able to take and run with. He’s a name from the past that doesn’t make me roll my eyes when I find out DC’s giving him work over a young gun. The guy can write the hell out of a team comic. After all, look no further than Suicide Squad. Not only did he kill it on that series, but he was able to take no-name C-list characters like Deadshot and make them memorable.
As they are, I enjoy the team members. None of them outside of Aquaman are currently able to carry their own solo series, but they all fit as part of a well-balanced team. Given enough tender love and care, a lot of these guys could be worth their own solo runs one day. Personally, I consider Prisoner-of-War to be one of the coolest character designs of the New 52. Dominick Torrez was a soldier whose platoon was wiped out by a yet-to-be-explained incident. He survived and since then, he’s been haunted by the soldiers who died around him. The whole thing has made him borderline suicidal.
Over time, he realizes that he isn’t as cursed as he thought and he gradually accepts what he is instead of fighting out of guilt. One great scene in the first Ostrander issue is where Sky – who is in touch with the spirit world – tells him to command the ghosts against an enemy. Prisoner-of-War is reluctant. The last time he commanded them they died.
“They can’t die again! They are here to serve! They want to serve! They need your orders!”
“Ghost Patrol! Up and at ’em! ATTACK!”
Then a bunch of ghost soldiers show up and open fire on a bunch of werewolves. It rules.
The next time we see him in the annual, he’s in far better spirits. No pun intended. Honest.
Taking his place as the down-to-earth member of the team. Which is another good thing about the idea of giving the Others their own comic. They’re naturally diverse, making them good PR. Eh, DC? Good PR? You like that? I mean, outside of Aquaman and the Operative’s grandson, the team is anything but young, white males. It’s got a lot of ethnic diversity in there and it’s even alluded to that Ya’Wara is homosexual. Considering their latest misadventures, I’m sure DC could use a win on that front.
Not only are they diverse, but they’re not diverse legacy characters, ready to be shoved back into obscurity once the original shows back up. You know, the thing that’s been getting DC in so much trouble in the past few years. Ya’Wara’s not going to get herself Ryan Choi’d.
While we don’t know how the annual sold quite yet, Aquaman has been doing strongly since the reboot. Even with the gradual drop-off, Aquaman #20, the Ostrander fill-in about the Others, did about 50,000 and came in at #30, even coming in ahead of both of Superman’s comics. At least some people know who these characters are enough to give them a chance and with enough deserved word of mouth, it could really be something. If not, at least it’ll last long enough to fail with grace. One thing DC’s been good about lately is that they’ll give new series enough of a chance to succeed before pulling the plug. I bought and read every issue of Azrael and Magog a couple years ago and I was constantly surprised that they lasted as long as they did. Hell, I can’t believe Batwing is still kicking!
DC could make worse decisions than giving the Others a chance. We could use another team book that can stand on its own premise instead of existing for the sake of name recognition.