Retro Review: Namor, The Sub-Mariner #1-25 By John Byrne For Marvel Comics

Namor the Sub-Mariner #1-25 (April 1990 – April 1992)

Written by John Byrne

Pencils by John Byrne

Inks by Bob Wiacek (#1-3, 22-23), John Byrne (#4-21, 24-25)

Coloured by Glynis Oliver (#1, 3-19, 21-24), Brad Vancata (#2), Mike Thomas (#20), Pat Garrahy (#25)

Spoilers (from twenty-six to twenty-eight years ago)

John Byrne is one of my all-time favourite comics creators.  He was the first artist whose work I could recognize immediately, and his runs on Alpha Flight and Fantastic Four were elemental in developing my love of comics as a child.  I followed his career after that in two directions, working backwards to pick up his X-Men comics, and forwards into just about anything he did afterwards (although my She-Hulk and Action Comics collections were a little spotty).  I was right there for his Next Men, and even put up with his return to DC, with his overly toothy Wonder Woman, and his awkward Generations miniseries, before abandoning him when he started doing retcon books at Marvel. Still, he’s someone I’ve always respected (if not really liked, as the Internet era made it easier to learn about creator’s personalities).  

His Namor has long stood out for me as a special run.  He took one of Marvel’s oldest characters and tried to apply some logic and continuity to his history.  He worked on Namor’s difficult personality, and helped make sense of the fact that he is sometimes used as a villain, and other times as a hero.

To that, he added an environmental and corporate sensibility that I found interesting and inspiring as a kid.  I am not sure how this book stands up today, but I’m looking forward to returning to it and finding out.

Let’s look at who turned up in the title:

Villains

  • Phoebe Marrs (#1-10, 13-21, 23)
  • Desmond Marrs (#1-10, 15-19)
  • The Griffin (#2)
  • The Headhunter (#2-3, 7-9)
  • Gloria Morgan (FORCE; #5)
  • Simmons (FORCE; #5)
  • Riley (FORCE; #5)
  • Master Man (#6, 9-12)
  • Doktor Kraus (#6-7, 10-12)
  • Sluj (#6-7)
  • Ward Meachum (#8, 14, 16-18)
  • Iron Fist/Super Skrull (as Danny Rand or Iron Fist #8, 10, 14-17; as Super Skrull #17-18)
  • Baron Von Strucker (#10)
  • Warrior Woman (#10-12)
  • Herr Nacht (#11-12)
  • Plant-Man (#16, 19-25)
  • Sssesthugar (H’ylthri; #20-25)
  • Tyrone King/Master Khan (#20, 22, 24-25)
  • Other H’ylthri (#22-23, 25)

Guest Stars

  • Iron Man (Tony Stark; #4-5)
  • Mister Fantastic (Reed Richards; #4-5, 13)
  • Invisible Woman (Sue Richards; #4-5, 13)
  • Speedball (#5)
  • Colleen Wing (#8, 10-11, 13, 16, 20-25)
  • Misty Knight (#8, 10-11, 13, 16-25)
  • Human Torch (Jim Hammond; #9-10, 12)
  • Captain America (#10, 12-13, 15)
  • Union Jack (#11-12)
  • Edwin Jarvis (#12)
  • Human Torch (Johnny Storm; #12-13)
  • Hank Pym (#12)
  • The Thing (Ben Grimm; #13)
  • Thor (#13)
  • Lady Dorma (#13-15)
  • Ka-Zar (Kevin Plunder; #14, 17-18, 21)
  • Shanna the She-Devil (#16-19, 21)
  • The Punisher (#16, 18-20)
  • Zabu (Ka-Zar’s sabretooth tiger; #17)
  • Wolverine (#21-25)
  • Wong (#21, 24)
  • Doctor Strange (#21, 24)
  • Lei Kung, The Thunderer (#21-23)
  • Iron Fist (Danny Rand; #22-24)

Supporting Characters

  • Caleb Alexander (#1-3, 6, 8-9, 13, 17, 19)
  • Carrie Alexander (#1-4, 6, 8-9, 13, 15-19)
  • Namorita (#2-6, 8-10, 12-13, 15-21, 23, 25)
  • The Griffin (#3, 13-15, 17-18)
  • Ann Raymond (Toro’s wife; #9, 11-12)
  • Jacqueline Crichton/Spitfire (#11-13, 15, 19, 21, 23)
  • Rafe Scarfe (Chief of Detectives; #11, 13, 20, 22, 24-25)
  • Edward Payne (Phoebe’s son; #14)
  • Joy Meachum (#14, 17-18, 21)
  • Vyrra (#19-20)

Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:

