Review by Win Wiacek
Introduced in 1939, Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner was revived by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as a conflicted enemy for the Fantastic Four in 1962, and frequently menaced them thereafter. All those early FF appearances are collected in Enter the Sub-Mariner, followed by Namor knocking around the budding Marvel universe for a few years, squabbling with other assorted heroes such as the Hulk, Avengers and X-Men. The volume closes with the first episodes of his own solo series, the whole spanning 1962 to 1966.
A solo star in the 1940s, the all-but-forgotten awesome amphibian returned as a troubled, semi-amnesiac, and decidedly more regal, if not grandiose, antihero. He despised humanity, embittered at the loss of his sub-sea kingdom Atlantis, seemingly destroyed by American atomic testing, whilst simultaneously besotted with the FF’s Sue Storm. That frequently proved his weakness as he teams with Doctor Doom, finances a Hollywood movie, battles the Human Torch solo, is enslaved by the Puppet Master, and invades New York.
The last was a monumental tale by the standards of the time, which sees the FF repel the undersea invasion through valiant struggle and brilliant strategy, and includes the secret history of the secretive race Homo Mermanus. Nothing is really settled except a return to the original status quo, but the thrills are intense and unforgettable.
Namor’s appearances are presented chronologically, so bouts with the FF are interrupted by his teaming with the Hulk to take on the Avengers. It features one of the best battle scenes in comics history as the assorted titans clash in abandoned World War II tunnels beneath the Rock of Gibraltar as drawn by Kirby. Namor is then unknowingly instrumental in reviving his World War II team-mate as Captain America returns. It’s stark tragedy noting the loss of Cap’s wartime companion Bucky, aliens, gangsters, the menacing majesty of Sub-Mariner and even subtle social commentary capped by vast amounts of staggering Kirby Action.
When Namor abducts Sue Storm the FF call in Doctor Strange to locate her, after which Magneto dupes Namor into joining his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to battle the X-Men.
To this point everything is by Lee and Kirby, but Dick Ayres draws another bombastic battle between the old adversaries as the Torch and Thing pick a fight with the sea lord. The final outing for Namor as a misunderstood bad-guy is Lee scripting and Wally Wood’s phenomenal art as Namor uses the legal system to sue humanity for damaging Atlantis. He employs Matt Murdock as his lawyer, leading to inevitable combat with a vastly mismatched Daredevil. The tempestuous monarch fights through the streets of New York, smashing battalions of National Guard and the dauntless Daredevil with supreme ease.
Namor’s solo outing concerns a quest to locate the lost Trident of King Neptune, which only the true monarch of Atlantis can hold. Under Lee and the moody art of Gene Colan, Namor encounters a succession of undersea threats, and the enmity of Warlord Krang.
Bear in mind that times and attitudes change, and this tour through the 1960s can still delight with some classic artists at their visual peak and the creative verve and enthusiasm shining through.