NAMOR (2003):

By "recent" I mean "2003." I've led a discussion of this series once before, when it was new. I hate to repeat myself, but those posts are no longer accessible. Also, with the upcoming release of Bill Evertt's Sub-Mariner (not to mention John Byrne's) in hardcover next month, if I don't re-read this series now I probably never will again. Also, Chip Zdarksky is doing some... interesting... things with Namor in the current Invaders series, which has inspired me to revisit some of the character's 21st century series.

As i recall, I did not care too much for this series at the time of its initial release. (If you've joined the board since 2003 or simply don't remember, you'll just have to take my word for it.) As a matter of fact, I hated it. But in the aforementioned Invaders series, it has been revealed that Namor was palling around with Charles Xavier during the time he was supposed to have been wandering the Bowery amnesiac... and I didn't even really care all that much. (I know... surprised me, too.) In this new "post-continuity" world, I thought I'd look at 2003's Namor again, with an open mind (I hope), and judge it on it's own merits. 

First of all, I love that cover (and did then, too) as well as that price. The "story" is credited to Bill Jemas, but it is "written" by Andi Watson. I don't have a lot of respect for Bill Jemas. I consider him an "idea man" (in the worst sense of the term) who too often was too willing to play the fool. I remember his tenure as Marvel's president mostly for the "'Nuff Said" month and the wretched "U-Decide" campaign. This story is, at least, beautifully illustrated by Salvador Larroca.

The story opens in "The Pacific Northwest. the early 1920s..." An indepentdant, free-spirited little girl named Sandy wanders away from her mother on the beach and meets young Namor. (Both are about six years old, I'd say.) A storm rolls in, Sandy's mother collects her, a swimmer is stung by a jellyfish, and Namor returns to the sea. He is met by his mother, Princess Fen, and they return to Atlantis (which is like, right there) in a stunning center spread. Some unique scenes of Atlantean life are depicted, and Fen's mother, Queen Korra, criticizes Fen's parenting.

In two consecutive full page panels, the story jumps "years later" and Namor is a teen-ager. His cousin is Bobo, and they are keeping lookout for sharks as the "tri-team" hunts tuna. A shark appears and swims toward two younger children at play. Bobo swims to their rescue. A large shark is bearing down on him and the last panel is a cloud of blood in the water.

I liked this issue, but it took less than five minutes to read, seriously.

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I confess Jeff, I have never seen this series but you've sent me scurrying to Comixcology to seek it out.

NAMOR (2003) #2-6:

Bobo was bitten by a shark, but Namor kills it before Bobo loses his arm. The trident Team took the blame for letting a shark within the perimeter in the first place. Namor’s rival is Beemer, another cousin, Bobo’s brother. (Why not Byrrah?) Later, Namor surfaces near shore and surfs with some “dry” boys. Swimming ashore, he meets Sandy again. By now, both are 16 years old. They spend the rest of the afternoon together and hit it off. She invites him to the Memorial Day mixer that night.

Namor invites Bobo along. Namor can breathe out of water, but Bob requires a “breather” or a “gill scarf,” a special piece of cloth which, when wrapped around the neck, allows Atlanteans to breate on land (kind of a neat idea, that). Also established in this series is that true Atlanteans are blue in water, but take on Caucasian skin tone out of water. This series also establishes many Atlantean sayings such as “Don’t silt my gills,” “dry girls,” “conch head,” “ride the same tide,” “drift with” and “barnacles for brains.”

Bobo flirts with sandy on the beach but doesn’t attend the party. Sandy is upper crust, and her friends are mostly snobs. After the party, Sandy and Namor take a walk on the beach. He tells her he is from Atlantis and of his heritage. They strip off their clothes and take a midnight swim.

In the next issue, Sandy takes her friend Liz to the pier for a double date with Namor and Bobo. Namor has given her some little worms which, when inserted into the nostrils, allow a surface dweller to breathe underwater. Liz is uncomfortable using them, however, and she and Bobo stay ashore while Namor and Liz go to Atlantis. The Atlantean teenage girls are jealous of Liz, but queen Korra is nice to her.