  • The story begins six months prior to the present day.  Caleb Alexander, and his daughter Carrie, both marine biologists, are in the South Pacific on their boat, The Oracle, tracking a fast-moving object under the water.  It turns straight towards them, and they see Namor, the Sub-Mariner, break from the water and fly towards a nearby island. They believe that Namor is dead, and so go searching for him.  Namor is confused, and when he sees some local natives (rather stereotypically and racistly presented) worshiping a an idol in the form of an old airplane, he gets angry, smashes it, and scares them all away.  He hears his name, and thinks he sees Lady Dorma, or perhaps Marrina. Instead, it’s Carrie, who can’t communicate with him since he’s speaking Atlantean. They still talk to him, and as he becomes calmer, he agrees to go with them to their boat.  Later, we see that Namor has been resting, and is hooked up to a blood recycling machine of Caleb’s design. Namor asks for an explanation, and Caleb begins by conveniently recounting the story of Namor’s birth. We see how his mother, the Lady Fen, was sent to investigate an American icebreaker called the Oracle, that had been dropping depth charges that were devastating Atlantis.  The captain of the ship, Leonard McKenzie, fell for Fen, and she stayed with him for a while. They got married, but Atlanteans came looking for her and killed McKenzie; later, Namor was born with pink skin. Caleb’s theory has long been that Namor’s blood becomes poisoned when he spends too long in either the sea or on land, and that causes him to become irrational and sometimes insane.  Caleb then talks about how he was fascinated by super beings as a kid growing up in Harlem, and that once, he saw Namor and the Invaders receiving an award, and when Namor flew off, he followed him on his bicycle. He was so distracted, he ended up riding off a pier, and with his bike caught in his pant leg and dragging him down, almost drowned. Namor saved him, and Caleb devoted his life to marine biology.  He’d been working on the blood recycler, as he’d come up with his theory ages ago, and that’s why it was conveniently on board. Namor knows that the world thinks he’s dead, and so he has a lot to think about. A couple of weeks later, Namor surprises Carrie, who is doing work on the deck of the Oracle. She thought he’d left them, but he’s brought a chest of Spanish riches from an old wreck. He tells Carrie that he thinks it’s time for him to use money and power to try to save the Earth from man’s destruction, and that he wants Carrie and her father to help him.  He also admits that he’s been thinking about Carrie romantically. Phoebe Marrs returns to her office tower and home after a trip to China. She’s shown to be a tough boss, as she goes looking for her brother Desmond. She finds him about to kill himself out of boredom, but gets his interest when she explains that a competitor of theirs, Parallel Conglomerates, was just bought out by a mysterious investor whose company is called Oracle Inc.
  • Caleb tries to talk to Carrie about her relationship with Namor, but before she can end the conversation, they are attacked by The Griffin, who busts through the windows at the top of the Oracle building.  He grabs Carrie, and Caleb tries to defend her with some of the broken glass, but the excitement causes him to have heart trouble. The Griffin flies off with Carrie, while Caleb makes his way to an elevator, then stumbles into the executive gym where Namorita is lifting weights.  He tells her what happened before collapsing. Namorita flies to the apartments somewhere else where Namor is staying to tell him what’s happened. He has been listening to a report that a woman’s shoe fell from the sky and hit a cab. He makes sure that Namorita has kept his cover, and they split up to search for the Griffin and Carrie; Namor figures that the shoe is a clue and heads to the Statue of Liberty, which is closed that day.  The Griffin attacks him, and as they fight, they don’t notice a small drone watching them. The Marrs siblings are watching the feed from the drone, and are surprised to see that Namor is still alive. It was Desmond that sent the Griffin to kidnap Carrie in the hopes of figuring out who is behind Oracle Inc. (although it’s not explained how he would have explained all this to the mindless-seeming Griffin). The Marrses plot against Namor.  Carrie is stuck on the torch of the statue, and worried that she has to get away in case the creature kills Namor. Their fight continues, and Namor realizes that he should drag the Griffin into the river to better fight him. A mysterious woman in an all-red room hears about the fight in the sky, and, talking to some people off-panel, decides that she can exploit this situation. Carrie makes her way through the statue and out a fire exit, where she sees the river roiling and churning.  The Griffin bursts out of the water, headed right for her.
  • The Headhunter, the albino woman in red we saw before, has her pilot fly her helicopter towards the Statue of Liberty so she can see what’s going on.  The Griffin flies at Carrie, but collapses, spent. Namor emerges from the water and explains that he beat it easily underwater. Namor wants to know who sent the creature after Carrie, and he flies it and Carrie back into Manhattan, with the Headhunter following.  She’s figured out that Namor is alive. The Marrs siblings watch on their viewscreens, and it’s clear they don’t like the Headhunter. Namorita, in disguise, arrives at the hospital to check on Carrie. We learn that Caleb has had another heart attack and is in rough shape, lying unconscious in bed.  Namorita goes to see Namor, who has been accessing the Avengers’ records on the Griffin, and has come to the conclusion that the oil company Roxxon is involved. He believes that they are coming after Oracle Inc.; he also isn’t concerned about Caleb, since he figures if there was a problem, Namorita would have told him right away.  In South America, two guys talk about a new oil tanker they’ve been building, and problems they’ve had with eco-sabotage. They work for Oracle. Namor has confined the Griffin, and goes about showing his mastery of the beast, training it to work with him. They fly together towards Roxxon headquarters, where Namor interrupts a board meeting.  When he confronts the CEO, he doesn’t believe that the man doesn’t know anything about Carrie or Oracle. He leaves the Griffin behind to trash the place and flies away. He goes to the hospital, and learns that Caleb will be okay. His conversation with Carrie and Namorita is observed by the Marrs siblings, who figure out that Namor has feelings for Carrie.  Desmond decides the best course of action for them is to get Namor to fall for Phoebe instead.
  • A pair in a small submersible attach a “surprise package” to the massive Oracle submarine oil tanker that we saw workers talking about before.  Carrie tells Namorita that she’s leaving because she knows how many of Namor’s former girlfriends and wives have died or faced tragedy. Namorita flies to tell Namor, but he already knows, and is more concerned with the fact that the Roxxon executives have widely reported that he’s still alive and attacked them.  Namor hopes that lying low will let the whole thing blow over, but he doesn’t know that he’s being watched by the Marrses again. The Marrs twins (that’s confirmed in this issue) talk about how they are still going to mess with Namor, now at a gala party Oracle has planned. When Phoebe disagrees with Desmond, he slaps her.  She retreats to her office, where she then berates one of her employees, and then fires her. Namorita helps disguise Namor by changing his hair and giving him a fake beard and glasses to wear. They talk about how important the party, being used to publicly reveal the new submarine tanker, is to the company, and fly there together.  Namorita is looking forward to the party, which is being held on a barge, but two hours later, she’s very bored. She complains that everyone there, including Tony Stark, only talks about money, while Namor comments that he’s learned a lot. The Marrs twins arrive, catching Namorita’s eye, and then the sub tanker arrives, getting everyone’s attention, except for Namor’s, because he’s seen Sue Richards there.  Desmond talks to Namorita briefly, but then his “surprise” arrives, as the device planted on the sub explodes. Namor jumps into action, as do Stark and the Richardses. Worried about spilling millions of gallons of oil off Manhattan, Namor dives to inspect the damage. It all looks good, but then a part of the inner hull ruptures, and Namor finds himself in the middle of a cloud of oil that disorients and starts to choke him.  He sinks.
  • Namorita flies over the growing oil slick, and is about to dive in to look for her cousin when she is stopped by Iron Man, who is better suited for this job.  He dives through the oil, and locates Namor on his sonar. He pulls him out of the water, and finds Reed and Sue. Reed is making his body into a boom to stop the oil from spreading, and Sue isn’t doing much (because of course her powers would never work to stop the leaking of the submarine that is never actually shown or mentioned in this issue as an ongoing problem).  Instead, Sue goes with Iron Man and Namor to look after the prince at the FF’s headquarters. They are watched by three members of a group called FORCE (Front for Organic Responsibility and a Clean Environment), led by Gloria Morgan. These are the people who planted the bomb on the sub (although not the exact people, as they looked different). Morgan disagrees with her companions, Simmons and Riley, and wants to move to her next phase.  Sue hopes that Namor is going to be okay, as she can’t really help him, and then he gets up and is more or less okay. They check on their monitors and see that Reed is managing to contain the oil with his body. The police get in touch with Sue and share a video of Gloria Morgan stating that at dawn, her group would set off another explosive to ignite the oil, and in the process, kill most of the people in Manhattan. The Marrs twins talk, and we learn that Desmond provided FORCE with some support, despite the fact that they’ve taken action against his country in the past too.  Namor heads out to where Reed and Iron Man are trying to figure out what to do. Iron Man notices a plane dropping a drone and goes to stop it. Namor dives back into the water, and finds Gloria Morgan with the bomb, hooked to a dead man’s switch. She’s a zealot, so Namor decides to take his chances with grabbing the bomb, causing it to explode. The heat and shock causes Reed to lose control of his form, and Namor comes flying out of the flames in a fury, heading off to sea. Sue arrives and Reed has her try to contain the burning oil in an invisible bubble, while Iron Man uses his repulsors to try to keep the oil from spreading.  Namor, meanwhile, goes to an underwater volcano to recruit help from some Therma-Rays, hitherto unknown creatures that absorb heat. Somehow, he commands them (I’m really not sure if Namor has telepathic abilities like Aquaman or not – it’s not used often if he does) to come with him, where they absorb all the heat from the flames, and in the process turn the burning oil into a crystallized form. Reed wants to capture one of the creatures, but Namor won’t allow it. A little later, the heroes assemble on a pier, along with the New Warriors that Namorita went to gather (only Speedball is shown), and are trying to figure out if they should celebrate this one as a victory, when the chief commissioner of police comes to serve Namor with a warrant for his arrest.
