Sub-Mariner: Revolution

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 Are there still people out there who care about Namor, the Sub-Mariner?  I’d have thought no, but apparently I’d have been wrong.  Namor has been lying fallow for years now, popping up here and there to act rashly and bitch about the surface world mucking up the oceans.  For a character with a rich history, (fighting alongside Captain American in World War II, fighting the Fantastic Four, trying to steal Sue Richards away from her husband) he’s been handled pretty poorly over the past decade or so.  This is in part surprising because he’s got wings on his ankles, and the ladies love a man with cute little ankle wings.

 

Then along came Sub-Mariner: Revolution, and it didn’t suck. 

Behold the majesty of crappy Michael Turner art!

 I know, right?  No one was more surprised than me that it was actually good.  In the story, a terrorist cell of Atlanteans carries out attacks on the United States.  The powers that be send Iron Man and his cronies to tell Namor to cut it out, even though he isn’t involved.  Misunderstandings and stubbornness ensue, with Namor acting like the monarch he is and deciding to take matters into his own hands.  He hunts down the cell and dispatches them in his own particular idiom.  While he’s taking care of business the U.S. lurks just outside Atlantis, ready to blow it to hell.  Oh, and some rebel Atlanteans want to stage a coup and kick our half-human, half-Atlantean hero off the throne. 

 

Authors Matt Cherniss and Peter Johnson have crafted a tale that doesn’t so much rely on the super aspects of the story, and the work is stronger for it.  There’s a “ripped from the headlines” feel that I appreciated, even when I was shaking my head at some of the more graphic violence.  Terrorist attacks on U.S. soil are no longer fantastical, and Cherniss and Johnson take advantage of that.  The United States acting as world police and demanding other countries adapt to our way of thinking has been a reality for decades now, so it’s not a stretch to see Tony Stark, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., serve as the mouthpiece for a concerned administration.

 

I expected the scenes in Atlantis to drag, and was pleasantly surprised when those expectations weren’t met.  The climactic fight scene between Namor and the cell was a sight to behold, and so praise needs to be heaped on artist Phil Briones.  This was my first exposure to his work, and I’ll be on the lookout for his name from now on.  Too often comic fans obsess about how detailed the art in a book is or how lifelike the characters are and therefore neglect strong, competent work.  Briones lays his action scenes out well, tells a great story through body language and facial expressions, and never confuses the reader with muddy (though sometimes hurried) looking work.  I hope to see him on a higher profile book in the future.

 

The only real complaint I have has to do with the violence.  Now, I loves me some fighting, but Sub-Mariner: Revolution falls prey to the Geoff Johns-led Dismemberment Movement too prevalent in today’s comics landscape.  Allow me to illustrate:  Namor fights Venom in the series, which isn’t as ridiculously out of place as it sounds since Venom is now part of the governments’ “Keep them superfolks in line!” task force.  During the fight, Venom rips off two of Namor’s best assets: those cute little ankle wings.  Blood spurting ensues.  In retaliation, Namor rips Venom’s tongue out of his head.  More blood, with some gurgling thrown in for good measure.  Oh, and later Namor impales a bad guy on Seattle’s Space Needle.  So, you know, there’s that.

 

Of course, neither ankle nor tongue maiming is mentioned in any of the other books these characters appear in, so I could put on my Continuity Police badge if I wanted, but that’s beside the point.  I like that Namor is rendered weaker and must struggle in other fights, but couldn’t Venom broken a bone or something?  I don’t need to see more body parts flung around in my comics, thank you very much.

 

In any case we’re left with, miracle of miracles, a Sub-Mariner story that’s well plotted, well written, and well drawn.  While this does feel a little drawn out or decompressed (Really guys?  A fight with Wolverine?  Really?), the creators provide us with a clever story and an ending I didn’t see coming.  Unfortunately, the promise of that final issue has yet to be realized or even mentioned in other books, but I chalk that up to Marvel caring more about BIG SUMMER EVENTS! and less about making sure interesting threads in their universe are explored.  Let’s hope Cherniss and Johnson have something to do with the Sub-Mariner movie that IMDB lists as being released in 2010 (and that the underappreciated David Boreanaz actually lands the title role as rumored).

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One Response to “Sub-Mariner: Revolution”

  1. jhrunion Says:

    sub-mariner has long been treated badly by marvel. in fact it goes all the way back to the 60’s, a big part of it is the character was created by bill everett, not lee or kirby. he has been a second rate citizen in the marvel universe ever since they revived him in ff#4. in the timely days, only captain america was a bigger star and namor was tied at second place with the original torch. marvel just doesn’t seem to care about the character nor do they know what to do with him. i think he is just too complex for many of their writers. john

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