Namora #1: Under The Sea (And We’re Not Talking About Ariel)

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This was the perfect book to pull from a dollar bin at a comic show (I might have even paid less for it, I don’t remember). Namora #1 is a single-issue story by Jeff Parker (who has had some experience writing the character during the Agents of ATLAS series) with art by Sara Pichelli before her Ultimate Spider-Man breakthrough.

Namora is Namor’s half-human cousin and a general nice person. The story begins with her rescuing some Russian sailors from a kraken, only to find out that the sea monster has a peaceful coexistence with a colony of lost Atlanteans. Unfortunately Namora realizes that everything is not what it seems as she has a conversation with her deceased daughter Namorita (who was killed back at the start of Civil War). Ultimately it’s up to the Atlantean princess to save her people from the sea monster.

The resulting issue is a lot of fun. It’s a complete story and everything is resolved by the end. It comes across kind of like a pitch, like Marvel was trying to gauge the interest on the character getting her own mini or ongoing series. I enjoyed it, as it was a different take on the Namor/world of Atlantis. So this gets a thumbs up. What also gets a thumbs up is the cool variant cover by legendary lady comic artist Ramona Friden!

Namor The First Mutant #1-4: Curse of the Mutants

Thanks to the Twilight novels, vampires are all the rage in popular culture. In 2010, the X-Men spent some times fighting off the bloodsuckers, so it’s no surprise that X-ally Namor would wind up fighting underwater vampires in the first four issues of Namor The First Mutant.

In recent years, living in Atlantis has been pretty rough. The fabled underwater kingdom was destroyed and its residents now live under the X-Men mutants-only island of Utopia. Now they have to deal with a vampire invasion. Great.

It’s up to Namor to gather up the Atlantean forces to fight them off. Not only does he have to recover some ancient relic from the vampires, but it turns out his long missing (and extremely loathsome) grandfather Tha-Korr is not only one of them but their highlord.

Writer Stuart Moore did an exemplary job with this, as he put together a whole mythology for Atlantis that wasn’t ever shown before. I’m sure the vampire business was an editorial mandate and he made it work. Art wise, Ariel Olivetti’s work is mind-blowing as usual. There are some fill-in pages by Andres Guinaldo, though well rendered, are so stylistically different from Olivetti that kind of break up the flow of the book. It’s not a negative against Guinaldo, they just juxtapose too much.

Both artists do deserve a lot of credit for finding interesting ways to depict the characters moving in the ocean. I can imagine it must be pretty hard, as you have to think spatially how characters would relate to each other under water, as there is no up or down. There’s just space. Olivetti and Guinaldo not only understand that, but that everything is perpetually moving by undercurrents. It’s much harder to show ebbs and flows  on the comics page, then say an animated film like The Little Mermaid. But they succeed as you can clearly tell that everything is under the water.

If you read this in its trade paperback format, there’s also a great account of the life and times of Namor, as recounted by his cousin Namora. If you want to read more about the character’s life and personal history, this does a great job of summing up about seventy years of back story.

30 Things I Like About Comics—#10 Namor the Sub-Mariner

Let’s face it–Namor is awesome. He’s technically both Marvel’s first super hero but the first of its mutant characters. Created back in 1939 by Bill Everett, he’s consistently been one of the best in comics.

In his earliest appearances, the half-Atlantean, half-human prince of Atlantis was an anti-hero. He was really arrogant and hated the surface world. He would get upset and rip the antenna off the Empire State Building. Sometimes he would flood Manhattan, sometimes brawl with the original Human Torch.

But sometimes, at the urging of his would-be policewoman Betty Dean, Namor would help the surface world, whether it be fighting the Nazis during World War II or catching criminals.

When Namor returned to comics in the 1960s they played up the fact that he was torn between two worlds. He wasn’t necessarily respected as the ruler of Atlantis because he was pink-skinned like the surface dwellers. He loathed mankind, because they didn’t respect him as a leader or the ocean. Namor is constantly at conflict with the world around him. To top it all off, he’s also completely self-absorbed. Why else would he run around in his green speedo for the last eighty years? Namor thinks–and knows–he’s royalty and constantly demands to be treated that way.

What makes Namor likable is how much he cares for Atlantis and his people, even though he is not truly one of them. His outbursts against the surface world are to protect them and their honor. He would do anything to ensure their survival, whether it’s ally himself with Doctor Doom and have them relocate to Latveria, or have them form a mutual protection with the mutants on Utopia at the urging of his former lover Emma Frost.

So to those of you who think Namor is just a more scantily clad version of Aquaman, think again.