Issue(s): Sub-Mariner #64, Sub-Mariner #65, Sub-Mariner #66, Sub-Mariner #67, Sub-Mariner #68, Sub-Mariner #69
The story starts out with Gerber's social commentary. Namor finds that Vashti and the other Elders have put the Amphibians in a concentration camp. Namor is not pleased.
I was a little surprised by Namorita's relative lack of passion, considering some of her earlier passion and opinions about the benefits of monarchy.
But, anyway, the story then gets into what i assume is a Beatles homage, with four travelers from another dimension arriving in Atlantis in a golden submarine.
Their (also undersea) kingdom was ruled by love, until a woman came along and stirred up trouble. Namor decides to go back with the travelers. ("Erm, we were kinda hoping for an army..." "Yeah, listen. You want Namor. The Atlantean 'army' is about as useful as a pile of plastic soldiers.").
There he finds that while the regular troops are no match for him, the woman, Virago, is indeed a tough cookie...
...and in fact a mutated monster.
Virago looks kind of like a duck monster, thanks to the feet.
The cover of issue #65 leads us to believe that Namor won't fight Virago because she's a woman, but thankfully there's none of that inside the book. She trounces him pretty soundly...
...but instead of killing him decides to go invade our dimension and conquer Atlantis instead.
When she arrives, Virago accidentally frees Orka the Human Killer Whale...
...and the two of them team-up to destroy Atlantis. During his fight with Orka, Namor accidentally crashes into an old navy ship, which contained nerve gas canisters. The canisters explode, putting all of the Atlanteans into a coma (including Orka and Virago, but not Namorita, Tamara Rahn, or the Amphibians) and causing problems for Namor's physiology as well (specifically, it prevents him from breathing air). Reed Richards builds a suit that helps Namor with these problems, resulting in a new costume for the Sub-Mariner.
Namor blames the accidents on the surface world, of course, and not his own clumsiness. He also was a really belligerent patient for Reed, but i guess that's to be expected.
There's more to the story, including the conclusion of the revolution of love in Virago's dimension and a battle with a new forcefield wielding villain named... Force...
...but those elements are basically just noise. The plots for these issues are hopelessly cluttered, so, despite the significance of the events listed above, they're hard to get through. The art also leaves a lot to be desired.
Namor ran into Force because he was looking for scientist Damon Walthers, who had developed a forcefield that Namor wanted to use to seal off Atlantis (at the recommendation of one of the Amphibian scientists, Henry Croft).
Peter Parker appears as the fight with Force takes place at ESU, and he gets involved as Spider-Man in issue #69 (which has somewhat better art, by George Tuska).
Namor and Spidey at least don't get into a misunderstanding fight since they recently teamed-up together in Marvel Team-Up #14. But Spidey also doesn't stick around for the rematch with Force. It's said in the lettercol for issue #71 that Spider-Man's appearance here was meant to be longer, and that's why he was on the cover, but the story was trimmed so Gerber could wrap up the plot here and turn the book over to Marv Wolfman.
Walthers is in the hospital, but he confirms that Force has his forcefield prototype. So it's another fight with Force...
...and then Atlantis is indeed sealed off.
The Amphibians are moved to Hydrobase to continue their research.
(Above is a picture of Joseph Jennings, for comparison with the Dr. Jennings from Defenders #7.)
Meanwhile the Beatles or whoever contact Dr. Strange for help in their rebellion...
...and he tells them that music will break Virago's control, so they blow a big horn and it's all over.
Issues #64-66 also continue the Tales of Atlantis stories, also by Steve Gerber. Jim Mooney replaces Howard Chaykin after issue #64. The Tales pick up 5,000 years after Atlantis sunk into the sea, which is disappointing because probably the most interesting part of the Atlantean's history is how they came to breathe under water (they were already blue)(the fact that the Pre-Cataclysm Atlanteans were colored blue was later determined to be a mistake, but i'm not sure about their correct color at this point.).
There's a war between two groups of nomads.
The king of one tribe, and his brother, who would like to be king himself, sends the king's son on what he hopes will be an impossible quest. The boy's name is Kamuu, same as the king from the previous Tales.
Young Kamuu eventually discovers the sword of the original...
...and is directed by his ghost to found Atlantis.
The hope, i assume, was to capitalize on the popularity of Marvel's Conan book (as was the decision to add the adjective "Savage" to the title of the main comic, i.e., Prince Namor, the Savage Sub-Mariner (replacing the "Scourge of the Seven Seas" tagline). Nothing really came of the Kamuu story, however, other than a gratuitous reference in the current Namor story arc.
Issue #67 is dedicated to the late Bill Everett. A note by Steve Gerber says that the recent problems with the series and frequent changes in direction were due to the fact that Everett tried to take over the writing and drawing of the series starting with issue #50 but as he kept getting sicker it became less and less possible (Blame it all on the dead guy; real classy, Gerber. I'm just kidding...). It seems that the most current decision to put all of Atlantis in a coma was designed to allow Namor to become a free agent again, able to explore the seas and act independently without all of the burdens of leadership. This ends Gerber's run on the series as well, with Marv Wolfman taking over next issue.
