Issue(s): Namor #6, Namor #7, Namor #8, Namor #9
This issue jumps ahead in time a bit from last issue, which ended in a seeming cliffhanger showing Namor getting arrested. In this issue, Namor is free and his legal troubles are being handled mostly off panel.
The main plot of the issue begins with the Alexanders returning from a sea cruise that was meant to help Caleb recover from his heart attack. Namorita was swimming out to greet them when the ship's captain called her and asked her to investigate a strange mass that was showing up on their radar. Namorita identifies the area as one where all of the garbage from New York and New Jersey ends up. She swims over to investigate and finds a blob forming inside all of the pollution. The blob swallows Namorita and soon makes its way to the cruise ship.
Meanwhile, as Namor is with his lawyer, fending off questions from the press, ruthless businessman Desmond Marrs pushes his sister Phoebe off a building. It's all a plot to get her and Namor together so that she can seduce him, and it works.
I love that Namor is still thinking about global conquest.
Namor hears from Phoebe about the attack on the boat, so he leaves her for now. And finds
The cruise ship that the Alexanders were on is actually owned by the Marrs corporation, and that attracts the attention of the Headhunter. She goes to the Alexanders, where Desmond is expressing his usual brotherly love for Phoebe (he's mad that Phoebe let Namor go away).
Headhunter says that she's here to collect her debt for helping them with their "inheritance problem".
Namor has been busy clearing civilians out of the path of Sluj and scoffing at the idea that he might ever need help from surface dwellers.
Namor then enters Sluj and finds that all of the victims that it has absorbed are being held in cocoon sacs.
Namor takes one of the sacs and brings it back to New York. He meets a pair of doctors that claim responsibility for Sluj. One of them has a face scarred with acid. Their story is that they were part of a research team that managed to create artificial life, but then a crazy protestor broke into their lab, threw the acid, and flushed the newly created creature down the toilet before killing himself. They give Namor a vial that should kill Sluj. So Namor flies in and releases the vial, causing it to explode.
But you'll notice the creature shouts "Mother" as it's dying. There's a sort of post-climax twist to all of this. Sluj wasn't really a newly created form of life. It was really "just" a clone made from the DNA of the two scientists. The situation with the crazy protestor was fabricated. The scientists killed a homeless man to fake their story, and the one doctor threw acid on her own face. By the time this is revealed it's all kind of moot since Sluj killed the female scientist before dying.
All of Sluj's other victims turn out to be ok, and the raw sewage and stuff that it was made of was neutralized somewhere along the way, so there's no health emergency in New York. The one effect from all of this is that Namor's ankle wings are gone.
Namor has to catch a flag pole to avoid splattering on the pavement, and then he crawls through an office building's window. I love this scene of the office workers staring in "mute astonishment" as Namor strides through the office.
Before this can be examined, indeed before Namor really even has time to reunite with Namorita and the Alexanders, Phoebe returns, asking for help for her brother. Of course, he's not able to fly there.
When they arrive at the Headhunter's office, she tests him to see if it bothers him when people pronounce his name wrong.
Then she reveals why she's called the Headhunter.
I assume everyone knows this, but in the business world a "headhunter" is someone from a recruiting agency that lures employees away from their current jobs. Since this book is meant to be corporate themed, you might think that this Headhunter might be a super-powered version of that, maybe someone that kidnaps valuable employees for the likes of Justin Hammer. But the Headhunter is actually a kind of mercenary that provides services for her customers and in return for later getting to take her customers' heads for herself. She keeps them alive and gets valuable business information from them.
I love this little panel of her walking.
And here's how she claims to keep her victims alive.
Namor is her next victim.
Meanwhile, Carrie Alexander worries about the way that Phoebe led Namor away. It's presented partially as jealousy, with Carrie having feelings for Namor after all. But it's also out of earnest suspicion about Phoebe. Eventually Namorita goes to investigate.
Headhunter's hypnotism power doesn't work on Namorita.
And it turns out they didn't really work on Namor either.
And he hasn't really been decapitated.
None of the victims have been. What we saw earlier was a trick done with mirrors.
