Namor annual #3
Issue(s): Namor annual #3
In fact, there's not much to like about this annual at all. Based on placement considerations this will be the first of the 1993 annuals to appear on my site. The gimmick of the 1993 annuals was to introduce new characters, virtually all of whom went absolutely nowhere, and i'll talk more about that on a future entry. But even by the standards of the annuals, the one introduced here is a literal non-entity. The villain of the story is Apocalypse, who could theoretically be an interesting foil for Namor, but he's depicted poorly here. And the new character that is introduced is just a robot that Apocalypse has built. Certainly in the Marvel universe a robot can be a character, but this is not a robot in the model of Vision, Ultron, Machine Man, or the like. It's just a robot that can't really be said to have its own personality or motivations.
So for all intents and purposes there is no new character being introduced here at all, and our Namor/Apocalypse confrontation instead has Namor facing off against a boring robot. Couple that with the bad art and major continuity problems and this is not a good issue.
The robot, creatively named "Assassin", has the ability to change its appearance, which is surely exactly what a shape-shifter like Apocalypse would need to add to his arsenal. We never actually see it change its appearance in this story. It's always a slinky Asian female stereotype that goes around seducing people and then killing and/or capturing them, depending on her orders. A back-up origin shows her disguise technology to be less sophisticated than the Chameleon circa 1963; not exactly what you'd expect from a guy that has subverted Celestial technology. Apocalypse has to cover her in a disguise; it's not like she has actual shape-shifting abilities.
The plot has Namor going to Japan to meet a friend, but the friend has been seduced and killed by Assassin and replaced by Apocalypse. Namor is then seduced and captured by Assassin.
Apocalypse wants Namor to create amphibious clones or something. He's a target because he's a loner, not like Angel who was rescued from servitude by the "brat" X-Men.
This all seems off on a number of levels. As i understand it, Apocalyse is happy to have upgraded Angel and let him loose on the world. And he would approve of the X-Men (actually X-Factor) achieving a victory over him, since it would prove them to be "among the strong", which is all Apocalypse is supposed to care about. And even if Apocalyse was upset about losing Angel, i don't see him referring to anyone as "brats" as if he were the Wicked Witch of the West or something.
As far as this being an interesting plot for Namor, well, it's not. There's a lot of potential in Apocalypse examining the distinction between Namor as a mutant vs. him being a human/Atlantean hybrid. But Apocalypse wanting to make Atlantean clones or something, that's Dr. Dorcas' schtick; it's not Apocalypse's MO at all.
Anyway, Namor gets free because Apocalypse fills his prison tube with sea water, which of course strengthens Namor. This critical mistake is clumsily mitigated by the script ("The drug should have forestalled the sea water's rejuvenation effects!"), but it nonetheless means that Namor gets free thanks to an unforced error on Apocalypse's part. Apocalypse then slips away, leaving Namor to fight his dumb robot, which unsurprisingly isn't much of a challenge.
It initiates a self-destruct sequence...
...but Namor escapes the building in time. The robot is also shown to survive, but clearly neither Apocalypse nor any later writer ever thought enough of it to get it back.
I mean, Apocalypse could just build another robot if he really needed one, right?
I'll be looking more at the 1993 annual characters and why for the vast majority they didn't seem to stick. It's almost not worth doing it in this case. For one thing, the idea of the annuals was that they'd be done by the regular book's creative team, with the thought that it would make the creators more likely to use the characters again in the regular series. But that's not the case here; Namor's book was going through some creative team changes but Ron Marz was never a writer on it (and obviously the art team on this book is a special case). But i can't see how Marz would have thought that this character could be used again anywhere. There's nothing special about it; it's a dime-a-dozen robot of the sort that appears without fanfare in any regular storyline. If this issue didn't come polybagged with a trading card of Assassin, it would never have occurred to me that we were supposed to think of it as a character that was meant to appear more than once. This story also fails on a more basic level. It's not a story that has anything to do with Namor, and it's a terrible depiction of Apocalypse.
