Or – “Namor’s Credo: If Excessive Force Fails, You Didn’t Use Enough.”

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That’s one of the sonar images you never want to see, along with a close-up of a torpedo, or a sexually excited blue whale. In each case, even if you survive, you’ll never quite be the same again. Issue #1 of the Sub-Mariner mini got a pass when I thumbed through the Previews catalog, but I picked it up on a slow Sunday, just to kill time, and found myself engrossed by a political allegory with a uncompromising, principled, though unbending main character. Namor the first, scion of Atlantis, is a hard character to get “right” (Brian Bendis’ version especially rings false to me) but the first issue hit all the right notes AND got him out of his scaley green speedo. Will part two continue the streak?

Previously, on Sub-Mariner: The Civil War did more than just split the community of the supernature down the middle, it revealed the existence of Atlantean “sleeper cells,” Pnam1.jpgagents of Atlantis who were buried so deeply that even THEY didn’t realize they were spies. This discovery displeased the American government and SHIELD, and their consternation was exponentially magnified when Namor stood alongside his former Invader partner, Captain America, during the climactic battle. With a shaky cease-fire in place, person or persons unknown attacked a small town in Kansas, killing everyone and blowing some $#!+ up, leaving behind evidence implicating the Atlanteans in the blast. The previous issue began in “present time,” with Iron Man and SHIELD discovering a ruined Atlantis, with what seemed to be the skeleton of it’s king chained to the throne. In flashback, we learn that Namor’s cabinet and people find his interactions with the surface world distasteful, and that certain forces seemed to be massing against him. A tense interaction with Iron Man and a clandestine meeting with a mysterious “old friend” (possibly Doctor Doom) led Namor to take a proactive stance. This issue begins immediately after last issue’s prologue, as the skeletal remains of Namor are analyzed…

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Actually, just as an aside, that DNA evidence might also identify Namor’s brother, father, or son… Either way, Iron Man flashes back to six days previous, when his army of SHIELD submersibles made their way to Atlantis. He accepts a communication, and Namor demonstrates the kind of cowboy diplomacy that makes him so very much fun. “I see your generals have sent their favorite lapdog.” Heh. Iron Man blusters back that he might want to take the bass out of his voice, given that he’s about to be under siege. Namor very nearly laughs, pointing out that his entire Atlantean army stands ready to eat their little submarines alive. “Your ships exist because I CHOSE not to destroy them.” Man, that’s a cool line. Tony tries to calm him down, pointing out what a wise decision that was, and goes all psychiatrist on him…

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Once again, I think Stark is overstepping his bounds… It’s a really bad idea to move with military force and try and capture the sovereign leader of a foreign nation because you THINK he may have done something, especially when said leader can lift a tank over his head. Are there extradition treaties with Atlantis? Tony seems to be making a lot of friends into enemies with his tactics as head of SHIELD. Namor uses his hour to confer with his old friend, Argos, who is prepared to attack at his side. Namor, astonishingly doesn’t want a war yet, and decides to travel to the surface to figure this out for himself, but leaves Argos orders. “If they attack first… ANNIHILATE them.” Moments later, SHIELD sonar readings indicate a human size projectile headed between their ships, and Tony goes into action. Ordering his agents to hold their fire, he engages the Sub-Mariner, once again trying to urge him to surrender. “No weapon of yours has ever stopped me before…”

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Gosh, but there’s a lot of great tough-guy lines in this issue. Busting through Iron Man’s defense like a bullet through cheese (I’m trying to invent my own cliches) Namor nearly knocks him out of his tin pajamas. Tony fights back, but Namor scoffs, shrugging off Iron Man’s Sunday punch, and pointing out what most of us have already figured out…

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Grabbing one of the SHIELD ships, Namor (intentionally carefully) hefts it and tosses it at one of the others. Iron Man intervenes, positioning himself between the ships, and saving them from a collision, but in the time that takes, Namor is off like a tequila-stained prom dress. It’s pretty obvious that he didn’t intend to hurt anyone, just cover his escape, and Iron Man is left to nurse his wounded pride. Meanwhile, up on the surface, in Seattle, a lineman heads down into the sewers to check on some sort of leak, allowing ocean water into the lines. What he finds is three men climbing out of the water, without any type of breathing apparatus. He tries to escape, but these agent provocateurs aren’t ready to be discovered yet.

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The book tastefully cuts away (no pun intended) from the consequences of this attack, instead turning back to Tony Stark, reporting to the Joint Chiefs on the failure of his diplomatic mission. “This isn’t the Avengers, where you get to make it up as you go!” yells General somebody-or-other. “This is a MILITARY exercise, and I expect things to be done with military precision.” Y’know, he’s a schmuck in a uniform, but he has a point here. Tony Stark knows zero about real soldiering. “I assumed that due to our past history, I could reason with Namor.” What about your past history ever indicated that you and Namor had ANYTHING to say to one another, Tony? Even in the Illuminati retcons, you had a tenuous bond of convenience, at BEST. And your “futurist” nature is what convinced him to quit that group and wash his hands of the surface world anyway. Halfway across the country, Namor arrives at the site of the Bentonville massacre, flying silently in on his little ankle wings, and examining the wreckage.

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Suddenly, the army guards arrive, ordering him to stand still. When they recognize him as the Sub-Mariner, they put their weapons to ready. “I promise that your weapons will have no effect on me… I can also promise you that if you shoot, you will live to regret it.” They immediately disregard his words and pepper him with bullets, all of which bounce right off his skin “You humans… when will you ever learn?” We quickly cut away from Namor to the General, meeting secretly with someone named Mac. “Your services have been requested.” He informs the shadowy figure that he is authorized to track Namor down, and to eliminate him with extreme prejudice. We get a little fan service for Salieri as the not-really-all-that-secret “Mac” is revealed.