In a sub-plot, dark oily sludge is leaking from the ground near Atlantis. When Sandy gets home, her father notices and begins to make plans to drill. He asks Sandy where she got the oil on her dress, but she directs him away from Atlantis. Sandy’s father sinks his entire savings into an oil rig, but he’s drilling in the wrong spot. Meanwhile, Princess Fen sends an invitation through Namor to Sandy to attend Namorita’s birthday party. (This is not the same Namorita from the New Warriors.)

The oil rig has disrupted Atlantean fishing and is discovered by Beemer, who suspects an invasion. Meanwhile, Sandy’s father has lost his entire investment and has fallen on hard times. When Namor finds out, he sees an opportunity for trade, since the oil is polluting Atlantis anyway. The rig is moved and almost immediately strikes oil.

I am really enjoying this series, much more than I did the first time through, but the main reason I didn’t enjoy it then, I admit, is that it doesn’t jibe with established continuity. In this version, Atlanteans and surface dwellers are aware of each other, but with little contact between the two groups, reminiscent of West Side Story.

Part II (issues #7-12) is titled “In Deep.”

I'm trying to remember my reaction to this series.

Wasn't it meant to attract younger readers? And be manga-friendly? I seem to remember something along those lines. There was a YA Human Torch series, too, I think.

Maybe new reader friendly, but with strong hints of teen sex I don't think it was intended to be young reader friendly.There's nothing really manga-ish about this particular series, either.

Maybe I'm thinking of something else. Jemas threw a lot of spaghetti at the wall, and I was turned off by the whole era.

Yeah, there were a lot of manga-inspired series for young readers back then, but I don't know which one you may have in mind. There was a Spider-Man series which featured Mary Jane as the central character I remember.

NAMOR (2003) #7-12 - "In Deep":

Artist Salvador Larocca is gone for the rest of this series, replaced by Pat Oliffe (#7-9), Manual Gutierrez (#10) and Joe Bennett (#11-12). These are all fine artists, but the rest of the story lacks the sense of visual cohesion present in the first half.

The oil well is a success. Henry Pierce (his surname finally revealed in the summary) has regained his fortune, but oil is still leaking in Atlantis. The Pierces and the royal family get along personally, but Pierce is taking advantage of the Atlanteans and Sandy worries that her father has no qualms about exploiting them. Other than that, tensions run high between the cultures.

Liz breaks up with Bobo, at her parents insistence, so that she can land a rich husband. Leaking oil is drivng the fish away. Sandy tells Namor the truth about her father. she feels Namor is ignoring her. the atlanteans are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the deal, but they are "in too deep" to back out now. Beemer makes a play for Sandy. She accepts his advances at first in order to make Namor jealous, but rejects him later. 

Back on shore, Liz's parents set her up with Troy. Neither loves the other, but Liz plays along to re-establish her parents fortunes and Troy plays along to get his inheritance. Ultimately, Liz rejects Troy.

In Altlantis, Zarina sees her son Beemer as the true heir to the throne and encourages him and his friends to sabotage the oil rig. He throws a net around Sandy as she and her father swim back to the surface. Sandy convinces her father to swim for help, but Beemer wounds him with a trident attracting a shark. He staunches the flow of blood and makes it back to Atlantis but, in pain and worried about his daughter, lets his true feeling about the Atlanteans slip.

Meanwhile, Beemer has tied Sandy beneath the drill. Namor catches up and inadvertently gives the signal to start the drill. Namor saves Sandy, then viciously attacks Beemer. Bobo is caught in the middle and injured. The rest of the search party breaks up the fight. Henry apologizes for his racist remarks, but it is clear things will never be the same. 

