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Namor #1 By Matt Martin
Marvel Comics Ė Bill Jemas, Andi Watson (w); Salvador Larroca (p); Danny Miki (i)
Man, Iím torn here. Iíve always been a big fan of Namor; I think heís a great character. The problem though is that heís not a terribly sympathetic one and hence, itís rather difficult to make a solo series about him work. For me, Namor is a character best used as a supporting cast member in someone elseís book, rather than the lead role in an ongoing series of his own. This first issue of the prince of Atlantisí new book doesnít do much to dissuade me of that notion, but it is markedly better than I had feared it would be (no matter how much I like Andi Watson, the thought of Bill Jemas being allowed to write anything, after Marville, makes me nervous). However, there are some glaring incongruities that kept me from enjoying it more than I would have liked.
The book opens with a very young Prince Namor emerging from the Atlantic waters and playing on a public beach with a young surface girl. Chasing each other down the shoreline, the heir to the aquatic throne of Atlantis builds an intricate sand castle to illustrate for her the world that he lives in (much to her disbelief). When jellyfish begin to sting the swimming tourists, all are rushed back onto dry land and Namor slips away alone to submerge himself once again and descend to the borders of his kingdom. There he is whisked away by his doting mother in a series of strikingly beautiful panels by Larroca that more than adequately convey a sense of awe and majesty for the sunken domain that Namor makes his home in.
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A passing reference to the Atlantian practice of gathering food in a giant net, driven forward by a small group of dedicated workers, becomes a plot device when the story jumps forward several years from Namorís childhood to his young adulthood. Therein, the self-assured prince complains that he must spend his time manning the net when he would rather serve as a forward guard, ever watchful for the attacks of ravenous sharks. Spotting a pair of Atlantian children playing directly in the path of an oncoming predator, Namor springs forward to distract them, but tragedy appears to strike as the issue closes.
The narrative flow of the story is jarring at best, given that it skips about liberally in both locale and timeframe, but that inconsistency is generally smoothed over by nice transition panels by Larroca. Honestly, I shudder to think of what this book would have read like without his art. I know in interviews Larroca has expressed an irritation at being reassigned to Namor, but personally, I donít see how this book could be any more of a waste of his time than the abysmal X-Treme X-Men and in any event, he makes a serious impact on the readability of the story here.
The problem I have is that there are some inexplicable problems with the story, such as the fact that no one on the beach seems to mind that the young Namor is scampering about completely naked, much less the fact that one of their daughters has run off with this nature boy. Then when the girlís parents do arrive to whisk her away from the stings of the jellyfish, her father seems more concerned with the fact that Namorís parents are not around than he is with his lack of any clothing whatsoever. Even more ridiculous is the idea that I can take seriously the threat of the death of a character named, I kid you not, Bobo. I donít know what conventions the denizens of Atlantis use when naming their young, but on the surface, Iím under the impression that we try to avoid names for our children that make them sound like circus monkeys.
The plot itself is not without flaws, as weíre never given any reason to care about Bobo (I just canít get over that name) other than the fact that weíre told that heís Namorís close friend. If he dies, so what? Heís only been around for a couple of pages anyway and he didnít really do anything then except possibly die.
In the end, the book certainly could have been a lot worse. As I said before, it would have been seriously hampered by anything less than above average artwork, a problem deftly solved by the pencils of Salvador Larroca. I applaud the fact that the book is set in Namorís past, as an exploration of his present seems unnecessary, repetitive and dull. As well, Watson and Jemas have done an adequate job of evoking the sense of arrogance that is Namorís trademark, so thatís definitely a step in the right direction. It just seems a little rushed though, overall, never really sure of which era of its protagonistís life it is focusing on. However, with a 25-cent cover price, it can afford to be a little unremarkable. So long as the next issue moves things along a little bit better, Iíll have little cause for complaint.