Issue(s): Sub-Mariner #52, Sub-Mariner #53, Sub-Mariner #54
I still find issue #53 to be a frenzied mess but it helps to have the set-up issue and conclusion.
Part of the problem seems to be due to deadline issues. Issue #52 has a full story, but issue #53 is padded with a reprint, and issue #54 has both a reprint and a back-up feature. Issues #53-54 are all Everett but issue #52 has Mike Friedrich listed as the writer.
We start with Namor and Namorita building a home under the sea.
But Namor determines that he's not qualified to deal with a youngster, so he decides to drop her off with Betty Dean (not seen in this series since issue #8). When Namorita says that she doesn't want to get dropped off with some strange surface woman, the back of Namor's hand convinces her otherwise.
Betty isn't home, however. It turns out that she's on vacation in Japan, and she just happens to be near where Sunfire is (for the second time now) getting swept up in the scheme of someone looking for revenge on the west for World War II.
The "Dragon Lord" was an apprentice that was left behind on the island of Krakinowa after WWII, and he was blinded after spending too many years in an underground bunker.
Now he is interested in bringing glory to Japan by forcing it back into a war, and he's recruited Sunfire to help him.
It's ultimately a very similar role for Sunfire, saying that he learned little from the death of his father in his first appearance. It does say that after his father's death, Shiro Yoshida was "deported, then socially outcast at home" and filled with festering shame, which helps explain why he'd be reverting to his previous attitude.
Namor comes into conflict when he characteristically completely misreads the actions of a Japanese worker trying to get help from Betty as an attack (Everett should probably have updated his depiction of Japanese people by now).
There's a compare & contrast between Namor's fight with Sunfire and his classic battles with the Human Torches. Nice to see that distinctions are made for Sunfire.
There's also a contrast drawn between Namor and Shiro's ages. It's something that doesn't work well for a variety of reasons. For one, Shiro has allied himself with a warrior that rejects modernization and traces himself back to a line of ancient Japanese samurais. He hardly represents youth in any clear way. Second, with Namor's longevity and the fact that he's often presented as a hot-tempered youth in contrast with the measured Vashti, he's not really a great character to use to represent old age. Third, thanks to sliding timescale issues, we probably shouldn't be making an issue of Sunfire's age since his origin is tied to Hiroshima (similarly, Betty Dean's re-introduction here is difficult to square, as was Namor's father in the previous arc, although at least he was looking appropriately ancient).
Sunfire helps Namor when a defoliating agent (such as those that were used in Vietnam) gets dumped into the sea, threatening to wipe out all plankton and therefore all life on earth. They then decide to go after Dragon-Lord.
For our conclusion, the teamed-up Sub-Mariner and Sunfire take care of the non-powered (and blind!) Dragon-Lord in a matter of panels.
But that's not the end of it, because Sunfire still wants to fight Namor when they're done with Dragon-Lord. Namor says that he's done the fire vs. water bit already and he's not interested in a new partner in that area.
Sunfire's youth is emphasized a lot in these issues. I hadn't really thought of him as being so young, especially since the X-Men at this point were generally being written as a little older.
But i guess you'd have to be pretty young to fall for the old low bridge trick. SPLAAT!
While all of this is going on, we still have the weird case of Namorita, who is trying to get away from Betty Dean so she can help her cousin.
That is, if she can get to him without getting distracted by any cute boys.
And, since her ankle wings have been bound by Betty, that turns out to not be the case, and she and the boy wind up rescuing each other.
Young Namorita is still talking about Namor like he's her "true love", but with the introduction of a boy her age (and not her cousin, although that doesn't seem to matter much among Atlanteans), that will end, as we'll see next issue.
Well, i finally made it through this arc. A multi-year accomplishment! I feel bad about criticizing it since a lot of the problems were due to Bill Everett's failing health. But it's still painful to get through.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: In Defenders #2, Namor says he was kidnapped and dropped in front of the Hulk in Defenders #1 while "my cousin Namorita and I were building my new South Polar home". That home is completed in this issue (but we don't know how long they might have been working on it). So Defenders #1 needs to take place prior to this.
The back-up features in Sub-Mariner #54 are covered in a separate entry.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Fnord, I'm not clear about something from your reviews- at what point was it made clear that Namorita had super-strength? She clearly didn't have it in these early issues but the 1986 Official Handbook claimed that she did and every writer that used her when DeFalco was Editor-In-Chief treated her like she was super-strong. So was it the Handbook that decided she was super-strong?
Posted by: Michael | December 22, 2014 11:16 PM
From the beginning she's said to be a "true Sub-Mariner" but she's still a child. She does pretty well for herself in Sub-Mariner #62. I guess since she becomes such a background character after the Sub-Mariner run we don't really get to see her development. She gets thrashed pretty soundly by Tiger Shark in Ms. Marvel #16; Claremont even has her mention her "true Sub-Mariner" status before having Tiger Shark dismiss her as a girl and knock her out. But Claremont does have her wake up complimenting herself for surviving the punch that knocked her through a sunken ship's bulkhead, which i guess implies super-durability. I'd say it's not really until the post-Handbook DeFalco issues where she's anything more than a supporting character that has an opportunity to show her powers.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 23, 2014 7:53 AM
Love that you mentioned the Arc connecting 1st Defender's issues here..I believe these issues (though ambigous at times) to be some key's in the time capsule and if Everett had been full power we might be discussing these in an entirely different light.
Posted by: Rocknrollguitarplayer | December 2, 2016 5:58 PM
I think Namor works well as someone with age and maturity, as his thoughts to himself sometimes reveal throughout this story. If you could reconcile the references to Johnny Storm and replace Sunfire with a similary powered character, you could almost keep this set in the 1970s' and it would work for Namor's extended life- Betty Dean, in her 50s', as someone still helping Namor, would be really interesting as a supporting character. The thing about the sliding timescale is that it then proposes just how LONG was Namor suffering in a flop house from amnesia.. if it was indeed only about 15-20 years, well, that would mean this happened to him in the early 90s' at this point, so you could adjust certain instances in his story but I suppose it would just be too complicated.
Posted by: Wis | January 15, 2018 5:48 PM
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