Back on land, sandy is grounded from returning to Atlantis. Liz reveals that she is pregnant by Bobo and is sent to a "home for wayward girls" to have the child. Thakkor halts the flow of oil as a negotiating tactic, but Zarina encourages Beemer to tear down the rig, which causes a spill. Zarina tries to blame Namor, but one of Beemer's friends comes clean. Bobo decides to live on the surface, awaiting Liz's return. Sandy decides to live underwater. the atlanteans decide to relocate Atlantis... to the South Pacific. the whole thing ends with a long poem written by Bill Jemas.

Obviously, this ending set up a sequel. Obvious, too, it is a complete contradiction to all of bill everett's early stories. This series is much better than I remembered it, but ultimately it is nothing more than one big Mopee.

SUB-MARINER (“THE INITIATIVE”):

This 2007 series is part of a post-Civil War tie-in I couldn’t tell you anything about if you held a gun to my head, but basically, here’s the situation: Namorita is dead, the “war” is over and the good guys lost. during the war, Prince Namor authorized 12 “sleeper cells” dotted across the United States. He is holding in his custody Nitro, who is directly responsible for Namorita’s death. Tony Stark is the head of SHIELD and Namor has returned to Atlantis vowing never to take part in the affairs of the surface world again.

Each issue begins with a scene set “Now,” in which Atlantis has been destroyed, it population is missing, and the only body is a DNA match for Namor sitting on the throne (of Atlantis, that is… not the toilet). The bulk of the series tells the tale of how it got to that point until it eventually catches up. I’m going to basically ignore the framing sequences until they become relevant in rder to concentrate of the main sequence of events.

A 13th Atlantean sleeper cell, unknown to Namor, has destroyed the town of Bentonville, Kansas, killing the entire population of 912 people. They carved “gills” in the neck of at least one victim and left Atlantean DNA evidence behind. Stark accuses Namor. Namor questions Nitro. Namor kills Timoran, the leader of the rogue sleeper cell, in self-defense. Stark and his advisors discuss the possibility of unilateral war. On a communications console, Namor discusses moles within SHIELD with a shadowy “old friend.”

In #2, SHEILD forces approach and surround Atlantis. Iron Man and Sub-Mariner fight, but Subby evades him, leaving Atlantis without its leader. The pro-Namor faction is led by Argos, the anti-Namor faction by Zoran. Namor flies first to Bentonville, then to Xavier’s school. Meanwhile, Norman Osborn sets Venom against Sub-Mariner.

#3: Sub-Mariner and Wolverine fight. Using a Cerebra modified to detect Atlanteans, Professor X locates the 13th cell (in Seattle) but refuses to help further when he learns that Namor authorized sleeper cells in the first place. The terrorists strike simultaneously in both Seattle and Atlantis. Namor defeats a few neo-Sentinals, then fights Venom, who disables him with a device which removes the oxygen from Namor’s body, then rips two of Namor’s wings off his ankles. (Ouch!)

#4: Namor recovers and rips out Venom’s tongue. Then he tries to fly but can’t. Somehow he makes his way to the Baxter Building where he asks the Invisible Woman for help. Sue loans him a Fantasticar to get him to Seattle, even though Mr. Fantastic is working with Tony Stark. In Seattle, the terrorists use an “extractor” to remove the oxygen from an entire office building. On his way, Namor contacts his “old friend” and they discuss this news. In Atlantis, Argos’ forces oppose the coup led by Zoran. The leader of the terrorist cell in Seattle claims to be Namor’s son, Kamar. (Huh?)

#5: Namor impales on of the terrorists on Seattle’s famous Space Needle. He makes it to water and is revived enough to fly on his own again. Zoran told Kamar that Namor murdered Kamar’s mother, then banished Kamar. Namor’s version is that his mother was murdered and he sent the boy away for his own protection. Zoran’s forces defeat Argos’. Using the “old tunnels,” Namor sneaks past Stark’s forces back into Atlantis, where he kills Zoran and orders that the right hands of all the terrorist be cut off. Stark’s oders are to occupy Atlantis.