And then there's the placement problem. I'll list the details in the Considerations below, but this story just lazily says that it "occurs prior to the events in the X-Cutioner's Song". I've noted in the X-Cutioner entries that i never liked that Apocalypse was shown needing to take healing baths in that story, but i found my problem with the baths mitigated by the fact that it was meant to take place after Apocalypse was badly injured by Cyclops in X-Factor #68. But if you're going to stick this story in between, there goes that idea. And there was no thought at all put into where this might take place for Namor, whose own book had been involved in long storylines for years without breaks. Namor is just here visiting a never-seen-before friend without any context.
A housekeeping note: i normally try to be restrained with the information that appears in orange on the category and search pages for an entry. So normally i wouldn't use that space to indicate that this is the first (and only) appearance of the Assassin. But i'm tagging all the 1993 Annuals as a crossover so that they can be found using the advanced search, and i thought it would be useful to have a list of the new characters at a glance when doing that. So i'll be listing all of the new characters in that space, regardless of whether they merit a Historical Significance Rating or anything like that.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: As noted above, this was meant to take place prior to X-Cutioner's Song. The real problem is that Namor has not been in a normal status quo for a long long time (missing ankle wings, then amnesiac, then dealing with a long undersea adventure), so any standalone story that wasn't written to fit somewhere specifically will be hard to place anywhere. Last year's annual dealt with this by having Namor's mind get put into Rick Jones' body; i.e., it was written with a way to deal with the status quo problem. This story is written with no such care. Namor has long hair (in a pony tail) and ankle wings, suggesting that it was meant to go after Namor #40. But of course the footnote for Apocalypse suggests placement some 8 publication months earlier. The MCP pushes this back to take place just after Namor annual #2, which allows for the long hair but not the ankle wings, and ignores the fact that Namor is amnesiac and operating under a curse that causes him to run away from anyone that recognizes him (i suppose the idea that the negation of the curse while he was in Rick Jones' body lingers a little longer, but that doesn't explain the wings). I figure if i'm going to push this back i might as well also deal with my problems with Apocalyse's placement, so i'm placing this back in the 1990 category, before Namor loses his wings in Namor #6-9 and before Apocalypse is injured by Cyclops in X-Factor #68. The only problem with this placement is the length of Namor's hair, so i'm putting a fair amount of space between this and his prior appearance, with the idea that he decided to grow it out for a while, but then cut it for his next appearance.
An Iron Fist story from this issue is covered in a separate entry.
Crossover: 1993 Annuals
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Interesting -- if I'm remembering it right, there was an official mandate that all the new '93 Annual characters WOULD re-appear. I think they made a point of that in the promos, like in Marvel Age or whatever. But I guess Assassin slipped past that requirement somehow.
Posted by: Andrew F | July 18, 2016 6:00 PM
In his dialogue Apocalypse almost sounds like he's trying too hard to convince everyone that he's Apocalypse, and frankly, for the plot, he was chosen basically at random.
I'm going with the head canon that it was Shinobi Shaw in an Apocalypse suit.
Posted by: FF3 | July 18, 2016 6:38 PM
@Andrew F- plenty of the '93 Annual characters never reappeared.
Posted by: Michael | July 18, 2016 8:10 PM
Do Namor and Apocalypse ever encounter one another again? During Namor's X-Men stint in the last decade, maybe?
Because as bad as this is, Namor does make a damn good candidate for a Horseman. Pent-up rage, incredible power, very few close friends, as even pale imitation Apocalypse points out here.
Posted by: FF3 | July 18, 2016 8:30 PM
Joe Phillips is back in superhero comics, with The Midsummer's Knight coming out from Lion's Roar Comics.
Posted by: Cecil Disharoon | July 18, 2016 11:26 PM
I liked some of these new characters, including this one. I also liked Face-Thief from the Iron Man annual and Wildstreak from the FF.
The art for this annual was pretty good, considering all the different artists involved.
I don't care for Apocalypse that much, so him not being in character here doesn't bother me too much, but I did like him going against Namor.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | July 19, 2016 1:38 PM
I'm psyced that you're moving on to 1993. Getting back into collecting after a 22 year absence, beginning at the end of 1993. This was one of the last comics I read before I quit. I remember the Iron Fist story was awful
Posted by: Mike Quinn | July 19, 2016 2:49 PM
Marz had a penchant for terrible generic names, at least for villains: "Assassin" we never see again, but Marz's Silver Surfer is brimful of boss baddie called "Tyrant."
Posted by: Walter Lawson | July 26, 2016 1:28 AM
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