Sunday, May 1, 2011

Oh, Heck No! Savage Sub-Mariner #67

Sub-Mariner #67 (November 1973)
"Seawinds of Change!"
Steve Gerber-Don Heck/Frank Bolle

Doug: Look at that beautiful John Romita cover, will you? Man... I think I've mentioned that a couple of years ago I won a Bronze Age lot on eBay, and have been picking out of it since it arrived. This one's been on the back burner for review, but I thought I'd fill a Sunday with it. Well. Much to my chagrin, Jazzy Johnny didn't do the interiors (really, I didn't think he would -- but I was hoping for maybe Sal Buscema), but Don Heck did. It's been well-documented here that both Karen and I owe Don Heck some Silver Age love, but once we hit the Bronze Age... ugh. His figure work is often very stiff, but I tried to pick panel samples that were flattering. Well, let's soldier on, as this is a significant ish. It's the debut of Subby's much-maligned leather suit. For this young Marvelite, it's how I first knew him.

Doug: We pick this one up right in the middle of a battle between Namor, Orka the Killer Whale, and the She-Beast (and she's no looker, nosiree!). Orka has pinned Namor up against a huge coral reef and is threatening him with a large pod of killer whales. Now I'm no undersea expert, but Don Heck must have used a different reference than would I if I were going to draw these giant mammals. Namor senses the desperation of the situation, so chooses a dangerous course -- he launches himself into the reef, spinning as fast as he can. He basically drills his way (must have the toughest knuckles on Earth) through the entire formation and makes his escape. Problem (and not just with my suspension of disbelief): Namor is spinning so fast that he's out of control and is sailing through the water at an alarming rate. Seeing a sunken U.S. Navy ship as his landing point, Namor tries to change his trajectory when he spies a large number of cylinders of nerve gas. His effort fails him, and he crashes hard into the deck of the ship. Really? Shooting through all that very dense water near the bottom of the sea didn't slow him at all, huh?

Doug: Upon Namor's impact, the gas explodes, bathing him in it. It also shoots him out of the ocean, to conveniently land near a rescue site. American officials are on an undefined mission and are being assisted by the Inhuman Triton. Triton was sent by Reed Richards, and was even given use of the Fantasticar. Once Namor lands and Triton sees that he's not in good shape, the Inhuman gives the Americans a stern tongue-lashing, admonishing their polluting of the Earth. It's Steve Gerber moralizing at it's utmost.

Doug: As Triton whisks Namor back to New York and to the Baxter Building, we see Orka and the She-Beast astride a killer whale riding triumphantly through downtown Atlantis. But at about that same time, the nerve gas released by Namor arrives and envelopes the city. All in the vicinity, including Orka, succumb to the gas and drop to the ocean floor. The only being immune seems to be the red-skinned alien Tamara. Meanwhile, in New York the FF decide to help Triton save the Sub-Mariner. Reed diagnoses Namor as having had his cellular structure... restructured. It's greatly inhibited his ability to breathe oxygen from air. So, as we've seen before, Reed chucks the Avenging Son into the big vat of water that just happens to always be sitting around the lab. Namor soon awakes, and doesn't believe a word that Reed says. You know what happens next -- all hell breaks loose!

Doug: What follows is a four-page battle royal that effectively destroys the upper floors of the Baxter Building (again). Johnny attacks after a major-league slugfest between Ben and Namor. As Namor's been out of water for several minutes, doing nothing but expending energy, it doesn't take long for the Torch to bring him down. Once under control, Reed's allowed to install his solution to the problem. Now waitasec... when the heck did he have time to think this thing through, let alone build something? No way. But what we are told is that there is a custom-fit suit that will recycle the moisture in Namor's pores, activated by his own body heat. MacGuyver couldn't have built it any better or faster.