Headhunter flees. When Namor tries to stop her, she causes her helicopter to self-destruct. Since she caused the explosion, it's assumed that she didn't really die, but this is actually her last appearance.
Unlike Namor, all of the Headhunter's other victims signed a contract allowing her to imprison them. So in the end, Desmond is able to play Namor by pretending to be mad at her for trying to get him out of a legally binding contract. And it works.
In some set ups for future stories (beginning next arc), there is a flashback to a year ago, with a German doctor working with Master Man to access an old laboratory.
Inside they find a woman stored in a tub of liquid. For this subplot, we next see a scene in 1961, as the division between East and West Berlin is being implemented, showing scientists that have been getting help from "Strucker", closing up the lab and fleeing to the western part of Berlin.
And then in the present we see Jim Hammond, the Golden Age torch, walking with Ann Raymond, the wife of Hammond's former sidekick, Toro, who is now presumed dead. Ann and Jim are in the process of professing their love for each other when Master Man and some of his goons show up.
Since Ann is held hostage, Master Man's goons are able to disable the Torch and kidnap both of them.
Our second subplot shows Misty Knight and Colleen Wing seeing on television that Danny Rand has resurfaced.
A letter published in these issues praise the potential interracial relationship between Namor and Carrie Alexander. The response reminds readers that John Byrne, with Chris Claremont, introduced a much earlier interracial relationship between Danny Rand and Misty Knight. I wonder if that was inspiration for bringing these characters into this book. Other letters questioning why this book had the "first and mightiest mutant" tagline seem to have inspired the lost ankle-wings plot.
Everything feels kind of staid. Namor's fight against the blobby personification of pollution is almost non-eventful, and while Headhunter's modus operandi is unusual, there's no real story behind it. Namor's Atlantean resistance to her specific form of hypnotism allows him to just sit and wait for the plot to reveal itself, and then it's over. There are some good moments along the way - fans of classic Byrne, as i am, will find a lot to like - but the plots feel very slight. The long term manipulations of the Marrs siblings offer the most potential, but it seems to be proceeding in a very cliched way, with Phoebe obviously falling for Namor.
In the lettercol to issue #7, someone writes in to praise Byrne's use of "zip-a-tone" (the reason all of the above scans have a murky kind of feel to them). The response has a correction, saying that it's not zip-a-tone (or "zip") but "Duo-Shade", a specially treated paper:
White zip is a plastic film that is stuck on the artwork and trimmed to shape with a blade. Duo-Shade is a line pattern printed into the board itself, and made visible when it is painted over with special chemicals. It's a lot like those coloring books where ordinary tap water makes the hues appear on the page, except that here what appears is either of two gray tones. Editorial cartoons have been using the technique for decades.
This closes with some praise for colorist Glynis Oliver, whose coloring technique makes the process work for color comics. I personally find the technique distracting and possibly an attempt to obscure the fact that the detail and backgrounds are not what they used to be.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: It's been "weeks" since Namor's legal troubles began at the end of last issue. It's said that the Avengers and the Fantastic Four aren't able to respond to the threat of Sluj, but of course that doesn't need to refer to anything specific. Sub-Mariner loses his ankle wings in this arc, and shouldn't appear elsewhere with the wings until he gets them back. The Golden Age Torch and Ann Raymond are kidnapped in this arc, so they shouldn't appear elsewhere in between (in addition to the obvious Avengers West Coast appearances, that also includes Raymond's appearance in Power Pack #60).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAnn Raymond, Caleb Alexander, Carrie Alexander, Colleen Wing, Desmond Marrs, Freidrich Kraus, Headhunter, Human Torch (Golden Age), Joy Meachum, Master Man, Misty Knight, Namorita, Phoebe Marrs, Sub-Mariner, Super-Skrull, Ward Meachum
I agree with you about the "duo-shade" technique or whatever they want to call it. It was a contributing factor to why I didn't stay with the book longer, even though I was a big Byrne fan.
Posted by: Robert | June 29, 2015 1:51 PM
The Headhunter is really weird. I like her look, but she'd be more at home in an issue of Defenders, trying to join the Headmen only to be turned away when they discover she's not really decapitating people.