  • Issue six opens a year before the main events of the series.  A little man with a cane and a big man bust their way into a locked warehouse in Berlin.  The little guy locked it up thirty years before, and is pleased to see it undisturbed. He has the big guy, who isn’t identified but is clearly Masterman, open a secret entrance in the floor, and as they descend, the little guy talks about how Masterman has been sleeping for forty-five years, as has a woman they discover in a tank.  In the present, but a little while after the last issue, we see Caleb and Carrie are on a cruise that is making its way back to New York. Caleb feels like he abandoned Namor, but Carrie points out that Namor sent them away for a reason, and that Caleb needed to heal. They realize that their ship is changing course, and they spot Namorita frolicking with some dolphins in the distance.  The ship’s captain hails Namorita, and brings her aboard to show her that their radar is picking up something big moving through the water in the area where New York and New Jersey dump their garbage and sewage. Namorita agrees to investigate, even though she finds that area disgusting. As she swims through the nasty water, she finds a huge mass of tendrils. In New York, Namor is coming out of court, and is mobbed by the press.  The Marrs twins watch what’s going on from a nearby rooftop, and Desmond, annoyed that Phoebe couldn’t get his attention at the party, pushes his sister off the roof. Namor hears her screams and flies to save her; Phoebe kisses him passionately. Desmond returns to his car, where his driver shows him news footage of a huge mass of sewage attacking the cruise ship. Carrie tries to get Caleb away from the stuff, but he wants to study it.  They see Namorita trapped in the mass, and try to pull her free, but instead get drawn in themselves; the stuff leaves the cruise ship. Namor is now at Phoebe’s place, and she is about to seduce him when she receives a phone call. Namor considers acting on his attraction to her, but she tells him that one of the cruise ships she owns is under attack, and Namor immediately flies off, recognizing that as the ship that the Alexanders are on.  It takes him a while to fly out that far, and when he arrives, he finds the ship abandoned and quiet. Suddenly a massive hand of sewage raises above the boat, dwarfing it.
  • Scientists at a bio-technic lab in New Jersey worry that Sluj might be a project they worked on ten years prior.  One of the scientists, Carolyn Sheridan, who wears a mask over half her face, is sure that it is their project. Namor flies around the giant creature (who reminds me a little of Tundra from Alpha Flight, only made of sewage), and realizing that it’s moving quickly towards New York, feels he must try to stop it.  He’s called by some guys in a newscopter who are about to run out of fuel and have nowhere to land. Namor flies them towards New York. The Headhunter watches Sluj on TV, but since there are no new transmissions, gets frustrated and heads out. Desmond starts yelling at Phoebe for letting Namor leave, and gets violent.  He’s interrupted by the sudden appearance of Headhunter and her goons. She says it’s time for Desmond to pay her back, which means that he’s giving her Phoebe. Headhunter pulls out two long knives, which she wears on her fingers. Sluj has reached Manhattan, where boats are spraying a chemical foam on it, which causes it pain.  While trying to rescue one of the boats, Namor gets absorbed by the creature, starts to feel his strength and energy draining, and discovers within it people trapped in cocoons. He manages to fly one of them out. Dr. Sheridan approaches police barricades and admits to having created Sluj. She tells the story of how she worked on a DNA manipulation project that created life.  Her lab was attacked by a religious fanatic who threw chemicals in her face and flushed the new lifeform before committing suicide. Namor arrives with the cocooned woman, and they figure it’s Sluj’s way of digesting food. Namor rips the woman out, and when she recovers she tells them that she felt a telepathic connection with Sluj. Sheridan gives Namor a gene scrambling virus to introduce into the creature.  He flies into it as fast as he could, getting close to its centre before releasing the virus. Sluj starts screaming, and Sheridan gets angry with her colleague Jerry, as he’d promised the virus wouldn’t hurt. Jerry suggests that Sheridan has been lying to the cops and Namor, and Sheridan refers to Sluj as their son. It says the word “mother” as it collapses, drowning much of Manhattan in its sludge.
  • In 1961, we see the German doctor we saw before leaving the woman in the tank as Berlin is about to be divided.  The doctor and his two associates leave the warehouse and are approached by soldiers. The doctor is shot, but the older of his two associates gets him into their car and they speed into the Western side of the city, killing an American soldier along the way.  Namor finds himself on a rooftop after Sluj’s death, and sees the city smeared with the remains of the excremental creature. He attempts to fly down to help with the situation, but discovers that his ankle wings are gone, presumably dissolved by the anti-mutant virus he released in the creature.  He saves himself from falling by grabbing a flagpole, and then entering an office, where he somehow maintains his regal bearing. Namorita frees herself from the Sluj remains, and starts rescuing other people trapped in the cocoons. Namor arrives, and a cop introduces them to a scientist who worked with Dr. Sheridan.  It turns out that Sheridan and Baker, the other scientist, had used their own cells to make a clone, not a new lifeform, and then to cover it up, arranged to have a junkie trash their offices. Baker killed the junkie, and then Sheridan poured the chemicals on her own face. The Alexanders come by, and everyone seems happy until Phoebe Marrs also shows up, telling Namor that Headhunter has taken her brother.  He leaves with her, and that’s when Namorita notices his missing wings. In a limo, Phoebe begins to make out with Namor (remember that he’s still probably covered in bits of Sluj). In their office, Colleen Wing admonishes her fellow Daughter of the Dragon, Misty Knight, for drinking too much. They talk about how long it’s been since Danny Rand died, but then they see on the news that Danny has returned, and is at a press conference with Ward Meachum.  Danny is reinstated as head of the Rand-Meachum Corporation. Namorita is at Oracle with the Alexanders. Carrie is defending her apparent jealousy of the way Namor looked at Phoebe, by stating that she’s realized she loves him, and that she thought Phoebe was making an obvious play for his affections. Namorita worries about her own wings falling off one day. Namor and Phoebe arrive at Headhunter’s office building, and take the elevator to her penthouse.  Headhunter is not surprised to see them, and explains to Namor that she simply completed a deal she made with Desmond. Phoebe tries to renegotiate, but Headhunter says it’s too late, and shows them into a room where she has many heads mounted on a wall, including Desmond’s.
  • Phoebe is upset to see Desmond in this state, while Namor is horrified.  Headhunter explains that every head on her wall belongs to someone who benefited from dealing with her, and agreed to this arrangement.  She shows Namor a device that keeps the heads fresh, and we assume, alive. Headhunter takes off her glasses so she can use her powers on him.  At Oracle, Namorita chats with the Alexanders. Carrie is still worried about Namor, but insists it’s not because she is jealous of Phoebe. Namorita agrees to go check on her brother, and as she flies towards Headhunter’s, she worries about losing her ankle wings.  When she gets to the penthouse, she listens in and learns that Namor’s head has been added to Headhunter’s wall; Headhunter brags to her assistant that she now has access to the knowledge of the oceans’ riches. In California, Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch walks with Ann Raymond, the wife of his former partner Toro.  This is Byrne working with dangling plotlines from his Avengers West Coast run, and it’s a little jarring. Hammond admits that he loves Ann, but just then some German guy in leather pulls a gun on him. The Torch flames on, and sees that Master Man, his old enemy, has Ann in his grip. Distracted, the Torch is zapped with some big rectangular taser thing, and Master Man’s goons load both captives into a car.  Namorita busts into Headhunter’s apartment and starts fighting her goon Mr. Stocks. Headhunter attempts to hypnotize Namorita but it doesn’t work. At that point, Namor’s head starts to speak, and he busts through the wall, full-bodied. He reveals that all of Headhunter’s victims are still alive, kept in high-tech cots. Headhunter makes a break for it, taking off in a helicopter. Namor jumps after her, and while he holds on, the chopper explodes, dumping the cabin and Namor in the East River.  Later, Namor is at Headhunter’s again, and one of her ‘heads’ explains that desperate businessmen made these arrangements with her. Namor also explains to Namorita that he played along with her, and realized that she showed him a false setup using a mirror (Byrne seems proud of this trick, and gives it a lot of text). Namor heads to Phoebe’s to confront her for trying to sell her out to Headhunter. Desmond interrupts them (I guess he got to go home quicker than the other ‘heads’) to admonish Phoebe for being dishonorable.  Namor is impressed with Desmond’s character and says he would be proud to be his friend.
  • In 1945 Berlin, we see Baron Von Strucker setting up the labs that were to house Master Man and Warrior Woman.  In the present, it seems that John Byrne maybe had misgivings about German Reunification (remember it’s 1990), and we see Namor reading a newspaper with an editorial cartoon that makes these feelings clear.  Namor gives Namorita a history lesson. Desmond Marrs gloats over the fact that Namor likes him, while Phoebe thinks about how attracted to Namor she is, and how it’s too bad he now hates her. Namor goes to visit Captain America, who also feels weird about Germany, and then decides that, since his business has holdings in Germany, he should go there.  Namorita accompanies them on their corporate jet (just what does Oracle do, anyway?), and they talk about the fact that Namor can’t fly anymore, and how that’s upset him. Namorita also suspects that Namor is upset about Phoebe Marrs. In New York, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing insist on busting in on Danny Rand while he’s eating his dinner (which he hides from them, but Colleen notices that it smells weird).  Misty confronts Danny, convinced that he’s an imposter, but sees that he has his dragon chest tattoo. Angry, Danny summons the iron fist and rips Misty’s bionic arm off, telling him that he hasn’t contacted them since their friendship is over. The women leave, with Misty very upset. While being driven to their hotel, Namor spots someone in Berlin, and tells Namorita that he needs to walk around the city for a while.  In the nearby lab, the old doctor works to revive Warrior Woman. They learn that her machines had malfunctioned a few times over the years, and that she likely has brain damage, which enrages Master Man. We learn that they had kidnapped the Human Torch to use his blood to jumpstart her revival, similarly to how the Torch’s blood had led to the empowering of Spitfire, but when the doctor wants to not do this, Master Man insists.  Namor finds the car that Master Man was driving, but doesn’t notice that Namorita is following him from above. Namor busts into the lab and begins fighting Master Man. The doctor continues the transfusion, and Warrior Woman wakes up. Master Man keeps fighting Namor, while boasting about how he’s more in his prime. Warrior Woman cold cocks Namor, and Master Man boasts some more about himself and the new Germany.
