Or – “Why Sometimes Impulse Buys Are A Good Thing…”

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There are a lot of things you can say about Namor the Sub-Mariner, but one of the most obvious is that he is the original anti-hero. Whereas Wolverine, The Punisher, and others started a mini-revolution in the past 25 years, Namor was known to be “the best there is at what he does” nearly 70 years ago! With a whole new political climate, an angry foreign potentate is likely to ruffle some feathers, and when the king in question can heft a battleship in his bare hands, I suspect it means this series won’t be without conflict… I wasn’t going to read this book until the first issue appeared in our preview package two weeks ago, and what I found inside what NOT what I expected.

With the Marvel Universe in the state that it is, I find myself not happy with the direction many of the books are taking. Recent discussions at the store (Gatekeeper Hobbies! Pnam1.jpgHuntoon & Gage, Topeka! Ask us about our discount action figures!) have touched on part of the issue, and a coworker suggested that it’s because I like my heroes to be more traditionally heroic and the darkness and questionable motives of some of Marvel’s finest bother me. There’s something to be said for that theory, but it’s not the whole story. I dislike some of the editorial choices lately not because the characters are taking a dark pseudo-mature path, but because these characters (Iron Man, Professor X, Mister Fantastic, etc) haven’t been shown to have their new Machiavellian tendencies in the past forty years. On the other hand, we have Namor, the original paranoid manic-depressive loony-tune, cast adrift in the strange and new post-Civil War Marvel U. Since he IS and pretty much always has been a manipulative spiteful sort, a Sub-Mariner series at this point is a no-brainer. We start with Iron Man and SHIELD on an underwater mission, as Director Stark has a thoughtful moment…

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“Now I know.” This makes three Iron Man appearances in a row where I don’t hate him. Either I’m mellowing, or the Initiative storyline is starting to move away from having Tony be such a schmuck. In Front Line #11, we saw a Tony who seemed to have actual regrets and feelings about what he has been forced to do, but that character hasn’t really been seen again. In fact, most of his appearances have him seemingly enjoying his new hard@$$ demeanor (She-Hulk #18, Mighty Avengers #1, and Fallen Son #3 are fresh in my mind) and seemingly absolute power. As for his soliloquy, it’s understandable given what they’re seeing out the viewscreen.

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Iron Man asks, “Is there any sign of Namor?” and we see a skeleton sitting upon Namor’s throne… With that chilling prologue, we flash back 8 days to a parade on main street of Bentonville, Kansas (and what’s with blowing up Kansas over and over, folks? What’d we ever do to Marvel?) We see two men furtively discussing some sort of plan. “It is a great day for Atlantis.” They all congratulate each other, and an explosion rips through the crowd. And here we get a storytelling device that pisses me off beyond belief: adorable children in peril. I hated it when they did it in Civil War, I hated it in Amazons Attack, and I hate it here. A cute little girl is told by her father to stay where she is, moments before he is himself killed (on panel) by flying glass. The last image of the carnage is this little girl crying and then the town is blown up. Granted, it’s not as brutal as the armored warrior cutting down a child with a sword in AA, but I still feel incredibly manipulated by it. Is it because of my adorable little daughter? Yes, but it’s also a blatant shortcut to try and make me feel more outraged at the loss of life we see. The next morning, SHIELD arrives to survey the situation…

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No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, but Director Hill does have a little bit of information to go on… They’ve discovered the body of Jacob Anderson in a barn just outside of town. Having been murdered by being impaled (stabbed in the back, quite literally) Jacob probably died immediately, but his killers left a message for those smart enough to know where to look.

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Meanwhile, in houses of Atlantis, the aforementioned Namor (in a snappy new version of his black and gold jumpsuit uniform, having eschewed his speedo) is conferring with one of his advisors about public concerns with Namor’s rulings. “You will do what you have always done: Assure the citizens that my choices are the correct ones.” Heh. I wish I had that kind of confidence. The councilor voices concern that Namor continually gets Atlantis involved with the accursed surface-dwellers, and Namor turns even colder than usual. “No one should EVER question where my allegiance lies.” When the old man presses his point, Namor points out that it is NOT a democracy, just as a lackey arrives with a communique: there’s a “phone call” for the king. Iron Man and the joint chiefs of staff have a few questions about the recent attacks, and points out the Atlantean DNA evidence… “And now,” says Stark, “we are trying to figure out why this is happening all over again. Why only MONTHS after you fought alongside Captain America against the United States government, 900 Americans are dead, and all clues point to YOU.”

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I like this. Namor almost responds to his old friend before remembering that this is the Director of SHIELD talking, and returns to his regal demeanor. And the disappointment in Tony is obvious in his final words. “I don’t expect ANYTHING from you.” Ouch. With his people implicated, Namor decides to find out what exactly is going on, and he starts at the source: Nitro, the exploding man… He demands information, but the psychotic villain responds with, “I don’t know. Let me check CNN… Oh, wait! That’s right, the reception in my cell sucks!”

