Issue(s): Namor #26, Namor #27, Namor #28, Namor #29, Namor #30, Namor #31, Namor #32, Namor #33
The switch in penciler credits comes with a major change in story direction, and also a six month in-story gap for the character. The new status quo has Namor with amnesia, which is of course a callback to his period between the late Golden Age (retroactively speaking) and his first appearance in the Silver/Modern Age in Fantastic Four #4 (and it's not the first such call-back: Sub-Mariner #47-49 had him without memories for what was, by the standards of the time, a fairly extended period).
Jae Lee has a very distinct, stylized look, and in this series he uses his skills to depict moody, brooding scenes, in contrast to the hyper-energetic work he did on Uncanny X-Men annual #16. Reaction to Lee's art in the lettercols is gushingly positive, first in anticipation after his work on the Beast story in Marvel Comics Presents #85-92 and then even more so once people are reacting to what he is doing in this series, which is an improvement by leaps over the Beast story. The style does have its faults, though. It's very static, meaning that the action sequences aren't "sequences" as such, and even during quiet moments Lee tends towards big splash panels, which results in this series becoming even more decompressed than it already has been. There isn't a whole lot of 'story' in Byrne's final run (which goes to issue #32). Namor basically wanders around a small logging town for a long time, eventually falls into the sea and is captured by Dr. Doom, who does nothing with him, and then there's a final... let's call it confrontation, rather than fight, with Master Khan, that ends with Namor getting his memory back. And that could have all been told in an issue or two, but it will run until issue #33. And Lee's layouting style is such that a lot of the story is told with full page pin-ups, with Byrne having to write tons of exposition in narration boxes on each page (there also isn't a heck of a lot of dialogue).
The story starts with a collection of characters wondering where Namor has been: Captain America, Jim Hammond (the currently de-powered Golden Age Human Torch), Iron Fist, Colleen Wing, Mist Knight, and Namorita.
Meanwhile, some loggers are using some high tech and strange War of the Worlds technology.
But they're also using traditional chainsaws. I mentioned in the entry for NFL Superpro #7 that tree spiking was a controversial practice. This is why.
Amnesiac Namor is found wandering in the woods, and he's blamed for the spiking and is attacked by the loggers.
They do manage to knock him out (hey, he's not in the best condition), and he's brought to the local sheriff, Chance Walker, and he piques the interest of Walker's daughter, Tess.
The sheriff doesn't think Namor is responsible for the spikings, so he sets him free. But Namor continues to hang out with Tess. Since Namor doesn't know his name, they settle on Rex. I think it's funny that King and Prince are rejected because they are dogs' names, but "Rex", which is the most cliched dog name i can think of aside from Rover, is ok.
The loggers are upset with the sheriff for letting Namor free, so they attack his office with their Martian war machines...
...but Namor stops them.
Meanwhile, Namorita detects Namor's presence (they've always had a kind of mystical connection) and flies to him. Frankly, it's pretty amazing that she recognizes him, considering what he looks like under Jae Lee.
But he swats her away and runs off. We'll later learn that this is part of Master Khan's curse: Namor has to flee whenever he's near someone that knows him.
Tess turns out to be working with a rogue operative in Namor's company Oracle, in a division that was previously owned by Rand-Meachum (as Michael notes in the comments, the guy will turn out to be Namor's half-brother, Leon McKenzie, aka Black Moray) who is working against the loggers. The loggers are instigated into attacking a facility, but they're attacked by Tess, operating one of those War of the Worlds machines, and loggers are killed. Namor jumps on the machine to stop her, but they both wind up crashing into a fuel tank. Tess is killed. Namor is dumped into the ocean and he forgets all about the logging town. Namorita shows up again to clean up the mess and try to comfort Tess' father. Namor is rescued by an Atlantean that looks like his deceased mother, Princess Fen.
They are both then scooped up by a high tech fishing boat that is owned by Dr. Doom.
When Namor recognizes his mother and tries to flee per Khan's spell, they are both captured. The art is getting kind of porntastic with Fen.
And then Doom himself shows up.
You can't shut Doom up, so at least once he arrives there's dialogue again.
Namor breaks free.
Doom tries to figure out if Fen is really who she says she is.
He also explains that his plan is to overfish the world's oceans. Control the fish, control the world, i guess.
I don't know. Doesn't seem like a very Dr. Doom sort of plot. But in any event, it's not actually the plot of these issues. Namor returns, and i guess this is a fight.