  • Namor is trapped in a device that is heating up his body, and in the delirium it induces in him, he revisits moments in his history, as well as those in Master Man’s and Warrior Woman’s lives.  We see him as a child, we see Hitler talk to Master Man, we see the Invaders formed (in a way that never happened), Warrior Woman’s origin, and the moment when Johnny Storm discovered Namor in a homeless shelter.  Finally, he remembers being captured by Doktor Kraus, Master Man, and Warrior Woman. Ann Raymond, who was captured with the original Human Torch, tries to wake Namor from his stupor, which draws the attention of an squat German woman who takes her out of her cage and starts beating on her.  Kraus, Master Man, and Warrior Woman are in a big office building, where they meet Herr Nacht, the man who has been bankrolling Kraus’s operation. It is his father who saved Kraus’s life in ‘61. Nacht makes reference to a machine that Kraus needs, and a weird smell. Nacht also talks about becoming Germany’s new Führer.  In New York, Misty and Colleen talk in Misty’s hospital room with Rafe Scarfe, NYPD chief of detectives, who says they can’t press charges on Danny Rand. Rafe wants to exhume Danny’s body, to see if he can figure out what’s going on. The German woman keeps abusing Ann, until Namor busts out of the torture device and knocks her out.  He’s badly dehydrated, and when they go looking for water to help him, they find a bunch of goons with weapons who start shooting Namor. Namor almost succumbs, but then finds his strength and fights them, while thinking that it’s WWII again, and that they are actual Nazis. Namor gets knocked down, but then three of the Invaders, Spitfire, Union Jack, and Namora (whom I’m sure was never an Invader) shows up.  The Germans get a message that something’s up in the lab, and Master Man flies off alone to handle it.
  • Issue twelve, which is double-sized, opens with Namor continuing his fight against Neo-Nazis, which he believes to be actual Nazis.  We relive the moment when we see the Invaders enter the scene, and then go to England, where the aged Lady Jacqueline Crichton, who used to be the superhero Spitfire, enters a hospital to visit a mysterious flying lady who has been asking for her.  That lady turns out to be Namorita, who, we learn, was discovered watching Namor by the same Neo-Nazis. After taking a beating from them, she flew straight from Berlin to England to get help, but ended up collapsing under the strain of flying so far.  Now she heads home with Lady Jacqueline. They call the Avengers, but learn that there is no help coming from there; they leave a message for Captain America just in case. Jacqueline shows Namorita an experimental plane she’s had since the second world war, and with the new Union Jack accompanying them, they head for Germany.  Now we catch up with the opening scene, which Namor’s delirium has him believing are the original Invaders (and, incongruously, his cousin Namora). He figures out what’s real, and gets refreshed by an office water cooler, at which point Master Man shows up. Back at Herr Nacht’s office, that man makes a move on Warrior Woman, and then reveals that he has been training to take Master Man’s place.  Doktor Krause has recreated the formula that made the first Master Man, and he’s ready to take it. Master Man’s fight with Namor almost injures Lady Crichton, so she and Ann Raymond go looking for the Human Torch while Union Jack fights the Neo-Nazis. Master Man suddenly weakens and reverts to his original form, just as Nacth and Warrior Woman arrive. Nacht, now powered up, begins to fight Namor while Namorita takes on Warrior Woman.  Ann and Jacqueline find the Torch, but Krause finds them. When he pulls a gun, Jacqueline rushes him, her speed having returned, but is shot. Nacht almost finishes Namor, but Captain America arrives and joins the fight. Ann tries to help Jacqueline, and Krause, who has been kept alive for decades by a machine, crumbles to dust. The Torch wakes up and decides that a transfusion of his blood (which was already mostly drained from him) will save her (from a gunshot wound?), even if it means killing him.  The weakened Master Man appeals to Warrior Woman for help, but she rejects him and keeps fighting Namorita. MM is upset, so he flips some big switches on the wall that are marked “verboten” and there’s an explosion. The heroes rush to get everyone out of the room, and Warrior Woman disappears. They all end up where the others are, and we learn that the Torch has drained himself. Jacqueline, however, is restored to the point of appearing like a young teenager. Ten days later, Captain America presides over a memorial outside Oracle Inc., where he, Namor, and Jacqueline speak of the Human Torch, and they get the new Human Torch, Johnny Storm, to light a memorial in his honour.  After, they, along with Hank Pym, talk about how Jacqueline is basically sixteen again, and then we learn that Jim Hammond didn’t die, he just lost his flame. He and Ann are going on vacation together, after which he might take a job as head of security for Namor’s company.
  • Namor’s legal problems were never really spelled out, but now we are watching his trial.  Johnny Storm is testifying about their first meeting, and how it led to Namor’s first attack on New York.  Namor keeps his lawyer from cross-examining his friend, admitting that he is speaking truthfully. Reed Richards, Sue Richards, and Ben Grimm discuss the trial and Namor’s blood disorder in the galley.  Next Reed testifies, and continues to state that he doesn’t hold Namor responsible for his actions upon first having his memories returned, and makes sure to explain that when Namor then later attacked the FF with Doctor Doom, he also saved the day.  During a recess, we learn that Captain America can’t testify due to his secret identity, and that Namor doesn’t think there’s much point to Jacqueline testifying about his actions during the war. Thor does intend to testify though. As everyone returns to court, Phoebe Marrs appears, annoying Carrie, and asks that Namor come to speak with her after the trial.  Somewhere in the ocean, a pair of Atlanteans investigate a warming of the water, and come across a cave filled with items of magic. They discover the person who lives there, and think she is Lady Dorma, Namor’s dead wife. Thor testifies, and loses his temper with the prosecutor. Afterwards, Caleb testifies, explaining the situation with Namor’s blood and how it affects his mental state; he makes the very strong point that if Namor wasn’t in control of himself, he wouldn’t be allowing the proceeding to continue.  Somewhere, a huge military-style transport vehicle flips in a landslide, and a creature resembling the Griffin escapes from it and flies away. Six days later, Namor and his friends wait for the jury to return. The verdict is read, and we hear it over the radio while another scene plays out. Namor is found “guilty but insane” and the judge sentences Namor to one hundred years of probation, with Captain America serving as his probation officer. Misty Knight and Colleen Wing are with Detective Scarfe at the exhumation of Danny Rand’s grave.  They find what looks like a mass of decaying vegetation in his coffin.
  • Phoebe is hard on her subordinates, who are fighting off an attack on their company by Stark Enterprises.  She is surprised to learn that Namor is there to see her, and when she ushers him into her office, she feels the need to fire one of her secretaries for commenting under her breath.  Namor is unimpressed, but Phoebe convinces him to go with her by helicopter to Connecticut, where they drive to a big old house, which she says is a secret to everyone except her personal staff.  She leads Namor in, where a man refers to her as Mrs. Payne, and talks about the day a young boy is having. She shows this boy, Edward, to Namor, and refers to him as her son. In Atlantis, an older wizard type confirms to two soldiers that Lady Dorma is actually alive.  Joy Meachum goes to her uncle Ward to demand answers as to what’s been going on, and is joined by Danny Rand, who uses some sort of hypnotic ability to calm her. Danny and Ward talk, and we learn that Danny has been using this power to keep some people under his control, including Ka-Zar.  They have some sort of plan for the Savage Land. Namor and Phoebe walk with the boy, and we learn that when she was younger, Phoebe left her family behind and got married to a man. After his business failed, Desmond showed up and paid the guy to divorce her, and she returned to the family.  When she learned she was pregnant, she pretended to have an abortion, and then went on a cruise. She gave birth to the boy in Singapore, and, in language that really doesn’t work today, learned that he was born “worse than retarded” – his memories reset with each new day. Their conversation is interrupted by the appearance of The Griffin, who Namor begins to fight, recognizing that the creature has continued to mutate, now basically being an animal.  The Griffin flies Namor very hgh, and when he falls, rescues him. It’s at this point that Namor recognizes that the creature views him as its master. Phoebe takes this opportunity to throw herself at Namor.
  • Namor is riding the Griffin through some thick clouds, and Byrne uses this to frame some recent events.  We go back three days to see Namor talking to Namorita and Jacqueline about Phoebe Marrs, when they are interrupted by the arrival of an Atlantean, who informs him that Dorma is alive and in Atlantis.  Namor remembers his wedding to Dorma, which was interrupted by the Lemurian Llyra, who posed as Dorma. When Namor went to rescue his fiance, he found her suffocating in open air, and she died. Before heading to Atlantis, Namor checked in with Captain America, his parole officer, who gave him his blessing to go to Atlantis, so long as he takes the Griffin with him.  Namor also went to see Desmond Marrs, to ask him to look after his company while he’s gone (which makes no sense on any level). Phoebe arrives during their talk, and asks to go to Atlantis with him, which Namor refuses. After Namor has left, Desmond gloats for a bit, and then gets mad at Phoebe when she professes her love for Namor, and insists that Desmond not hurt him.  Desmond smacks her and makes it clear that he knows where she went with him last issue. Namor, Namorita, Carrie, and The Griffin are in the Atlantean ship, approaching the fabled city, which has relocated to the Antarctic, where Namor was born. As they dive down (having left Carrie and Griffin on the ship), Namor notices that the water is warmer than usual, and there is some speculation that it might have to do with global warming.  We learn that many Atlanteans are sick because of the warmer water, and that many of them are afraid of Dorma. Later, Namor and Namorita discuss the fact that Dorma is very different from who she used to be, and Namor is skeptical that she is actually who she appears to be. The Atlanteans figure that the warm, poisoned waters are coming from the Savage Land, and so Namor decides he should go investigate, and also asks that Dorma’s tomb be opened.  In the present, Namor and Griffin arrive in the Savage Land. Namor notices that the massive alien machines that maintain this artificial climate have been uncovered, and leaving Griffin in hiding, moves to investigate the human activity happening all around them. Lost in thought, he doesn’t see someone sneak up on him, and he gets knocked out by Iron Fist, who talks to his unconscious body about how redemption, victory, and Namor’s death are at hand.
