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.
Did the story about Namor's wings being torn off establish how he flies? Or, at the very least, that he doesn't rely entirely on his ankle wings? (Which, no matter how strong, defy any known physics to provide lift.) I always assumed Subby flew like Superman (because he does, so shut up) and the wings were for show.
Many years ago, DC established that Hawkman doesn't need his wings to fly -- the Nth metal provides the lift. The wings are there to provide maneuverability. Without them, presumably, he'd just go up and down. I kinda like that.
Meanwhile, Marvel tried to establish that Angel was essentially a really big bird, with the wings doing all the work, abetted by his light weight due to hollow bones. If we stretch the laws of physics a little, that might work, but the downside is that Angel would be pretty fragile. He would destroy his own hand.
Also, there was a series somewhere that established that Sue, before being married to Reed (and possibly after) had sex with Sub-Mariner. A lot. My bet is the Morrison series. Does anyone remember that? I don't think it was corroborated by other writers or series, because ew.
“Did the story about Namor's wings being torn off establish how he flies?”
Not really, no.
“Does anyone remember that?”
It wasn’t the Morrison series. (I just read it.) If anyone here knows, please clue us in (so I can avoid it). The fifth issue of that “First Mutant” series (discussed above) established that Namor had sex with Alice Terrell… a lot… while he was supposedly going with Betty Dean. Maybe that’s what you’re thinking of…? It’s hard to imagine Marvel green-lighting such a story regarding Sue Storm, but then again, it’s hard to imagine them giving the go-ahead to “Sins Past,” either.
INNER DEMONS (1995):
By Mario Nicieza & Bob Wakelin. This is the oldest of the “recent” comics I intend to deal with in this discussion, but with the current Invaders series mucking about in this era, I definitely wanted to give it another look. In the wake of Marvels, Marvel released a number of painted comics with acetate cover overlays. I’m not saying that the artists involved weren’t talented, but many of them didn’t necessarily understand what makes good comic book storytelling. The title copy of this particular acetate overlay obscures the figure of Johnny Storm dropping Namor into the water from above the surface. The story is told from the point of view of a homeless alcoholic named John Mahoney who befriends the amnesiac Sub-Mariner. The conflict involves Norman Osborn (who is trying to acquire the property where the flophouse stands) and the Enforcers.
And I forgot it!
Here are my thoughts (moved from another discussion for completeness’ sake) of the most recent of “recent Sub-Mariner” prior to “The Best Defense” and the new Invaders series to cap off this discussion.
NEW AVENGERS #21-23: The title of this comic is “The New Avengers” but it might just as well be “The Illuminati” because that’s who it’s about. Let me just say up front that I dislike the Illuminati… not necessarily the idea but the execution… for the same reason I dislike Star Trek: Discovery: both are continuity implants which have no regard for continuity. Not only doesn’t it fit, it can’t. But I digress.
I find the events in question to be a very “writerly” artificial construct, designed solely to present a philosophical conundrum. As such, I find it difficult to take seriously. Here is the situation: two universes are about to collide. The only way to save their own is to destroy the other. Their own universe is populated by “hundreds of trillions”; the other universe contains “mere billions.” What is comes down to is the willingness to sacrifice billions for hundreds of trillions. On paper, the answer seems obvious. To do nothing would result in the deaths of hundreds of trillions plus billions.
The Illuminati have a device capable of destroying the other universe, and it falls to Mr. Fantastic to use it. But he can’t. Iron Man, the Hulk, the Beast, Dr. Strange and Black Bolt all refuse in turn. Then the Black Panther steps up and accepts the responsibility. But when it comes right down to it, he can’t do it, either. Finally, Namor steps in and sacrifices billions to save hundreds of trillions. The others are so disgusted at Namor for carrying out their own plan that they kick him off the team. (The Black Panther is particularly miffed, but that’s a whole other thing.)
The whole question of assigning blame is moot, however. What if they had gone ahead with the original plan and Reed Richards pulled the trigger? What if Stark or T’Challa or any of the others did before Namor stepped up? The answer would be the same: They would all share the guilt equally. The Illuminati (and writer Jonathan Hickman) do seem to understand this point, as they spend the entire next issue acknowledging their own roles in the situation (which is the actual point of the story).
Then, the same situation arises again. Another “incursion” is due, and this time the Illuminati decide to do nothing about it and accept their fate. The seconds count down to zero and… nothing happens. Did they miscalculate? Did they destroy a reality for no reason? What a minute… where’s Namor? Namor has assembled a group (yes, including Thanos) to proactively seek out and destroy potential “incursion” realities. These three issue take place in the middle of a long arc which began as early as #6 and which goes as long as at least #41 (according to Wikipedia; I have not read them), but they are the ones which deal specifically with the point under discussion.
Namor is eventually tracked down and decapitated for his role in the deaths of multiple realities, but due to the effects of magic acting upon a time machine, he is restored to life some months later. Next…
AVENGERS (v8, I think) #9-10: According to Namor, “Yesterday, on the western coast of the United States, a group of Atlantean children emerged from the waves, holding hands… and walked onto a beach.” They were seeking sanctuary from the polluted sea, but “those children died in the sand, choking on the poison air. While the humans stood by and watched. And laughed at the funny, flopping fish.”
Presumably those events happened in the previous issue, which I have not read. I don’t know how reliable of a narrator Namor is, but something along those lines surely happened. Apparently there was another incident, too. Namor again: “Three days ago, those from the world-raping corporation known as Roxxon murdered my people and hung the bodies from the side of their whaling ship like bloody trophies.” So, what does Namor do about it?
He sets out to assemble a group of beings, most of questionable moral character, he calls “The Defenders of the Deep.” First he encounters his old friend Stingray fighting their mutual enemy Tiger Shark. Namor gives Stingray the option to either join him or to leave the sea. Stingray refuses to do either one, so Namor beats him brutally and leaves him to be mauled by sharks. (Stingray lives, but I don’t see how.) Tiger Shark joins him.
The two Roxxon sailors specifically responsible for the first incident are being held at the Red Sands Federal Penitentiary. Namor (somehow) causes a toilet in their cell to overflow and drown them. (The cell wall is apparently made of plexiglass or some such substance…?) In issue #10 (“Legacy” #700), Namor and the Defenders of the Deep fight both the Avengers and the Winter Guard. But it was getting late and I wanted to go to bed, so I decided to read just the parts germane to this discussion. I ended up skipping most of the issue.
I can’t fault Namor, especially under the circumstances, for recruiting a group to defend Atlantis (although I might dispute his choice of personnel). Given who he is, I’m sure he feels justified in the execution of enemies of the state, with or without due process. It was pretty stupid of him, however, to savagely attack his longtime friend. I think they are starting to plant the seeds of his eventual redemption in Invaders, but I will wait to discuss that until Richard Mantle gets to it in his “Complete Invaders” discussion.