Sub-Mariner #8 (December 1968) (Reprinted in Marvel Treasury Edition #9, 1976)
"In the Rage of Battle!"
Roy Thomas-John Buscema/Dan Adkins
Doug: Raise your hand if you recall that wide-eyed feeling you got when you saw a new Marvel Treasury Edition on the newsstand or at the grocery store. I can remember buying (or actually some adult doing the buying on my behalf) each of the big books I have. They are all very special in their own way, and each served as a window to Marvel's (and DC's, if we consider the Limited Collector's Editions) Silver Age past. Today's review comes from Marvel Treasury Edition #9, named in typical Marvel tongue-in-cheek fashion "Giant Super-Hero Team-Up". At the bottom of today's post I'll include a couple of partial scans of my copy, as I know we have readers who like to see a "real" copy of the books we review rather than the pristine images we borrow from the Comic Book Database; on that note, you'll forgive me today for not posting any full-page glory. The mismatch in size between the book and my scanner bed is going to require some craftiness on my part just to get any good images up! And... onward!
Doug: We open with a splash of a copy of the Daily Bugle in the trash, its front page headlines trumpeting a battle royal between Namor and the Thing. In the background we can see a woman seated at a desk, writing in a journal. As we turn the page, we find that she will apparently be this tale's narrator. There's a sense of urgency surrounding her writing, as she seems intent on getting details into her book. So we begin with a flashback...
Doug: I have never read Sub-Mariner #7, so this is one case where I'm glad for a little retroactive storytelling! Apparently in the last issue Namor was at odds with a certain Paul Destine, who ended up dead. As we join our cast here we find that the Lady Dorma has passed out from a lack of oxygen. She had been taking some sort of pill to aid her in breathing the surface air, and the time for the pill's effectiveness had lapsed. So Namor feels an urgent need to tend to his lady. Problem is, the Boys in Blue have arrived and want to ask the Avenging Son some questions about Destine's demise. Well, we've all known Subby long enough to know he's not in a talking frame of mind. So, one bull rush through the cops later, and Namor's in the air. He and Dorma were with a woman named Diane, and she hails a cab. Once inside she directs the hack to head down the alley, slowly. The driver doesn't go very far when the cab suddenly stops moving! Looking behind, he sees that Namor has landed and has grabbed hold of the back bumper. He and Dorma enter, and the cabbie takes the now-three passengers to a false address. A short walk later, and they are in Diane's apartment.
Doug: Once inside, Dorma is given the drug she needs, and her skin begins to change from blue. Diane says that Dorma must sleep, so Namor retires to the living room. Diane states that the prince really loves Dorma; Namor agrees without hesitation. Diane asks if he ever loved any other person so much. Namor says that he did, once long ago. We then get a flashback-within-our-flashback as Namor recalls the War years when he was often at odds with the surface dwellers of New York City. Our narrator tells of Namor's destructive tendencies as he battled the humans. We meet policewoman Betty Dean, who was brave enough to confront Namor face-to-face. She asked him to stop, and to leave. Namor, respectful of her bravery, complied. But as he left he was confronted by one who could actually match him -- the hero we call the Original Human Torch! We're treated to only three panels of Buscema-battle glory, but it's a fun little ride as we see Subby punch the cap off a fire hydrant to extinguish the Torch. Back to the first flashback, Namor tells Diane that Betty Dean was the one who encouraged him to fight the Nazis. We see a few more panels from the War, including one at the end when Namor bids a final farewell to Betty Dean. As he left, she remarked that although she loved him, he thought of her as only a friend. Diane asks Namor if he loved Betty Dean, which he says he had, why didn't he act on it? He says that a prince of the blood must wed an Atlantean, not a human. But as they talk, Namor's suddenly alerted to a bulletin on the radio. The police have in their custody the helmet that Paul Destine had worn while he had battled the Sub-Mariner. They plan to study it. Namor blasts forth from the sofa and out the window -- the police have no idea of the power that the helmet wields!
Doug: Sceneshift to police HQ, where the commissioner is on the phone with the Avengers. Goliath took the call, but told New York's Finest that neither he nor any of his mates would be able to assist in moving the helmet to Washington, DC. This issue takes place at the same time as Avengers #58, so obviously the Avengers had other things on their minds! Goliath asks if the FF have been contacted; no answer. But suddenly we see the Thing pull up to the commissioner's window -- the FF had gotten the message, and Reed Richards sent the Thing to act as the courier! You know where this is headed... Ben gets the lowdown on the helmet from the commish and a Dr. Miller. They know it's emitting some sort of rays, and could be dangerous. Ben bristles, but a big fat cigar calms him down. Classic Ben. He eventually leaves with the mysterious chapeau. A short distance away, the Sub-Mariner had been laying in wait, just beneath the surface of the river. But the pollution got to him, and disgustedly he burst from the waters to get free from the contamination. Burst straight up, and into -- here we go!
Doug: So after 7 1/2 pages of "serious scrimmagin'", as Ben put it, Namor is urged to stop just as he intends to land the final blow on his orange-plated nemesis. Namor turns with a typical "Who dares?!?" to be greeted by a Mrs. Prentiss. Namor recognizes her and instantly puts to rest the huge chunk of building he had only moments before held aloft over the Thing. The woman, sensing she has completed her mission, turns to fade back into the shadows. Namor asks her to wait, that they could talk. She declines and says a final good-bye. Namor's face is now calm, as he says that he, too, will leave. Ben comes to his feet for the next round, but Namor almost-politely suggests that they will fight no more -- the helmet came from the depths and to the depths it will be returned. Ben doesn't protest, and asks himself if he somehow won today. Sceneshift to the apartment where we began, to find the same woman completing her journal entry. It was Namor and Dorma's friend Diane Arliss (help me out -- is she Tiger Shark's sister?) who had come to her for aid this day -- come to a woman, now a widow, once known to Namor as Betty Dean.
Doug: Thanks for indulging me again. I come to this story with a true sense of "what's not to love?" Everything's just about perfect, from the typical quandary that will bring two heroes together as combatants, to Thomas's able scripting, to the the always-beautiful art of Big John Buscema. I've also wondered if I can warm to Dan Adkins's inks over John. I have the Essential Silver Surfer and have read all of the issues that Adkins inked. I suppose he's not bad, but he'd never be my first choice. And it's occurred to me over the years that I'd really like to get my hands on Namor's solo book. I have a bootleg dvd-rom of his Tales to Astonish adventures, and must get 'round to reading those. He's always been an intriguing character, but like many of our readers I've always seen him as a guest-star or as temporary in a team book such as the Defenders or the Avengers. Ah, just more on the to-read list...