  • The Statement of Ownership for 1990 reports Namor having an average press run of 342 000, with newsstand returns of 132 000.
  • Issue sixteen starts with three prologues.  The first, set sixteen weeks before the story starts, shows Shanna (the She-Devil) returning home in the Savage Land to find her husband, Ka-Zar, missing.  Fifteen days before the present, Colleen Wing arrives at her office to find a note from Misty Knight saying she’s gone off to look for Danny Rand. The third prologue shows Phoebe Marrs ordering one of her subordinates to arrange a flight to Atlantis.  In the present, Namorita stands on the Atlantean vessel off Antarctica, talking to Carrie about how it’s been a day since they lost touch with Namor. Namorita explains the Savage Land to the biologist, and then notices an approaching Marrs Corps helicopter.  She flies up to speak to Phoebe. In the Savage Land, Namor is trussed up between some space heaters, and Ward Meachum is watching him. They speak briefly, and then Danny Rand enters. He wants to question Namor to learn how much he knows about his Savage Land operations, about which Namor knows nothing.  Our hero rips his bonds apart and he and Danny begin to fight. Misty Knight watches this from a nearby mountain, and we learn that she has decided that she still loves Danny, despite the fact that he ripped her arm off. Namor and Danny keep fighting. In a prison in the US, some inmate named Smithers (which the internet tells me is Plant-Man) receives a cake in the mail, and then we see some kind of tendrily thing speak to him.  Desmond Marrs is arranging a drug deal of some sort, takes drugs from his belligerent supplier, and then drives off, promising the return with the rest of the man’s proceeds in forty-eight hours. After he’s gone, the Punisher grabs the dealer, and tells him he wants to know about his dealings with Marrs. Namorita, Phoebe, and Carrie have arrived in the Savage Land. Namorita kills a giant mosquito that tries to feed on Phoebe’s bare skin, and tells the women that she knows where Namor is, due to a feeling.  As Namor fights Iron Fist, he is somehow hit from behind. Iron Fist is about to finish him when Namorita arrives and knocks him off a cliff. Lying at the bottom, Danny looks up to find Misty standing over him, with a gun in her hand. He starts to explain that he was only cruel to her to keep her away from what he was doing, but now figures she can help. Namor and Namorita search for Danny, and are surprised by a shot from the bushes, that hits Namorita in the head. She’s not dead, but this gives Danny the chance to grab her by the hair, and to threaten to punch her with the iron fist, while Misty holds her gun on Namor.
  • Joy Meachum addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations, claiming that her company should be allowed to exploit the Savage Land for resources, as they have the permission of Ka-Zar, who enters the Assembly swinging on a fire hose.  He makes it clear that the Rand Meachum Corporation is under his protection. Namor, Namorita, and Carrie are trapped in a cage in a pit. Shanna comes to speak to them, and learns that the bars are magnetized, making them too strong for Namor to break.  Shanna goes to shut them off. Ward Meachum has Phoebe Marrs in his office, and when she mocks his gloating, he starts to get physical. Iron Fist talks with Misty Knight, and promises that if he seems different now, everything will make sense shortly. When she goes to check on Phoebe, Iron Fist start to think to himself about how his work in the Savage Land will be done soon, and that Earth will be lifeless (suggesting he really isn’t Danny Rand).  Shanna returns to our heroes, telling them she couldn’t help. Namor rips out his pocket, so Shanna can use it to get the Griffin to help her. Shanna finds the Griffin, and he flies her back to where Namor is. Using the combined strength of Namor, Namorita, and Griffin, they are able to rip the bars off their cage, the noise of which brings many armed guards coming. Namorita wades into battle. In New York, Caleb Alexander learns that Desmond Marrs is selling off Oracle’s business holdings for low prices.  He confronts him, and Desmond admits that he is using Oracle’s resources to help him fight off Tony Stark’s aggression towards his company. When Caleb vows to stop him, Desmond breaks a glass statue over his head and gives the older man a beating. Our heroes continue to fight guards in the Savage Land. Misty stops Ward from beating on Phoebe, and Ward starts spouting off about how Danny is still dead, and that the being posing as Danny is going to make him a king of a whole planet. Iron Fist comes into the room, angry at Ward for talking so much, and, when he learns that Namor is free, reveals himself to be the Super Skrull.
  • Misty is shocked, and the Super Skrull is cruel to her.  She moves to shoot him, but he melts the gun. Namor and his friends continue to fight the Rand-Meachum guards, when Namorita is sucker punched by the Super Skrull, whose appearance surprises everyone.  Namor tries to talk to him, as the Skrull thinks he’s a villain, and they learn that his goal is to destroy the whole world. Desmond Marrs returns to his office, and is surprised to find the Punisher waiting there for him.  Ka-Zar and Joy Meachum continue to address the UN where the decision is made that the UN has no authority over the Savage Land. Misty is still upset to learn that the Super Skrull was posing as Danny, and she and Phoebe ask Ward what has been going on.  Ward explains that the Skrull got him out of prison, and used his mind control on Joy to make it easier for him to take Danny’s place. He explains that the Skrull wants to use the alien devices in the Savage Land to melt the ice in Antarctica, which will trigger a volcanic event that will cause the entire Ring of Fire around the Pacific to erupt, guaranteeing the end of the Earth being a threat to the Skrull Empire.  Ward went along with this plan because the Skrull promised him his own planet and the most beautiful woman “in the Skrull galaxy” as his queen. Phoebe starts laughing, asking Ward what a Skrull would consider beautiful (I don’t remember – is this the era where Skrulls couldn’t change shape anymore, because if she could, I’m sure beauty becomes very subjective. Shanna flees the battle to recruit some dinosaurs to stampede into the Skrull.  Namorita sucker punches the Skrull, and he and Namor begin fighting again. When the Skrull turns invisible, Namor can still find him using a rarely-mentioned fish power. The dinosaurs show up, and the Skrull finds Ward furious with him, yelling about betrayal. Ward is about to smash the Skrull’s machines, so he kills him. Namor then starts smashing the same machine, ruining the Skrull’s plans. The Skrull flies off, and Namor stops Namorita from pursuing, saying he needs to return to Atlantis.  In the epilogue, we see the Lady Tenelle of the Skrull Empire, who is very beautiful by human standards; she’d agreed to marry a human, so we see that the Super Skrull was never going to betray Ward (although, why wouldn’t he?).
  • Issue nineteen opens with a one-page comic strip showing Namor fighting some Japanese sailors in a submarine during WWII.  The strip uses some terrible visual stereotypes. We see that Lady Jacqueline Crichton is reading the comic, and wondering at how offensive it is.  She is trying to adjust to being young again, and so tries on some of Namorita’s more daring outfits. While doing this, she gets called by someone in Namor’s outer office, calling her there.  It seems that it’s been two hours since Caleb entered the office to confront Desmond Marrs, and no one has heard anything. Jacqueline enters and finds Caleb bleeding on the floor. She calls Namor, who is on the Atlantean vessel in the Savage Land.  Phoebe claims that if Desmond attacked Caleb, it must have been in self-defence, which sets Carrie off. Namor explains that they are in the Savage Land, and Jacqueline figures out that it has something to do with the speech made by Joy and Ka-Zar. Shanna arrives to hear about this, and figures that Ka-Zar is under the Super Skrull’s control.  Namor appoints Jacqueline as temporary head of Oracle, and asks that she buy up Rand-Meachum so he can shut down their exploration of the Savage Land, which is poisoning Atlantis. He sends everyone back to Manhattan aboard the ship, while he and Namorita jump out over Atlantis. He wants to check up on the Dorma situation, and Namorita tries to get at his thinking.  We learn that Dorma’s tomb is empty, and Namor makes plans to go to the cave where she was found. Because there’s a storm coming (underwater?), Namorita goes with him, and they discover an old man there. Mr. Smith, the Plant Man, looks at an old house with a large greenhouse that’s for sale, and then plants some quick-growing seeds, which kill the real estate agent he’s with, while he talks of subjugating the animal kingdom.  Desmond Marrs runs from the Punisher, who gives chase. The Punisher narrates the story of how Desmond went after Stark Enterprises, and then when his plan failed, Stark started to buy up his company. To raise funds, Desmond got involved in the drug trade, which is why the Punisher wants to kill him. Desmond pulls a gun from a desk, but his bullets don’t penetrate the Punisher’s vest. Instead, Desmond puts the gun in his own mouth and shoots.  The old man in the cave turns out to be Vyrra the Banished, an old Atlantean who was exiled by Namor’s grandfather. Vyrra has been trying to clone Dorma, but hasn’t been successful in recreating her personality. His goal was to gain favour with Namor so that when he dies (after two hundred years of his scientifically prolonged life), he’d be allowed to be buried in Atlantis. Namor is upset that the cloning of Dorma led to the destruction of her body.  Vyrra makes reference to using his skills three decades prior, which gets Namorita interested. Namor tries to silence him, but Vyrra ends up revealing that Namorita is in fact a clone of her dead mother.
  • Namor has been looking for Namorita for three days, and the Atlanteans with him believe she is lost in the storm.  Namorita took off upon learning that she is a clone, and Namor is determined to find her. Phoebe Marrs goes to the morgue to identify her brother’s body, and, once she is left alone to grieve, laughs and rejoices at the fact that she is finally free of him.  Returning to her limo, she is surprised to see the Punisher sitting in it waiting for her. Plant-Man, we learn, is working with the alien H’ylthri, a plant based race looking to invade the Earth. Namor finds Namorita, and starts to tell her the story of birth, which starts long before that, when Vyrra learned how to make clones, which were used as slaves.  When the clones began to protest for their rights, the Atlanteans killed all of them, and exiled Vyrra. Later, Namor and his cousin, Namora became close and fought together. Namora confided in him that, because of the danger of what they did, she had started keeping a secret journal hidden in a deep trench where only she and Namor can reach it. Namor takes Namorita to that trench, which is very close to Vyrra’s cave.  Namorita begins to read her mother’s journal, and learns that her mother, because of her hybrid nature, could not have children. Her mother’s husband was upset by this. One day, while going to write in her journal, Namora came across Vyrra’s cave, and speaking to the old man, came up with the idea to impregnate herself with a clone of herself, with some genetic tweaks to allow the child to grow ankle wings like Namor’s.  Namorita finishes reading this, and worries that she is soulless. Namor tells her of his battles with the Invaders, and how the original Human Torch, despite being an android, was one of the most human people he ever knew. Namor sees compassion in Namorita, and she quickly feels pride in herself. Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, and Rafe Scarfe are discussing Misty’s continued belief that Danny Rand has to be alive, because the Super Skrull knew things that only Danny could have told him.  Tyrone King enters the office, saying he thinks Misty is right.