The book is also put on a bi-monthly basis.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The Fantastic Four's appearance in issue #67 takes place in the middle of Fantastic Four #140. Namor's arrival causes the FF to delay their response to a distress call from the Invisible Girl, who is not currently a member of the team. Spidey appears here between Amazing Spider-Man #128-129.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (14): show
Virago showed up in one of the Marvel Fun Books from Fireside about 4 years later, but she was called "She-Devil".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 16, 2011 12:48 PM
Orka came out of his coma in 1976(not sure how, though) but did Virago ever revive?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 30, 2013 4:07 PM
According to the MCP, these are her only appearances.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 30, 2013 4:41 PM
Somewhere (a letter column maybe?) Gerber admitted that the golden submarine was taken from the Beatles, that Ibbar is Rabbi spelled backwards, and sounding the horn at the end was blowing the Shofar. Basically he just threw these issues together with whatever he could think of.
Posted by: Andrew | March 1, 2015 5:14 PM
If these were a bunch of Beatles references, than Zephyrland=Pepperland and Virago=Yoko Ono?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 18, 2015 11:52 AM
Gerber makes a few stabs at a theme int he messy final issues -- Namor crashing through the hospital window is explicitly paralleled with the violence-crazed Zephyrland forces attacking the three love-fest types -- and the Zephyrland conclusion tries to make some big statement about the destructiveness and the infectiousness of violence. I'd guess Gerber also intended Force to be played up more as part of all this, especially given the unsubtle symbolism inherent in his codename.
More broadly, Gerber kind of hints that Namor is not only a hypocrite due to his belligerent nature, but also that he's been pretty bad for Atlantis. The backups show the city being destroyed by war and restored by love, rather like the Zephyrland plotline, and my sense is that the story is hinting that Namor is more like Virago than he thinks. Perhaps Namor was meant to be part of the Zephyrland resolution, and to learn a lesson from it? Or even visibly fail to learn from it??
But, yeah, the end product is just a truncated mess, the work of a writer who's not invested *and* has't really found his voice yet. The net effect is a lot more like Gerry Conway's messy initial issues than anything else. But unlike Daredevil and Iron Man, this title couldn't survive the steady decline of sales.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | September 10, 2017 7:51 AM
Namor has some ongoing challenges with holding a modern solo title. First, there needs to be a good balance between the surface world (since the readers identify with it) and the aquatic (since Atlantis is so important to his mythos). Too often there isn't one. Second, he really needs a more diverse rogues gallery. He has some excellent Atlantean or other undersea villains, but he needs more variety especially of the type that is different than someone who is simply strong and can punch. Third, anytime a title character is saddled with being a monarch of his country, it really hurts that character. He either neglects his kingdom (making him look bad) or becomes involved in politics (which is usually boring to most readers). There are really only a few stories to be told if someone is a king (at least if he is a superhero). Namor abdicating in the future was a good move for the character.
Posted by: Chris | September 10, 2017 1:54 PM
But the problem with Namor abdicating is that inevitably the Atlanteans prove to be incapable of governing or defending themselves without him, he has to resume the throne and we're back to square one. I'm not sure how to end this cycle.
Posted by: Michael | September 10, 2017 2:01 PM
I don't think that is inevitable that the Atlanteans are incapable of self defense. They seem just as incapable when Namor is king and he has to defend them. It's just that in one, Namor prevents an issue up front or he cleans it up on the back end - but it is really the same thing.
This is just a variation of the idea that there needs to be jeopardy for the hero to overcome. But there is no reason why the Atlanteans should seem more incompetent than say the NYPD despite Spider-Man, Daredevil, and many other heroes fight crime that the police can't handle.
I think preventing that has more to do with how Atlantis is portrayed and having appropriate supporting or recurring characters. Show them (very briefly) that they can handle most menaces except for the standard supervillain threats which causes Namor to come out and help. And of course stop writing plots where it is always the case that Atlantis itself is threatened. Once Namor is no longer king and does other stuff, it helps to break that cycle.
What may be harder is determining what status quo for Atlantis works best. Is it that some other member of the royal family is in charge? That Attuma rules? That "Atlantis" is actually multiple kingdoms/states/tribes? Each status quo will present different opportunities for the character.
Posted by: Chris | September 10, 2017 5:38 PM
Finally I get to the issue wear Namor gets his hideous black costume. Some may be relieved to see him finally wearing pants, but this new costume is just so incredibly terrible. I'm not too surprised to see that Don Heck designed it. Bill Everett probably rolled over in his grave. Whatever charms Heck's art might hold for me, costume design isn't one of them. The yellow flaps under Namor's arms in particular are not only impractical, but totally impossible. How do they stick to his bare arms when he moves around? How can he possibly swim with them on? When viewed from the front, they appear to be attached in the back, but when viewed from the back, they appear to be attached in the front. Therefore they're either magical or attached to his underarm skin with some kind of pseudo-scientific unstable spirit gum.
And thus does Reed Richards take his revenge on Namor for turning Sue's head so many times. Namor's own fashion sense is so out-of-the-loop that he doesn't even realize he's been had. Heck of a prank there, Reed. And as far as I know, Reed never owned up to it. The Torch and Yancy Street Gang should take a few lessons from this guy, but they're too completely taken in by his stuffy old shirt routine.
Posted by: Holt | January 28, 2018 10:49 AM
In the introduction to the Masterwork Thomas says the new costume was designed by John Romita. He thinks he suggested the belt's trident device.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | January 28, 2018 2:48 PM
Yes, it was John Romita who designed Namor's new costume. Here's a scan of Romita's original sketch of it...
Posted by: Ben Herman | January 28, 2018 4:33 PM
Nice sketch. Terrible costume. Namor needs an appointment with Edna Mode, stat.
Posted by: Holt | January 28, 2018 5:19 PM
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