Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Classics - Namor the Sub-Mariner #1

   It amazes me that some characters are allowed to languish on the shelf.

   I suppose it happens because the editors or writers just don't know what to do with that character.

   Water-based heroes seem to be especially problematic - so the Sub-Mariner and Aquaman seem to wax and wane on the comics scene.

   Created by Bill Everett, Namor was a big star in the '40s and one of the few Timely heroes to be revived in the '50s. He made his premiere in the Silver Age in Fantastic Four #4, when the Human Torch famously used his flame to give a powerful derelict a shave, and uncovered an amnesiac Namor.

   One of the first anti-heroes, the noble Sub-Mariner alternated between warring against humanity and fighting on its side. He eventually earned his own series in Tales to Astonish, and then graduated to his own title, which ran for six years.

   He was featured in the first Marvel cartoons, was a founding member of The Defenders, and starred in the throwback series The Invaders.

   But perhaps his best solo effort was this 1990 series by writer / artist John Byrne, with inks by Bob Wiacek.

   Byrne introduces Namor as out of control - a raving lunatic, attacking innocent islanders - but he meets a kindly marine biologist and his daughter who hold the solution. Along the way we get lots of action, a recap of Namor's origin, the answer to his behavior since his first appearance in the 1940s, a new direction, a new supporting cast, and lots of great artwork.

   Byrne's run on the series was a blueprint on how to do great comics. Unfortunately, Byrne didn't last - and neither did Namor. The series was canceled after four years.

   These days he's back to being a supporting character in New Avengers - and back to behaving erratically. It's a shame - he's a terrific character with loads of untapped potential. He just needs the right creative team running the show.

   We can only hope.

Grade: A



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