  • Namor and Namorita are in Vyrra’s cave, which has been filled with explosives.  Namor gives the order for it to be blown up, with the remaining Dorma clones inside.  Back in Atlantis, he speaks with an advisor, and learns that all the other Dormas have been killed, and that Vyrra is dead.  Namor denies his last wish to be buried within Atlantis, which Namorita finds cold and heartless. Namor gathers the remains of the original Dorma and takes them to her tomb, where he interrs them and grieves.  On Earth, someone sneaks up to the house where Plant-Man and Sssesthugar speak of their invasion. The alien sense the man outside, who runs, but gets caught by some vines controlled by Smithers. That man? Well, it’s 1991, so he is, of course, Wolverine.  A few days later, at Rand Meachum, Lady Crichton gets yelled at by Joy Meachum, who is determined to win back her father’s company. Ka-Zar enters, and we learn that he has no memory of his time in New York. Shanna shows up, and the two reunite. Jacqueline calls Namor, and we learn that Namorita was beaten badly in an issue of New Warriors, and is resting.  Namor meets with Phoebe Marrs, who needs help. Her company is broke, due to the machinations of Tony Stark gaining revenge on her dead brother, and Namor promises to help her look through her finances. The next day, Jacqueline meets with Misty and Colleen, and they are joined by Namor. Namor agrees to help them look for Danny Rand, and takes them to see Doctor Strange.  Namor wants Strange to send them to K’un-L’un, because he thinks if Danny’s still alive, that’s where he’ll be. They show Strange the plant matter they found in Danny’s coffin, and Strange recognizes it as H’ylthri, who apparently were the original inhabitants of the planet that K’un-L’un is on in another dimension. Misty explains that the H’ylthri were the peaceful inhabitants of that land before the people of K’un-L’un took their land, but Strange disagrees with that assessment of them.  Strange sends the trio to the mystic city (with no discussion of how they would return), and they are surprised to find it in ruins. As they begin to search, they talk about how Danny didn’t trust his uncle, Yu-Ti, but did trust his teacher, Lei Kung, who then shows up and kicks Namor in the head. The thing is, he’s covered in vines, and his speech bubbles look weird, so we can assume he’s under H’ylthri control.
  • Rafe Scarfe is talking to his assistant about the fact that they can find no trace of Tyrone King in their physical or digital files, when King busts into his office, pushes Scarfe against a wall, and threatens him.  The shadow of his hand on the wall makes it look like he has claws. Lei Kung challenges Namor and the Daughters of the Dragon, and Namor begins to fight him, with little success. Colleen Wing draws her sword and enters the fight, managing to deflect Namor’s perceived sexism.  She severs the vine attached to Lei Kung, and he collapses. The vine attacks them, trying to gain control of Misty Knight, while Namor uses all of his strength to uproot the thing, killing it. Lei Kung comes to, and narrates the story of how a dragon wrecked K’un-L’un, how Power Man and Iron Fist came to their aid, although Danny was dying, and how something changed in him during that fight.  After he left, Lei Kung decided to seek out the H’ylthri, but has no memory of what happened after that. Lei Kung then explains how when K’un-L’un first colonized this world, they were infiltrated by a H’ylthri pretending to be human. Lei Kung leads the heroes through the jungle, and the women are overcome by a smell and collapse. H’ylthri attack them, and as Namor feels the influence of that odor on him, he jumps off a cliff and into a river, while the H’ylthri gather the others.  Namor, restored, finds a field full of K’un-L’unians in cocoons that the H’ylthri are somehow using to feed off of them. Some of the villagers have mostly dissolved away. He sees the H’ylthri bringing his friends into the field, and attacks. During the fight, he discovers Iron Fist in a cocoon (you’d think he’d be more dissolved than the people who were put there after him). On Earth, we see that Plant-Man and Sssesthugar have had Wolverine prisoner for three days but haven’t yet been able to get any information from him (I don’t know what kind of information he’d have).
  • Iron Fist is floating in his cocoon/pod, remembering getting radiation poisoning and coming to K’un-L’un, where Lei Kung taught him how to use his Iron Fist to heal himself.  He remembers visualizing meditating by some water, but when the water starts to retreat, and he dives in, against Lei Kung’s earlier advice, he found himself trapped in the pod.  Namor finds him, but is stopped from freeing him by one of the H’ylthri. Namor sees that his friends are being put in pods, and begins to fight back, with limited success. On Earth, Jacqueline oversees the shutting down of Marrs Corporation, and is confronted by Phoebe, who is upset to see her family’s company being dismantled.  She takes a swing at Jacqueline, who is a trained fighter. Phoebe storms off, and apologizes to the bloodstain where Desmond died. She thinks she sees him out of the corner of her eye, but only sees an empty office. Jacqueline goes to the gym to check in on Namorita, who is healing well, but is concerned that she can’t sense Namor anywhere.  The H’ylthri have Namor subdued, but Misty breaks free of them, and starts fighting them herself. She bangs on Danny’s pod, and as the H’ylthri grab her, she keeps calling to him. Inside the pod, he begins to stir, and reverses the feeding process, restoring his strength and muscle tone. He busts out of the pod and begins to fight the tree aliens.  After he’s knocked them all out, he collapses. On Earth, Wolverine, naked and attached to a H’ylthri vine, kills a plant drone sent by Plant Man, which he and his H’ylthri companion see as proof that they have control over him.
  • Doctor Strange, having received some sort of call, brings Namor, Misty, Colleen, and Iron Fist back to his home.  They are followed by a vine that tries to come through the portal Strange has opened, and which he has to destroy.  Strange is concerned about Iron Fist, whose life force is low. Later, Strange speaks with his guests, and comments on how he believes that Danny’s love for Misty is what sustained him.  Strange and Namor speak alone about the H’ylthri, and Strange’s belief that they are active on Earth. Plant-Man has three underlings, and manipulates the female one into staying with him, while Sssethugar kills the other two.  Strange shows Namor a mystical map of places where K’un-L’un has intersected with Earth, including a shifting spot in New Jersey. Tyrone King is still in Rafe Scarfe’s office, and we learn that he’s killed Scarfe’s assistant, and that his King persona is a guise, although we don’t know for what.  He then sticks his hand into Scarfe’s head to wipe his memory. Namor’s taken a cab to the mansion that Plant-Man is squatting in, and after climbing the outer wall, is attacked by naked vine-draped Wolverine. They fight, destroying some trees in the process, until Plant-Man orders them to stop. Plant-Man gives Namor his origin story, explaining that he’s always been an agent of the plant life of K’un-L’un, although he didn’t always know it.  His story is interrupted by Sssethugar, who claims to have no further use for Plant-Man, having learned that Iron Fist has escaped with help from Namor. He decides to turn Namor into one of his slaves, like he did Wolverine.
  • The Statement of Ownership for 1991 lists an average press run of 228 000, with average newsstand returns of 89 000.
  • Namorita, sporting a new haircut and swimsuit, flies towards New Jersey, following her sense of where Namor might be.  She notices an unusually verdant section of the forest, and spots H’ylthri (which she apparently knows about because of Misty Knight), and then gets caught in some vines.  Close by, Sssethugar has Namor captured, and is intending to break him and control him the way he did Wolverine, who is also there. Namor points out that Logan is resisting him, because of how easily Namor held him off during their fight.  At Nightwing Restorations, Colleen and Misty are joined by Rafe Scarfe, who has escaped Tyrone King. He tells the women that King is really Master Khan, an old Iron Fist villain. Scarfe, who is fighting the mind manipulation of Khan, explains a long and complicated story.  It turns out that Khan rescued the Super Skrull from the leukemia he suffered, and used his powers on him to turn him into Bobby Wright, they boy that had become a focus in the Power Man and Iron Fist comics written by Jim Owsley/Christopher Priest that I’ve been intending to read for this column once I find one or two more.  This was all part of some big plot of Khan’s, which also necessitated him taking on the guise of Tyrone King, who Misty Knight even dated a bit. At the same time, Iron Fist was really one of the H’ylthri, so when the Skrull, using his powers to make himself into “Captain Hero”, the guise that a powered Bobby Wright took on, killed Iron Fist, he really didn’t.  Khan apparently then sent the Skrull back into the Van Allen Belts where he found him, which doesn’t explain how he then decided to impersonate Iron Fist in the earlier issues of this comic. Anyway, Misty wants to go warn Danny that Khan is around. As Namorita fights against the vines that have her, she is aided by Plant Man, who has been abandoned by Sssethugar.  He gives Namorita his plant controlling gun and passes out or dies. Sssethugar explains to Namor that his people are going to release a pollen that will kill all the humans and animals on Earth, and then take over the planet. Namorita shows up and blasts Sssethugar, but of course the plant gun was designed by the H’ylthri, and doesn’t work on them. A stray shot frees Logan, so he starts fighting the plant beings until Master Khan shows up out of nowhere and just teleports Wolverine away (perhaps giving him one of the worst guest appearances in all of the 90s).  Namor frees himself, and Khan kills all of the H’ylthri. Namor argues that this was unnecessarily deadly, but Khan explains that they’d face the same fate in K’un-L’un. Khan identifies Namor as his enemy because he helped Iron Fist, and so he sticks his fingers in Namor’s head. He confines Namorita mystically, and explains that he is seeking revenge on Namor for rescuing Iron Fist, and so he strips Namor’s memory and identity from him, and then teleports him away. Laughing, he leaves Namorita alone.

