AQUAMAN #23.2: OCEAN MASTER #1 REVIEW
Writers: Geoff Johns and Tony Bedard
Artist: Geraldo Borges
Inker: Ruy Jose
Colorist: Rod Reis
Review by Suzanne Nagda
Two weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised by Johns and Bedard’s work on Black Manta #1. Unfortunately Ocean Master #1 didn’t live up to my raised expectations for the writing team. That’s not to say it’s a weak issue. Rather I hoped for a more compelling, morally ambiguous character than the one delivered.
The issue begins with Ocean Master ignoring the advice of his lawyer in Belle Reve Penitentiary. Geoff Johns and Tony Bedard use this conversation to quickly recap recent events for Orm. Essentially, Orm ceded the throne to his half-brother Arthur in the aftermath of the Atlantean War. Johns and Bedard contrast Orm’s biased lawyer with a correctional officer who seems sympathetic to his circumstances. Is Ocean Master a ruthless villain? Or is he a misunderstood political leader who simply tried to protect his people? These questions carry over into the one-shot issue following the Throne of Atlantis crossover.
Ocean Master escapes from Belle Reve after members of the Crime Syndicate break open the prison during Forever Evil. As Orm travels back to the ocean, he encounters humans and has to make different ethical decisions as he goes. At one point, he tells a waitress at a local diner about the moral superiority of Atlanteans and the deviations of the surface world. Orm’s bland monologue foreshadows his subsequent actions for a dark conclusion. Sadly, I think Ocean Master would prove a better foil for Aquaman if he were simply a jingoistic leader and not a morally bankrupt villain.
The artwork highlights Ocean Master’s comfort in the water by showing a great sense of movement and power. Rod Reis uses desaturated colors effectively throughout and fills the issue with different hues of blue.
The Verdict: Pass. Unless you are a huge fan of Johns’ Aquaman, I would move on to stories that feature more complex villains. Ocean Master feels like a one-dimensional character whose distrust of the surface world has turned to outright villainy. I’m not particularly invested in seeing more of his story. Despite a brief recap, this issue does not stand alone well and requires previous knowledge of the Aquaman series to understand why he is such a strong adversary. I would have liked to see some interactions with Aquaman in the issue itself to add some depth.