Reviews of Old Comics: Namor the Sub-Mariner #8
NAMOR THE SUB MARINER #8
Right after High School, I was big into John Byrne. It was a good time to be into John Byrne, too. He had produced Omac for the DC, West Coast Avengers, Sensational She-Hulk, Next Men and of course, Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Of course he didn’t do them in that order, but those are the comics that he worked on in the late 1980s and early 1990s that just seemed to be Byrne flexing his artistic muscles. I got rid of a lot of my mainstream comics a long time ago, but just cruising bargain boxes has gotten me replacement copies of a few that I really remember fondly.
This particular comics was stashed away in an office paper box, since it’s not really among my prized possessions, comic-wise. I have to admit that nostalgia is the main reason that I own this, so a lot of this review will hinge on that perspective.
In 1961, German agents, including a scientist stash away a project before the Russians seal them into the city of East Berlin. While escaping the scientist is shot, and the two agents violently get him past the US checkpoint in an effort to get him help.
Meanwhile, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing are shocked to see the return of Danny Rand, aka Iron Fist, whom they believe to be dead. Namorita is being brought up to speed by Namor’s allies, Caleb and Carrie Alexander, as Carrie confesses her love for Namor, which does not appear to be returned, as Namor looks to be enthralled by Phoebe Marrs.
Namor and Marrs arrive at Headhunter’s offices and we learn that her agreements with businessmen come at a high price as she reveals her collection of their mounted heads on her wall!
The story flows by a series of coincidences, someone walks up, someone runs up, and everything happens in the course of an afternoon. There’s not really a reason for this, as time could have passed before Marrs approached Namor, with no ill effect to the story. Namor’s personality is very stoic and pompous, which is the biggest trouble in centering a book on him. Byrne did seem to make it work, but Namor’s though balloons should reveal more of the trouble in dealing with his loss of flight.
The largest attribute to the art that’s noticeable is the zip-a-tone. Byrne used this on Omac and after leaving Namor, on She-Hulk. He uses it for shading and the colorist Glynis Oliver adds subtle colors to accentuate them so it doesn’t get terribly distracting. It’s an added effect that Byrne didn’t need, but took the time to add, which gives some sense at how much pride he took in his work on this book. No one can fault Byrne’s anatomy or basic artistic skill. If I find fault with anything in this comic, it’s in the writing.
Byrne took, in this issue, a character seen at the time as one of the more powerful characters in the Marvel Pantheon and gave him more limitations. At the same time, there seemed to be no pondering of the circumstances that brought those limitations about. The dialogue seems to render the characters two-dimensional in the context of this issue. Byrne was better at writing long-term, and in an era of sub-plots, he was able to excel at that. In smaller stories, he seemed hindered.
This issue has been collected in Namor Visionaries – John Byrne Vol. 1 (ISBN : 0785153047). Like most of the comics that I’ve reviewed, it should be cheap to find in back issue boxes, provided that you can find it. Don’t pay more that two bucks for an issue, and if you do pick one up, try to pick up a run of several issues. Byrne makes Namorita interesting.
FINAL RATING: 7.5 (out of a possible 10)
The story weakness really hurts this comic. If it was on par with the art, then we’d be looking at at least an 8, maybe a 9. John Byrne comics of this era probably need to be read in a series rather than individually.