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The glowing eyes are back, too. I think they’re now part of the revised Venom character design, since they keep reappearing. At the same time, the three Atlantean renegades are seen making plans, deciding what they need to do. One of them bears a striking resemblance to Namor himself, he said significantly, nudge nudge wink wink know what I mean? The leader of the cell tells them that they must hold their action on the surface to coincide with actions in Atlantis itself, and that he himself wants to kill the prince all by himself. “And when that time comes, I will be the first to spit on his grave.” Namor knows that the cell will strike again, and he decides that he must seek out the aid of one of his oldest allies, flying low towards the Westchester estate of Charles Xavier. sneaking pst the sentinels (though lord only knows how, as he’s in plain sight the whole time) he hopes that Charles is in. Before he can find out for sure, one of Charlie X’s students makes himself known.

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I think those two splash pages may make Phil Briones some serious money, even if they are, essentially, the exact same shot. Namor’s story seems to be heating up, and the renegade 13th cell of Atlanteans make for a timely little menace these days. I’m not 100% sure I like the direction the story is heading, but I am enjoying Namor, the original tough guy (even with dainty little ankle wings) getting his Bruce Willis on. With two fan-faves in the issue, I suspect that they might see a little pop in the sales next month… Hopefully the title character won’t get buried in the crossfire.

It’s an enjoyable little issue, with some nice tense moments, and a short fistfight that shows exactly how powerful Namor is comparative to the rest of the Marvel U. I like the art, mostly, but it has a tendency to get very dark and muddy, especially in the underwater sequences, a bit of a disadvantage in a book about sea-dwellers. And trying to figure out Tony Stark’s sequence of events in the last five years is going to be like sentence-diagramming an Oscar Wilde poem translated into Esperanto. Still, nothing major wrong with the issue, and it’s fun to see Namor playing detective in his “bust in, bust up the place, bust a move outta there” way. It’s a consistent, well-done issue that didn’t quite break into the 4 star territory, but nonetheless has a couple of nice “Oooh, yeah!” moments and ranks an impressive 3.5 out of 5 star rating.

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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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12 Comments

  1. July 20, 2007 at 4:57 pm — Reply

    Ooh…that is perhaps one of the first times I’ve seen a Grin large enough to bite a man’s head off, on Venom. Shivers…

    I also think the glowing eyes may be a result of the Scorpion gentic-serum in Gargan’s body reacting to the Symbiote’s consumption of his adrenalin.

    And…perhaps the fact that Wolvy and Venny are in the same position heralds October’s Wolvenom in New Avengers…hey, waitaminnit! It’s in the same pose on the cover to THAT, as well! Good grief…will 2008 also feature ‘The Wolvenom Conspiracy’?

  2. James
    July 20, 2007 at 6:07 pm — Reply

    “sentence-diagramming an Oscar Wilde poem translated into Esperanto”
    For coming up with your own cliches, I really like that one.

    Good review. Thanks.

  3. Rowan
    July 20, 2007 at 6:42 pm — Reply

    Venom Symbiote = Skrull

  4. July 20, 2007 at 6:58 pm — Reply

    For coming up with your own cliches, I really like that one.

    We aims to please, when not aiming for the knees… Because if your opponent can’t stand, he can’t fight!

    Cobra Kai! Do or die!

  5. Brent F.
    July 20, 2007 at 8:17 pm — Reply

    The glowing eyes have nothing to do with the serum. The symbiote just looks different when Mac wears it.

  6. Sean Curley
    July 20, 2007 at 11:05 pm — Reply

    For all that the Illuminati is a retcon, I have to say I really like how the backstory can be used by writers now, like having Namor seek out old allies like Xavier when he’s desperate.

  7. July 20, 2007 at 11:10 pm — Reply

    I laughed out loud at the “like a bullet through cheese” line. Nice one.

  8. The Enigma
    July 20, 2007 at 11:18 pm — Reply

    Namor = Black Adam? What?

  9. The Enigma
    July 20, 2007 at 11:20 pm — Reply

    P.S. Nice to know that bone structure gets taken into consideration when drawing Venom’s jaw. Not complaining, it’s a pretty sick look.

  10. Happenstance
    July 21, 2007 at 5:11 am — Reply

    Wow, another fight between Wolverine and Subby. I suppose I shouldn’t gripe; I’ve stopped reading “Wolverine” because the last several issues have been “Wolverine and Sabertooth fight, Wolverine gets some cryptic clue about his past, repeat ad nauseum.”

    You’d think Wolvie would be a little more on-the-ball; last time they met, Wolverine was the wanted man on the run from SHIELD, and even after Wolvie stabbed Subby in the chest, Subby beat the snot out of him–and then went out of his way to give Wolvie the very information he was seeking in the first place. Ah, but it’s Marvel tradition for “heroes” to forget something like that and just attack each other.

    And that’s sad, because it promises that next issue will waste most of its pages on a rehashed fight scene that won’t advance the story one iota.

  11. July 21, 2007 at 11:00 am — Reply

    Namor = Black Adam? What?

    People keep saying this, but it’s just a physical similarity. They’ve always had the same head shape with slicked back black hair and pointy ears. And Namor has been wearing a variation on this black and gold costume off and on since the early 70’s… Case in point?

  12. Baal
    July 22, 2007 at 12:34 am — Reply

    “For all that the Illuminati is a retcon, I have to say I really like how the backstory can be used by writers now, like having Namor seek out old allies like Xavier when he’s desperate.”

    I was assuming Namor was looking up a buddy from his days fighting the Ratzis, Logan. Care to bet a banana on it?

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