So many words.
Meanwhile, Phoebe Marrs tries to seduce Jim Hammond, the de-powered Golden Age Human Torch (although see the Considerations for a spoiler).
The rest of Namor's adopted cast (including the Iron Fist characters) go looking for Namor again. Iron Fist senses Master Khan.
The fact that Namor overcame Khan's spell so that he could fight Doom causes Khan to act directly, and he sucks everyone up into a bottle.
Disguised as Namor, Master Khan gets rid of all Namor's business holdings.
And we suddenly start seeing stuff related to Atlantis, like the return of the Fearless Ones (from Tales To Astonish #73)...
...the re-surfacing of Warlord Seth, last seen in 1970...
...and the first appearance of Tamara Rahn since 1977.
With some magical help from Dr. Doom, Namor punches his way out of the bottle.
You'd think Iron Fist might get a crack at Master Khan, but he's interrupted by Doom, who is interrupted by Namor.
There's really no fighting, just posing and speechifying, but then Namor beheads Khan.
It's impossible to convey how little is happening in these issues. Jae Lee gets major accolades in the lettercol (and i agree with people that see a little bit of a Mike Mignola influence), and the art is pretty to look at. But it's just these giant static images, and virtually nothing happens. I don't want to put it all on Lee, because the same thing basically happened in John Byrne's collaboration with John Romita Jr. on Iron Man. And i assume the plot really did call for Namor to be wandering the woods for 3 issues, flailing around in the water and on a fishing boat for 2 issues, etc.. And on top of that we have an amnesiac Namor, so it's not like we could have much in the way of character development or dialogue even if there was space devoted to it.
Any way you look at it, though, it's an extremely decompressed storyline. And then at the end, when Byrne is replaced by Bob Harras, you can feel the gears shift, jarringly, as all the corporate intrigue stuff is discarded for the Atlantean stuff.
By the way, it's announced that there will be an Iron Fist series in 1993, to be illustrated by Jae Lee. That didn't happen.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Despite the fact that Namorita senses Namor at the end of issue #26 and flies out the window to go to him, and that the fight between Namor and the loggers' machine continues between #26-27, the MCP places a ton of Infinity War related stories between #26 & 27. I suspect they are missing her appearance at the end and are assuming that the Infinity War issues take place during issue #26, after the initial scene with Namorita but before she leaves to find Namor. I'm placing this whole arc in one spot, allowing for a large gap after issue #25 because of the "six months". The way issue #34 opens it may feel like all the characters are still together after the events of these issues, but it doesn't have to be, so i'll be allowing for another gap after these.
We'll later learn that Llyra impersonates Phoebe Marrs' dead brother Desmond, and then Phoebe herself in this story.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showArtys-Gran, Baron Blood (Kenneth Falsworth), Black Moray, Caleb Alexander, Captain America, Carrie Alexander, Colleen Wing, Dr. Doom, Human Torch (Golden Age), Iron Fist, Llyra, Master Khan, Misty Knight, Namorita, Phoebe Marrs, Spitfire, Sub-Mariner, Tamara Rahn, Warlord Seth
Jae Lee did end up drawing Iron Fist in 1993, just in a 3 part story in the adjective-less Spider-Man book (#41-43).
Posted by: Joe | April 15, 2016 1:16 PM
"Phoebe" doesn't just 'try' to seduce Jim--they do sleep together (which is acknowledged when "Phoebe's" true identity is exposed, and Jim realizes it wasn't the real Phoebe.
Posted by: Dermie | April 15, 2016 6:57 PM
Leon McKenzie, who eventually becomes Black Moray, should be listed as a Character Appearing- he's the "rogue operative" you mention, so yeah, he is important.
Posted by: Michael | April 15, 2016 7:53 PM
Thanks Michael. Added him.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 15, 2016 8:32 PM
Now, normally I'm not prudish when it comes to scantily clad ladies, but Fen being Namor's mother makes it feel REALLY creepy having her stripped down and in bondage in these scans.
Posted by: Bill | April 15, 2016 8:51 PM
I wonder where the heck Byrne was going with all of this. It seemed like he intended Fen to really be the genuine article, so I'm curious how he would have explained her return.
Also I wonder what was going on with Phoebe. Actually, I think I posed that question earlier, and someone responded that Byrne intended for her to be crazy and only think that she's being haunted by her brother's ghost, but that this was less-than-obvious in the actual execution.