#6: Sub-Mariner and Iron Man meet face-to-face. War seems inevitable. Namor’s plan is for his people to desert Atlantis through the “old tunnels” and disperse themselves over the face of the Earth as sleepers. Namor chains Kamar to his throne, then forces Nitro to explode, destroying Atlantis. Namor leads one group of survivors to Latveria where he meets up with his “old friend”: Doctor Doom.

Whew.

There’s a lot to unpack here.

Namor (arguably) behaved honorably through most of the series… except, perhaps, when it came to his EYKIW son. In those framing sequences, DNA at first confirmed Kamar was Namor, but Reed Richards later proved that it was a relative, so Namor’s ruse lasted, like, a day. Also, readers were misled in the shadowy “old friend” scenes. The obvious guess would have been Doctor Doom, but definite facial expressions (as if he were not wearing a mask) were shown through the shadows to keep the reveal a “surprise.”

A bloody and violent series.

NAMOR: THE FIRST MUTANT (2010):

“Curse of the Mutants.” There’s another crossover I can tell you little to nothing about. I bought the first issue of this series, but to tell you the truth, I bought it strictly as a placeholder. Yes, I foresaw a day when I might be leading a discussion of one of my favorite characters (maybe ten years down the road) and would need to know where this series falls in place. I didn’t even read it then, but I read it last night.

First of all, let me state upfront that, whereas I sometimes enjoy vampire fiction, I generally despise it in my super-hero comics. Second, I have never liked the conceit that Namor is a mutant, and that this time he has allied himself with the X-Men. Even the sub-title of the book is “The First Mutant,” so this title has two strikes against it right from the start AFAIAC. Third, that’s one unattractive cover, especially the twin trails of blood floating up from the puncture wounds in Namor’s neck. Strike three.

"Utopia" (the X-Men’s island home) is under attack by vampires. Dracula has been killed and overthrown by his son, Xarus. To defeat Xarus, the X-Men reckon they must resurrect Dracula and set the two against each other. Dracula’s severed head is being held (as bait, as it turns out) by a race of undersea vampires called the Aqueos. I liked this comic just about as much as I expected to. The series lasted only 11 issues and is available in two tpbs, but I don’t intend to pursue this storyline any further.

I did actually buy one other issue of Namor: The First Mutant, #5, but only because I didn’t look closely enough at the cover. I bought #5 because I thought that was sue Richards on the cover. (It wasn’t until I got home that Inoticed that what I thought was the NYC skyline in the background was actually a battleship.) The girl he is carrying is Betty Dean (who has been depicted as a blonde since the 1990s but had brown hair originally).

The story itself is even worse than one featuring Sue Storm would have been. It takes place with a framing sequence in the present day, plus flashbacks to 1940, 1944, 1947 and “four years ago.” Alice Terrell is Betty Dean’s hitherto unrevealed roommate from the ‘40s. Alani is a “new mutant” who has been featured in this series since #1. Namor cheated on Betty with Alice, and Alani is their granddaughter.

I’m not terribly pleased with this “retcon” myself.

I don’t know about “gentlemen,” but Namor certainly prefers blondes.

Sue Richards:

Sandy Henry:

MARVEL KNIGHTS: FANTASTIC FOUR 1234 (2001):

By Grant Morrison and Jae Lee. I remember the pre-publicity for this title. I don’t recall what point he was trying to make, but Morrison hinted at incest between Sue and Johnny. I remember this mainly as the Marvel Knights series in which the main characters behave completely out of character. (Maybe that was the point Morrison was tring to make…?) Doctor Doom recruits the Sub-Mariner and the Mole Man in his latest scheme. I include it here because it’s another “Subby with a blonde” cover. (Also to off-set that ugly Jae Lee First Mutant cover above.)
SUB-MARINER: THE DEPTHS (2008):

By Peter Milligan and Esad Ribic. Reads kind of like a “base under siege” horror movie. It has no ties with established continuity. The Sub-Mariner barely appears and is treated more like a legend. The world’s foremost debunker of myths leads an expedition to find an explorer who vanished while searching for Atlantis. It is paranoid, ghostly and other-worldly. This marks the second time I have read it, probably the last.

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