Aquaman Annual #5
Title: 20000 Apes Under The Sea!
Cover Title: Jungle Instincts!
Cover Date: 1999 (21 July 1999)
Theme: JLApe: Gorilla Warfare
Writer: John Ostrander
Pencils: M. D. Bright
Inks: Dick Giordano
Colors: Alex Bleyaert and Rob Ro
Lettering: Janice Chiang
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Cover: Art Adams
Cover Price: $2.95
The task force from Gorilla City, led by Admiral Trafalgo, reaches Atlantis and attacks, turning Atlanteans (including Garth and Vulko) into water-breathing apes. Aqua-ape arrives, and Tempest-ape challenges him as dominant male. Dolphin, not turned into an ape, stops Aqua-ape from killing Tempest-ape. Mera (also not turned into an ape), Dolphin and Aqua-ape flee the city to regroup. Thanks to the JLA, they know that Trafalgo is after the Eye of Poseidon, a big jewel. They return to the city to stop the apes.
When Aqua-ape confronts Tempest-ape, Tempest joins him and acknowledges him as king. The people then battle Trafalgo and his troops while Aqua-ape gets into position with Poseidon's trident. He sends a blast from the trident through the jewel which turns all his people and himself back into humans, and most of Trafalgo's troops into water-breathing humans as well! After driving Trafalgo off, Aquaman pursues the apes swearing to punish those responsible for the attack.
A very amusing cover which leads the reader to wonder what sort of story they are going to get. I do get an unpleasant mental image of soggy apes when I see it. Unpleasant because the thought of the smell of soggy apes on dry land is enough to gag me.
After months of Eric Battle's poorest work and the Hories' dark coloring, the art on this book was a serious breath of fresh... water. Although I don't love the style, the workmanship is excellent and the storytelling skills that are absent in the regular book are strong here. I did have some quibbles, but they were mostly related to design choices:
The story itself suffered from an apparent attempt to keep it in continuity with the regular book. It would've been much better if Ostrander hadn't tried to keep Larsen's unbelievably bad characterizations intact. The problems with the story are many, and mostly character-related.
The recap at the beginning of the story isn't bad, and the Ape Admiral and his cronies are suitably silly for a talking-Ape story. But the humor never quite gels, and the whole sense of traditional pirate is lost with a primate in the lead role. Ostrander has to reach for many of his jokes, and the result is an unfunny book that needs to be very silly to work.
Mera insisting that she is in charge of the city because she is still queen makes no sense, unless Larsen pulled some more stupidity in the stories that I haven't read. She divorced Aquaman, fer goodness sake! Her only status is of revered vistor from another dimension. Telling Tempest to put Dolphin in protection is also silly: she, of all people, should know that Dolphin would never stand for that. Fortunately, Mera does actually use her powers and her common sense once that nonsense is out of the way, even if her dress-sense is still severely impaired.
Tempest might try to take Dolphin to safety, but he would not demand it nor expect her to stay in safety. His "Sorry, Sweetheart" line made me gag. The relationship was so poorly done that even a mention of it in another book causes disgust. The sooner some intelligent writer turns the whole Dolphin/Garth relationship into a bad dream the better.
Ostrander got the relationship between Mera and Arthur completely right, unlike Larsen. Their discussion in the Aquacave was a nice change from Larsen's idiotic dialogue in the regular series. I wish Ostrander had a dozen more pages to expound on it, he'd resolve the whole conflict once and for all in an interesting and intelligent way.
The "Eye of Poseidon", a giant jewel, I can buy for the sake of the story... but isn't the only powerful trident in Aquaman's possession the one that formerly belonged to Triton? And considering what happened the last time he left that trident in somebody else's hands, you'd think he would put it away himself before running off.
A poor use of bad characterization mixed with humor that didn't ever quite work makes this issue missable.