Issue twenty-five was not the end of Byrne’s run as a writer, but it was the last issue that he drew, and seems like a good place to end this column, especially as it sets up a new status quo for the series.

I remembered these comics as being a lot tighter than they were on this second read-through.  The first year or so of this series is pretty good, but as the comic became more concerned with Iron Fist, K’un-L’un, and retconning a lot of continuity there, I felt like I could hear the train slipping off the tracks.

Early on, Byrne played with the cool idea of having Namor be a captain of industry, although it was never all that clear just what Oracle Industries was about, or what, if any, role Namor played in it.  Like many other superhero businessmen, Namor never seemed to do any actual business (at least Bruce Wayne attends a board meeting every few years). Likewise, his corporate enemies, the Marrs twins and Headhunter, also didn’t seem to actually do a lot of work, but I guess that’s just a comics trope in this era.

Also very unclear is the role that Namor plays in Atlantis.  When he shows up to deal with the clone of his dead wife, he is treated like he’s the king, but surely that role would bring some responsibilities with it, wouldn’t it?  And, as soon as that plotline was finished, Namor was gone again, and the undersea civilization was left to its own devices (my guess is they probably moved again, since that’s what they always do).

The longer this title ran, the more it felt like it was circling back on itself.  Iron Fist returns, and turns out to be the Super Skrull. Tyrone King returns, and turns out to be Master Khan.  I’m not sure where the Iron Fist obsession came from, or why anyone would have thought that Namor’s solo book would be a good place to resolve it.  I don’t know if Byrne just had huge problems with the way Priest finished off Power Man and Iron Fist, or if he just wanted to draw Misty Knight a lot, but for a small stretch, Namor was really a secondary character in his own comic.

