Aquaman Villain Ocean Master Gets Year of the Villain Treatment

Ocean Master has been missing since fighting for Atlantis in the Drowned Earth. Does Lex Luthor give him a way back to power?

Ocean Master Year of the Villain Preview

I think I’m going to miss these Year of the Villain one-shots. Usually, event tie-in one-offs are forgettable at best, and openly infuriating at worst, but the hit rate on these Year of the Villain books has been really good! The latest success from the line is Year of the Villain: Ocean Master

Orm Marius has been out of the public eye since the Aquaman movie and Drowned Earth, the Justice League/Aquamancrossover that had ancient ocean gods attempting to get revenge on Atlantis by turning everyone into a fish monster. It was also largely cover for the Legion of Doom stealing the Totality from the Justice League, something that directly led to Luthor’s power up at the hands of Perpetua, and then Luthor giving his power up “gifts” to the rest of the villain world. This issue brings him back to Atlantis, while also bringing him back to his landfaring family, Erin and Tommy. Sort of.

As it turns out, Orm wasn’t dead at the end of Drowned Earth, he was just having a long nap. When he woke up, he was rudely disabused of his understanding of his value to Atlantis, and finds himself in the ninth tride with the homeless. There he meets a mentally ill scrounger and gets roped into some light adventure that leads him into Lex Luthor‘s orbit. I don’t want to spoil too much about it, but I will say that Year of the Villain: Ocean Masterdoes a really good job of subverting expectations.

Usually, a story like this where a highborn person is laid low, forced to live amongst the commoners for a time, ends with the highborn learning something about themselves and gaining a measure of humility. They come out the other side of the event with empathy and as a better ruler in the end. What makes this so much fun is that very much does not happen. Instead of becoming a better person because of his connection to the forgotten people in Atlantis, he becomes a better villain, one who parallels some real world folks in a very upsetting way. 

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This is Dan Watters’ first work in the main DC superhero universe. There is some light absurdity in the early pages, and he has a good, powerful voice for Orm, taking him in a fascinating direction. Miguel Mendonca switches art gears a couple of times in the issue, and the transitions make sense and look great. He tells a strong story with entertaining action and just enough weirdness to keep Atlantis interesting.

The reason these Year of the Villain books have been so unusually successful comes from their mandate, I think. The “Luthor’s gift” premise is an excuse for creators to do deep character studies of a bunch of underappreciated villains, or folks who are in need of some creative renewal. This concept doesn’t fail-proof the end product, but it does help to make them hit harder when they’re successfully executed. A bunch of people have done good work, and Watters and Mendonca are the latest to nail it. Here’s what DC has to say about the book:

OCEAN MASTER: YEAR OF THE VILLAIN #1 written by DAN WATTERS art by MIGUEL MENDONÇA cover by FRANCESCO MATTINA Orm Marius lost nearly everything following the events of “Drowned Earth”—his crown, his love, and his freedom. Now, in the battle between justice and doom, Ocean Master struggles to find his place. But don’t count him out just yet—Ocean Master is about to prove exactly what makes him the true king of the seven seas when he discovers a new power that will change the tide forever!

Take a look at these pages! They’re pretty great.

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