Finally, I wonder how Byrne would have wrapped up the whole Master Khan storyline.
This must have been the point where I finally got fed up with the fact that Byrne would routinely either get into an argument with an editor or just get bored and abruptly quit books mid-storyline, leaving a whole bunch of stuff unresolved. For a long time after this, whenever I saw his name on a series I would end up thinking to myself "Do I really want to start reading this, considering that there's a fairly good chance that Byrne's going to jump ship in less than a year, leaving behind a heap of dangling subplots?"
As for Bob Harras' first issue, I would have dearly loved some footnotes referring me back to older storylines. It was many years before I learned where Tamara Rahn had previously appeared. I don't think I even found out that the Faceless Ones were old enemies of Namor's until a few months ago when I read fnord's summary of Tales to Astonish #73! Certainly I couldn't figure out why the heck they were called "Faceless" when they very clearly had faces in this issue, not realizing they had appeared before, and back then had actually lived up to their names.
Oh, well, it is still shocking and dramatic to see an enraged Namor ripping Master Khan, um, Kahn's head off (they couldn't even spell his name right). Anyone know if Khan has subsequently come back from the dead?
Posted by: Ben Herman | April 15, 2016 9:40 PM
This is a big misstep. The corporate and semi eco-terrorist angles were never utilized as well as they could be, but they served to ground Namor in the "real" world. Including some aspects of Atlantis is probably overdue, but it is a mistake to concentrate on it. There needs to be some kind of synthesis.
I just don't think the world of Atlantean politics really works in a superhero setting. There can be good stories, but it works best if it somehow ties or relates to the "real" world. After this, Harras does introduce some nice dark fantasy elements that I enjoyed. However, those kind of things need to be balanced.
I agree with Ben Herman that footnotes would have been great. With them, you know you are seeing characters introduced before in stories that may have relevance. You know they are cool shout outs for those fans who read the original stories. Without them, it's a mystery who all these random people are who don't do anything.
But the bigger problem is that Master Khan and the Iron Fist cast is distracting at this point. That should have been wrapped up at the end of the last arc.
It seems things really didn't work out for Byrne during his tenure here. I liked a lot of the stories, but I don't think things gelled as Byrne thought they should. And it seems he didn't attract the usual number of fans to the title that he used to do in the 1980s. Especially at the end there are bizarre end to long running sub-plots and the gratuitous guest appearances.
The semi-decompressed pacing also did not help. It seemed like padding.
Posted by: Chris | April 15, 2016 10:56 PM
Jae Lee, Whilce Portacio are big offenders of using the minimum amount of panels to tell a story so the art will sell better on the aftermarket. Following in Rob Liefeld's footsteps, of course, and only leading the way. There's a reason full scripts came back in vogue(eventually), especially at Marvel.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | April 15, 2016 11:17 PM
@Ben- you did ask about Phoebe- and I did tell you that Byrne wanted the readers to think she was just crazy but it was less-than-clear in the execution.
Posted by: Michael | April 15, 2016 11:33 PM
It seems like Namorita needs a tag.
I know of Jae Lee, but I don't think I've read a book he drew. His art looks really nice in these scans (the heads on the Martian Logging Machines remind me of the Highlander from BattleTech). It's too bad the story pacing is lacking.
Ben's question got me Googling Master Khan, and while it doesn't appear that Khan's returned, I was surprised to see that his first appearance is in the unreviewed Strange Tales 77 from the monster age. He even puts a ship in a bottle in that story:
Posted by: Mortificator | April 16, 2016 11:53 AM
Added Namorita, and added Strange Tales #77 to the What's Missing page. That's actually pretty awesome.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 16, 2016 12:25 PM
@Mortificator - I did a bit of Googling myself, to see if I could find out the intentions of Tony Isabella, who wrote Marvel Premiere #22, the first appearance of Master Khan in an Iron Fist story. I located this comment by Isabella on the World Famous Comics site...
"I created Misty during my three-issue story arc on Iron Fist in the 1970s. That same arc brought Master Khan into the Marvel Universe; he had previously appeared in STRANGE TALES #77 [October, 1960], in one of those five-page Stan Lee/Steve Ditko "shock ending" stories that delighted me as a youngster and which continue to tickle me to this day."
Posted by: Ben Herman | April 16, 2016 11:50 PM
The original cover to #27 appears in Back Issue #91.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 9, 2016 12:30 PM
Comments are now closed.
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