"Aquaman #23.2: Ocean Master" opens with a quick recap of the events leading up to "Throne of Atlantis" thanks to Geoff Johns and Tony Bedard with Geraldo Borges on art. The conflict between the forces of Atlantis and the surface world brought Ocean Master to his current station as a prisoner of Belle Reve. This issue, however, seeks to remedy his predicament.
Three pages of flashback -- including a gorgeous two-page-spread of Ocean Master leading his forces -- and three more pages of decompressed prison escape that replicates what was already shown in "Forever Evil" #1 make the rest of "Aquaman" #23.2 a very thin on story. Most of the story is not unlike J. Michael Straczynski's "Grounded" story in "Superman." The big differences, however, are that Ocean Master isn't trying to connect with the American people and he only has less than a dozen miles to walk. In the pages that depict Ocean Master's journey, Bedard demonstrates that the former king of Atlantis has little benevolence for people who are not his subjects. The writer, as a matter of fact, provides more charges against Ocean Master in the process.
Under the Paul Pelletier cover, Geraldo Borges' art is great in spots, but left wanting in others. The opening scene of Orm the First, King of the Seven Seas, rallying his forces is stunning and gorgeous, filled with rich detail as well as inky shadows from Ruy Jose and cool, underwater coloring from Rod Reis. The next scene of Orm and his court-appointed counselor is less stunning. Huge slabs of white space break the story up and force motion throughout the scene, but some of the shots would be just as effective (or moreso) if they weren't unnecessarily clipped for effect. The scenes where Borges applies more detail certainly have more impact behind them than the ones of people floating in panels.
"Aquaman #23.2: Ocean Master" has ties to "Forever Evil" and makes a strong case for Ocean Master to be considered a villain. It doesn't delve into the former ruler's origins, choosing instead to walk beside him as he seeks out his future. While this issue is closed with the tagline of "Not the End!" no indication is given if the story of Ocean Master continues in the pages of "Forever Evil" or "Aquaman." Villains Month is winding down. Given the overall impact of this tale, I'd say that's a good thing. I look forward to Ocean Master being more dynamic as a foe of Aquaman once again instead of simply being evil out of apathy.