Ocean Master: Year of the Villain #1 – Dan Watters, Writer; Miguel Mendonca, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Ray: Ocean Master has had one of the most interesting journeys of a DC villain over the last eight years, going from a world-destroying madman in Geoff Johns’ “Throne of Atlantis”, to retiring from villainy to live incognito with a single mother and her son, to giving up the life he had carved out for himself to pursue the throne of Atlantis again. The tragic futility and self-destructive nature of his decisions was a pretty compelling storyarc, which is why I was excited to see him get a new one-shot with Ocean Master: Year of the Villain #1.
But Dan Watters seemed to be an odd choice for writing, hilariously appropriate last name aside. Watters’ writing is usually best known for twisty, dark storytelling with the occasional deep bout of body horror. However, he takes those horror-influenced elements and somehow manages to make them work perfectly in this tale that finds Orm return to the place he called home with a harrowing tale of monsters and horrors deep below the sea.
The frustration and anger of his former fiancee rings very true, and will likely be painful to read for anyone who had a parent or spouse walk in and out of their life. But the tale Orm weaves is one of the most fascinating additions to the Atlantis mythos in a long time. While Kelly Sue DeConnick has been doing marvelous work with the old Gods of the sea, Watters delves into dark legends of sea curses and supernatural forces. It’s obviously influenced by the public domain works of Lovecraft, but there are some fascinating political elements dealing with the forgotten citizens of Atlantis. We also get an upgrade from one of the more obscure members of Aquaman’s rogues’ gallery, which is a clever way to bring in the Year of the Villain tie-in without forcing Orm into a deal he would never make. The last few pages deliver one gut punch after another, as Orm finally closes the door on his past with a haunting last line and potentially becomes a more powerful adversary than ever – without any help from Luthor.
Corrina: The Atlantis mythology is interesting and remains a strong part of stories about Aquaman and his supporting cast.
Orm, less so to me. This is basically a story of a privileged man who wants everyone to feel bad for him, including the woman he’s left without any explanation because he’s supposedly indispensible. The other problem in the relationship between Orm and his former fiancee is that she is basically nothing but a prop. I can’t even remember her name. (And I note that Ray doesn’t either.) She exists mainly as a symbol of what Orm believes he can’t have. I don’t know what her job is, I don’t know the first thing about her except as she exists in her relationship with Orm. It’s good she’s angry with him. But that parting shot about taking her son from her is chilling–Orm’s an abusive intimate partner and yet the entire issue seems to want us to feel some sort of empathy with him.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.