I know that in the 90s just about every comic needed to feature appearances by Wolverine and the Punisher, but these two characters were used very poorly here.  Logan spent weeks in thrall to the H’ylthri, and was then just teleported away? There is no reason to have him here, especially since he showed up on the cover only once, and therefore couldn’t have provided much of a sales boost.  The Punisher also never showed up on a cover, and we never learned what came of his conversation with Phoebe Marrs.

In fact, Phoebe herself just kind of got written out of the book, as did Caleb and Carrie Alexander.  The potential love triangle plot just fell by the wayside, as did the Marrs siblings’ plotting against Namor (which never had a tangible reason behind it).  We also never saw the original Human Torch, who was offered a job at Oracle, again.

Similarly, odd plot points, like Namor losing his ankle wings, or taming the Griffin, also just happened and never really got discussed after that.

I suspect that Byrne was forced to alter his plans for the series, but am not sure to what end.  If there was a planned Iron Fist series, it never happened. In many ways, I can’t figure out what the point of this series was.  Namor’s character isn’t worked on all that much – we don’t get to see new sides of him, nor do we see him particularly challenged.  The novelty of him being more engaged in the surface world never really goes anywhere.

I do like that Bryne revived Jacqueline Crichton (although it’s not clear why she left her life in England to work for Namor), and didn’t mind all that much that he complicated Namorita’s backstory (even if it was kind of unnecessary).  Clearing up Namor’s legal standing within the US was something that needed to happen, as was the invention of Caleb’s theory as to why Namor is so frequently irrational (even if his findings that Namor needs to balance his time in and out of water was never taken anywhere or mentioned more than twice).  

Taken individually, these are entertaining comics.  Byrne is a good comics writer, and a terrific artist, so just about anything he attempts is going to work for a while.  It’s looking at these books as a whole that starts to show how slight and unfocused they were. Byrne’s art changed over the course of these books (and while that can’t be blamed on an inker, as Byrne inked most of them himself, when someone like Bob Wiacek filled in on inking, the change was made more apparent).  I think that the pressure to “Image” up his art to appeal to readers was coming down on him, and I wonder if that’s why the decision was made to hand the art over to the young Jae Lee, and to take the title in a more “extreme” direction.

Anyway, we will look at those issues the next time around, and check to see how many (if any) of these dangling plotlines got resolved.

If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, click here.

If you’d like to read any of the stories I talk about here, you can follow these links for trade paperbacks that feature them.

Namor Visionaries – John Byrne, Vol. 1

Namor Visionaries by John Byrne – Volume 2 (Marvel Visionaries)

 

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