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I’m torn on the Nitro issue. When Namor took him into custody in Wolverine, he implied that the killer of Namorita would be slowly tortured to death. On the one hand, part of me is glad that Namor didn’t go with the cold equations of petty revenge, but this creep is a mass-murderer, and I can’t imagine that even Atlantean technology is infallible enough to keep him on ice forever. Namor gathers his advisors, and demands the status of the 12 Atlantean sleeper cells that we found about in Civil War: Front Line. All 12 cells are still inactive, but and advisor reluctantly mentions rumors of a lost 13th cell. Namor is outraged, and reminds them that the humans aren’t going to take the destruction of a city lightly. When once again, no one will answer his questions, Namor swears to track down the responsible party, and promises that anyone working against him will pay a stiff price. In Washington, the joint chiefs are arguing strongly to declare war on Atlantis (to go with their war with Attilan, their military actions in the middle-east, their strongarm tactics against Wakanda, and the scourging of our own country’s superhumans.) Iron Man, amazingly, is the voice of reason.

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I’m also troubled by how quickly the military types are trying to link this to Stamford. The Stamford disaster, at least according to popular opinion, seems to be blamed on the New Warriors, not the Atlanteans. Seems like a slim thread to try and leverage military action, even if Namorita was on the scene… Meanwhile, in Atlantis, a young Atlantean name Timoran is surprised to find himself in the presence of Prince Namor. When he mentions how unexpected the visit is, Namor replies that it’s not nearly as unexpected as his betrayal. The young blue man is easily drawn out, quickly admitting culpability because he’s too proud to be called a traitor. “My allegiance is to ATLANTIS!” “Your allegiance,” replies Namor, “is to ME!”

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Namor does not brook idiots in any form, and he quickly takes away the boy’s blade and run him through with it. “I rule Atlantis, and neither you nor anyone else will undo what I have built.” Returning to his communications room, Namor apologizes to a mysterious figure on the other end of the screen for his lateness. Who is this shadowy figure?

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Could it be T’Challa? Professor X? I think the words “sniveling dog” are probably the giveaway, and I suspect strongly (even given the lack of a hood) that it’s his former ally Doctor Doom. Namor isn’t sure if he’s willing to go to war yet, insisting that he must deal with this situation on his own terms. When asked if he’s ready to face SHIELD, Namor muses that it may be too late, that the surface dwellers are ready to kill already… “I fear the surface world will not be content until their is blood in the water.” With that in mind, he goes to a sacred box, and puts on his ceremonial armor. Namor’s decision is made… “Atlantis will not fall on my watch. If there is blood to be spilled… it will be HUMAN.”

This issue was full of surprises, not the last of which was a Michael Turner cover that wasn’t an abomination. The story is crisp and interesting, and I found that I didn’t mind the shades of grey so much when the character is used to them. In my mind, Iron Man turning into an ethnocentric hardcase willing to kill to preserve order takes a fundamental change in the character, but for Namor? That’s just Monday. It’s also nice to see another person (after Black Panther and Nova) powerful and capable enough to make Emperor Stark think twice. Though I wasn’t thrilled with the political overtones (manufacturing any excuse to take out an existing threat under false pretenses rings a little TOO true) and I absolutely hated the way they used that poor little girl, this was a good issue, issue ranking 3.5 out of 5 stars. I’m looking forward to seeing where this is going, and I wonder if, perhaps, it too isn’t related to recent revelations in New Avengers?

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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7 Comments

  1. ryansmith
    June 19, 2007 at 3:05 pm — Reply

    Hmm…the us government using tiny link to connect stamford to atlantis in order to go to war. thats hard to fathom. but i guess this was a stronger link than iraq and al quaida

  2. Mark I.
    June 19, 2007 at 3:26 pm — Reply

    Oh yeah, that’s Dr. Doom, or my name ain’t Nathan Arizona. Well, it ain’t…but you get the idea.

    Unless Quesada decided to wreck continuity and have it be the Red Skull, retconning the Sub-Mariner into being a Nazi sympathizer all along.

  3. June 19, 2007 at 3:50 pm — Reply

    With his new duds, does he not look exactly like Black Adam?!? Look at him in the chair on that last scan… They have enough similarities already, jeez.

  4. June 19, 2007 at 3:59 pm — Reply

    Also… a cape underwater? No.

    (book looks good though)

  5. June 19, 2007 at 5:06 pm — Reply

    What the heck happened to Nitro’s missing arm? What, was that the Torture? Did they GROW BACK HIS ARM to make him talk?

  6. Brent F.
    June 19, 2007 at 6:42 pm — Reply

    Namor looks a little too much like Black Adam with that suit.

  7. Maximus Rift
    June 19, 2007 at 7:20 pm — Reply

    It probably is Doom on the screen. And they will probably feed that idiot link to the stupid public who will eat it up like candy.

    And I will say that Tony isn’t the Skrull; the generals and the president are.

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