Review by Win Wiacek
A third Sub-Mariner Masterworks selection picks up with Namor’s late 1960s solo series, offering fourteen stories plus a spoof yarn. It opens with another heartfelt appreciation and some creative secret-sharing from Roy Thomas, writer of the stories that follow.
Volume 2 closed with recapitulation of the hero’s origins and some plot ground-laying regarding malign super-telepath Destiny. Thomas begins this selection with an eagerly-anticipated undersea team-up with Triton of the Inhumans, noting in the introduction his appreciation of the alluring Lady Dorma provided by John Buscema and how D-list villain Plant Man actually looks threatening for the first time.
It’s a distraction from Destiny’s destruction of Atlantis, and Lady Dorma leads an exodus of survivors to a new site to rebuild the empire. Hunting Destiny, Namor then falls into the sadistic clutches of subsea barbarian Attuma after the merciless warlord attacks the wandering Atlanteans. Although he triumphs and liberates his people, the Sub-Mariner swims on alone, believing beloved Dorma to have perished in the battle.
Namor is further distracted by deranged bio-engineer Dr. Dorcas and crippled Olympic swimmer Todd Arliss, mutated by mad science into a ravening amphibian killer Tiger Shark. Destiny is finally confronted in New York, planning to take control of America. An epilogue, and Buscema’s swansong, pits the arrogant, impetuous Sub-Mariner against the Fantastic Four’s Ben Grimm – AKA the Thing, to possess the eerie helmet that furnished Destiny’s mental powers. However, what is truly significant is the reintroduction of a woman from Namor’s past who can reason with him with as no other mortal can.
Penciller Marie Severin joins writer Thomas for a landmark moment as the helmet of power metamorphoses into an arcane artefact that will reshape the history of the Marvel Universe for years to come. The helmet is revealed as a seductive mystic crown that takes over the citizenry in Namor’s absence, recreating an antediluvian empire ruled by elder god Set. On his return, Namor steals the corrupting crown and is given a glimpse of the Earth’s secret history as well as a vision of a lost pacific subsea race the Lemurians.
Gene Colan alternates on art for the following tales involving the Serpent Crown and a maliciously ambitious Lemurian mystical priest, Naga. It’s a natural separating point leading into Volume 4.
Before the end, though, there’s a brilliant bonus bonanza. Severin’s gift for gag cartooning with a devastating wit is highlighted at her most devilish, as she adds a not-so-serious alternative spin to one of her own classics. ‘Bet There’ll be Battle!’ has the Inedible Bulk and Prince No-More, the Sunk Mariner, create cartoon carnage and comedy gold in a brisk and brutal brouhaha.
Artistically compelling pages accompanying Thomas’ myth-building about Atlantis and Lemuria complete the fantasy experience as this book shines a bright light on a crucial yet long ignored region of Marvel’s keystone continuity through powerful stories by some of the industries greatest talents.