It's team-up time, as Aquaman recruits Wonder Woman to track down members of the Giant-Born, monsters of myth released recently by a duped archaeologist. Diana's knowledge of Classical mores leads them to a French chateau, where the beasts are feeding on the life force of locals and tourists. Cue fighting - an awful lot of fighting - before our heroes end the problem and restore the human victims.
Well, so far ... it turns out that the monster's captives can't be fully as they were; they're left a little older, a tad weaker, feeding into writer Jeff Parker's message that we all must eventually accept our time on this planet is limited.
The story, being basically a big old bash-fest, is enjoyable on those terms, but it's made even better by the interaction of Arthur and Diana as we see their opinions on one another's approach to fighting bad things powerful enough to end them - do I detect a nod, above, towards Diana's Max Lord moment of the last continuity? And courtesy of sinister siren Celeana, we hear what may be Arthur and Diana's inner thoughts on one another. One of my favourite moments is this seemingly throwaway exchange, reflecting something I've long wondered.
Why don't superheroes take advantage of their privileged potential and see the world? They're either in their home city, or space. It's refreshing as heck to see a couple on my own continent.
It's also rather wonderful, in the world of DC's New 52, to see the Justice Leaguers out and out get on. She's the Queen of Themyscira, he's the King of Atlantis, but there's no royal rivalry - it's respect and affection all the way.
I like the subtle touches - the disguised lackey hiding a third arm under his shirt; the Giant-Born thinking that 'medieval peasant' is the dominant 21st-century French look; Aquaman keeping his gloves on while out of costume.
The denouement (see, we're soooo French) is on the one hand, a deus ex machina (Latin too), on the other, entirely in keeping with the story set-up. And if you can't have a deus ex machina when dealing with gods and monsters, when can you?
Yvel Guichet's pencil art is clean, dynamic and filled to the brim with scary creatures - and the odd cutie. He captures the creepiness of Celeana's rubbish human disguise and the fear of her captives. Aquaman and Wonder Woman look great, whether in civvies or costume (they change mid-battle, a bit of superhero silliness I always enjoy).
In an especially imaginative touch, the opening recap of the Giant-Born's introduction in the Aquaman monthly is illustrated in the style of a Grecian urn.
The issue has two inkers working with Guichet, Jason Gorder and Wayne Faucher, but you'd never see the join; it's good work from both men. Nathan Eyring's colours are a juicy confection, bright but never sickly, with all the beasties nicely differentiated.
I was initially disappointed to see the story entitled Born of Giants Part 1 ... then Part 2 showed up in this very same issue - a team-up between Diana and Mera to mop up the monsters who fled to the Aegean rather than France after their initial escape from a hell-dimension. Parker, penciller Alvaro Martinez and inker Raul Fernandez produce a cracking wee tale. In just ten pages they show why Mera deserves to be on the JLA alongside her husband and Wonder Woman, as powers, strategy and guts combine to take down the last of the Giant-Born. Here's my favourite moment.
I also appreciate the opening remarks as our heroines meet, and the final image echoing a couple of classic Silver Age Aquaman covers.
Eyring colours once more and, as with the main story, Rob Leigh does a good job with the lettering.
With a cover by Guichet, inker Danny Miki and colourist Rain Beredo adding another layer of Splendid, Aquaman Annual #2 comes thoroughly recommended for lovers of superhero slugfests and character dynamics.