This week Kurt Busiek is beginning his new curated line of books called Marvels Snapshots. This is a new series of one-shot stories to further explore classic characters and in the first edition, we get a look at classic Namor. It’s a fitting character to start with since he was there at the beginning of it all at Marvel Comics. Just read my “3 Reasons Why” article about Marvel in the 1940s. It may not be immediately obvious, but it’s quite clear this issue, and likely the entire line, is for readers who want their superhero stories done in a more realistic and more deeply emotional way.
This issue opens with Betty Dean, a mild-mannered American woman with a storied past with Namor who actually convinced him to join the Invaders. She’s his friend and while their relationship over the years was more complicated than that we get to see her spend the day with the hero. In the opening scene, Alan Brennert does a good job establishing the stresses and anxiety of war veterans which Betty doesn’t immediately understand. This serves as a moment to understand Betty so that by the end we learn something along with Betty adding value to the narrative as she grows and changes.
Truth be told Namor, along with the other Invaders, are still fighting the war even though America is currently at peace. Call it PTSD or the fact that the horrors of what you saw at war never go away, but Brennert and artist Jerry Ordway do well to capture the horrors still living with Namor. We get to see it in key flashbacks and through his actions while Namor and Betty go on a date. Marvel has done a fabulous job giving Namor more of humanity with key emotional trauma tied to his short temper and past villainous acts. By the end of this issue, you’ll feel like you know these characters a little better in just a day as well as sharing a moment in a slice of life story set in spring 1946.
Ordway is backed up artist Espen Grundetjern who gives the book an older look thanks to the color palette. What sells me the most from the art team is the attention to background details. This looks like a European comic in that sense with less stylized action and more attention spent on realism. This helps set the tone and make the flashbacks Namor experiences more impactful.
If you enjoyed Busiek’s Astro City or simply like your superhero stories steeped in raw realism don’t skip on this. The characters may be of an older time, but the message is as important as ever.