Atlantean monarch the Sub-Mariner is a hybrid being of immense strength, highly resistant to physical harm, able to fly and exist above and below the waves. This fourth selection of his 1960s revival spans a year of continuity to mid-1970, as ever opening with an informative introduction from writer Roy Thomas.

The threat from ancient Lemuria ended in Volume 3, Thomas and Marie Severin (sample art) here begin with innovative action and shameless nostalgia vying for attention as the Mad Thinker apparently resurrects the original – android – Human Torch and sets him to destroy the monarch of Atlantis.

When Namor returns to his kingdom after months away his beloved Lady Dorma has been abducted by old foe Dr. Dorcas. The trail leads to Empire State University and brutal battle against mighty android Dragon Man. It’s followed by battles with Tiger Shark and an alien intent on draining Earth, pencilled in tandem by Severin and 1940s great Jack Katz, using nom de plume Jay Hawk.

The saga ends calamitously as aquatic Inhuman Triton helps repel the extraterrestrial assault, but Namor loses his ability to breathe underwater. Now forced to dwell on the surface, the despised Atlantean then crushingly clashes with an old friend Stingray. This bombastic battle yarn also offers a delicious peek at the Marvel Bullpen, courtesy of Severin and inker Johnny Craig’s deft caricaturing skills.

John Buscema illustrates a chilling dose of realpolitik as Doctor Doom lures Namor into his exploitative clutches by offering to cure his breathing difficulties. Trapping the Sub-Mariner and keeping him, however, are two wildly differing concepts. Instead, the armies of Atlantis are marshalled by Dorma and disgraced Warlord Seth, besieging New York and almost invoking a new age of monsters.

As Namor’s malady is treated by Atlantean super-science, a key component of a new superhero concept begins. The Defenders are composed of the company’s bad-boys: misunderstood, outcast and often actually dangerous to know. Enigmatic antiheroes are exemplified by Prince Namor and the Incredible Hulk. When you add the mystery and magic of Doctor Strange the recipe for thrills, spills and chills became simply irresistible. Thomas and Severin relate a moody tale of sacrifice in which the Master of the Mystic Arts apparently dies holding the gates of Hell shut with the Undying Ones pent behind them. In case you’re curious, the saga concludes on an upbeat note in Incredible Hulk.

Even restored to full capacity, Namor is still contending with Dorcas and arch villain Warlord Krang after the human mad scientist uses his power-transfer process to create Orca, an Atlantean wonder with the might of killer whales. The slow-witted psycho subsequently sets an army of enraged cetaceans against the sunken city as John Buscema steps in artistically to depict Dorma making Faustian pacts to save Atlantis.

This scintillating volume concludes with a landmark tale as Namor becomes an early and strident environmental activist after surface world pollution slaughters some of his subjects. Crafted by Thomas and Sal Buscema, it follows Sub-Mariner’s bellicose confrontation with the UN as he puts humanity on notice: clean up your mess or I will! From this point the antihero would become a minor icon and subtle advocate of the issues, even if only to young comics readers.

With these tales Sub-Mariner drifted back from subsea fantasy to the “real” world of Marvel continuity, super-villains and even environmental relevancy, delivered with stunning virtuosity by some of the industry’s greatest talents. More to come in Volume 5.