I kinda see her and Sluj as precursors of other... let's say uninspired villains Byrne would come up with. During his run on Spider-Woman especially.
Posted by: Berend | June 29, 2015 5:15 PM
the duo-shade might have worked, had the printing of the era been able to reproduce it better. Instead, the pages just look dirty and misprinted.
Posted by: Bob | June 29, 2015 5:36 PM
"Is your name pronounced sub-MAR-in-er, or sub-ma-REE-ner?"
"It's pronounced Namor, you air-breathing peasant."
Posted by: Andrew | June 29, 2015 6:03 PM
I actually liked the Duo-Shade a lot, but I think it's less effective for scenes above water than underwater. I think Byrne was just experimenting, and it had its pluses and minuses.
Overall, I was still enjoying the series at this point. I thought Headhunter had a neat design, but was disappointed that she actually was terrible as any kind of supervillain, antagonist, or foil.
I still liked the Marrs dynamic at this point. They were good supporting characters,but I was hoping they'd remain at the level of slightly worse JJJ type characters than outright villains to be defeated. Given Namor's own anti-heroics, it would be fitting.
I did think Namor's personality was spot on and terrific. Namor works best as a hero whose allegiance is ultimately to a "foreign power".
I didn't think the environmental themes were really working, but figured it would improve in time.
One thing I did not like is a common issue with Byrne - when he creates new characters/enemies, they are often of the "one shot" kind and very little chance they'll remain as part of the rogues gallery. I think things should remain more open so antagonists can be reused. Namor does not have many prominent foes - they are either lame or are dead. Taking him out of his Atlantean royal intrigue setting (a plus in my opinion, the title needs to be more grounded in the real world) eliminated what few he had remaining (notably Tiger Shark and Attuma). Sluj was not that interesting, but he had a great look to him. That hand rising out of the sea is just awesome!
I was really stoked about the return the Super-Axis though. I normally don't like Nazi villains in modern day settings outside the classic Red Skull, but I liked the backstory behind it revealed in the subplots here.
Posted by: Chris | June 29, 2015 9:54 PM
Headhunter DOES appear again, in the Villains for Hire series.
Posted by: Michael | June 30, 2015 12:10 AM
Not only is Sluj another Tundra or Gormuu-like Kirby creature, but decapitation was a theme of Byrne's She-Hulk book. It's like he's run out of ideas: he claimed he never had much to say about Alpha Flight, but this is the first book where Byrne seems to be really phoning it in.
At the time, I wondered if the Marrs twins were supposed to have sime intersting secret. But no, like Kearson DeWitt in Iron Man, they're just under-motivated super-wealthy ciphers. Byrne would say he was trying to be realistic, but compare these nonentities to unpowered Iron Man billionaire baddies like Obadiah Stane and Justin Hammer. It's Byrne writing that makes these characters failures.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | June 30, 2015 1:54 AM
Byrne himself -- at his forum http://www.byrnerobotics.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=15883&KW=JBF+Reading+Club%3A+Namor -- mentions that he felt the Sluj storyline was one of his weaker stories, and that he had the story idea for some time, but had not found the series he wanted to tell the story in. He said that he felt as if he had Namor "tacked-on" to the story.
When I read it, Sluj's first appearance initially reminded me of how Torg was defeated by oil in Sub-Mariner #55, which was the first comic book featuring Namor that I had read when I was a young boy. I know that unintended and inaccurate association of mine made me feel more fondly of this storyline than the other issues of Namor up to this point, with the exception of the first issue.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | June 30, 2015 8:01 AM
Talk at the time was that Byrne intended Headhunter to be the sister of Arcade!
Posted by: Nathan Adler | June 30, 2015 8:09 AM
I've never actually read these issues, but I love that it seems like several pages worth of Namorita forced to hold up her costume after it was shot apart.
Posted by: Erik Beck | November 15, 2015 12:36 PM
I love that once you know it's a mirror and you go back to that panel, you actually do see the mirror. It makes the scene and the resolution less cheap in my opinion. I feel like I legitemately got fooled.
Posted by: KombatGod | November 16, 2017 7:20 PM
Comments are now closed.
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