Doug: Verdict on this one? Where to begin? Gerber's script is really heavy into moralizing, not unlike what we got out of Archie Goodwin back in 1970 in Iron Man #25. I suppose the nature-aspect of an undersea story might lend itself to that. He does, however, have the voice of the various members of the Fantastic Four. And Heck's art? It's OK -- not the worst, but certainly indicative of Heck's period of decline. But I have to offer -- in the big reveal of Namor's new duds on the last page, tell me that Jazzy Johnny Romita didn't draw Namor's head and face. Final opinion: average Bronze Age issue. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Daredevil sort of meandered along at the middle of the Marvel pack. That book may have gone hand-in-hand with this one.


david_b said...

This was one of my first comic (yes, ANYTHING with the FF I bought at that time...). Not familiar with Subby's own mag, I thought it was a good introduction to his style of story telling at the time. Yes, the art was so-so, but the final panels with the new suit I thought was impressive (yes, I actually liked the suit).

I didn't think much of Namor's reactions and lack of brain-power, he would have figured out the suit-necessity, etc.., instead he just came across too much as the hot-tempered brawler he's stereotyped as..

But agreed ~ GREAT COVER. One of the Bronze Age's best.

J.A. Morris said...

Thanks, for posting this,I never knew the details on Namor's black costume. And google hadn't helped me before today.
The first "Namor" story I ever read was this issue of Spidey Super Stories:

He wore the black "winged" costume in that,so for a while that was the only costume I knew.

I never cared much for Namor as a solo character. I read a few issues of this title when they reprinted it in the 1979 version of 'Tales To Astonish'. He always comes across as an arrogant a__hole.

I always enjoyed him in Defenders though,interacting with characters very different from him. And like the Inhumans, I feel "solo Namor" works better as someone who shows up as a guest now and then.

Inkstained Wretch said...

I liked Namor's new suit. I've never been a huge fan of the character and a major reason was the fact that he only wore that green-scaled bikini bottom. He just looked ridiculous. The leather outfit wasn't great but at least he wasn't mostly naked.

William said...

Wow! What a coincidence. I just recently bought and read Savage Sub-Mariner #67-69.

This issue was just okay for me. The story was a little disjointed and kind of all over the place. Even though I did dig the battle between Namor and the FF, I too was disappointed with the mediocre interior Don Heck artwork in contrast to the dynamic cover art by John Romita. As for the costume change, I, myself, always liked the black wetsuit look for Subby. I guess it was because, when I was a kid, one of the things that attracted me to comics were the cool costumes that the super heroes and villains wore. (I always figured that if I could just get me a cool costume, I too could be a super hero). Thus, I was never a big fan of the Sub-Mariner as a solo act. I guess I just didn't find a guy who only wore a bathing suit to be visually interesting enough to hold my attention. (Read: boring costume, equaled boring character in my kid mind). So, he went up a couple of notches for me when he adopted a more traditional super-heroic look (which I'm sure is why Marvel made the change in the first place). When I got a little older, I appreciated Namor as a character a bit more, but I still always thought he worked best in a group, or cast in the role of antagonist.

On a side note: When I bought this book (on Ebay) I was originally only looking for Savage Sub-Mariner #69 because the cover promised a titanic battle between Namor and Spider-Man. The issue has a truly awesome cover by John Romita that depicts Subby taking a backhand swipe at a nimbly dodging Spidey and a red boxed blurb in the lower right corner that reads "TO SMASH A SPIDER-MAN!"... but sadly, this cover is greatly misleading. The implied clash between the wall-crawler and 'ol pointy ears only lasts for all of 3 panels on page 2 and by page 7 Spidey is gone from the book entirely. What a rip!!! And you thought the cover to issue #67 was a disappointment.

Anonymous said...

"This Frank Miller graphic novel is a masterpiece!" "That is not by Miller. It is an issue of 'Steel' by Gerry Conway and Don Heck." "Oh. In that case, it's lousy."

Doug said...

"Anonymous" --

If you see this, we'd appreciate a clarification. We're just not sure what you are trying to say.


Doug (and Karen)

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