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.