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'Mighty Marvel Masterworks: Namor, The Sub-Mariner Vol. 1: The Quest Begins' review
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‘Mighty Marvel Masterworks: Namor, The Sub-Mariner Vol. 1: The Quest Begins’ review

‘Mighty Marvel Masterworks: Namor, The Sub-Mariner Vol. 1: The Quest Begins’ features Namor’s first long-running adventure.

Right in time for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Marvel Comics has released a Namor-focused Mighty Marvel Masterworks. The line of smaller-sized trade paperbacks allows folks to relive the first adventures of specific characters. Most of these stories have been reprinted before, but in the smaller format with chapter breaks, it feels like it’s tuned toward younger readers wanting to start from scratch.

This is a no-nonsense collection with no intro or setup. It dives right into Namor’s adventure, starting with Daredevil #7 from 1965. Typically this trade paperback line begins with the origin story. Still, oddly it skips his first introduction in Marvel Comics #1–possibly due to licensing–nor his fight in Fantastic Four #4 in May 1962. Interestingly, this collection mainly houses half of the Tales to Astonish split-title comic adventures featuring Namor. It turns out Marvel didn’t own the rights to the character, but by putting him up with other heroes or villains, they could get away with the adventures you read here.

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Starting with Daredevil, its obvious writer Stan Lee was trying to prove Namor is amongst the strongest characters in the Marvel universe. He walks through walls, busts up bricks with ease, and gives Daredevil quite a hard time when things are all said and done. He wants to broker peace with the surface world, but after hearing Matt Murdock explain he needs to get attention, decides breaking some laws is the best way to achieve that goal. Over the top and outrageous, it’s a fun first issue to kick things off.

'Mighty Marvel Masterworks: Daredevil Vol. 1: While the City Sleeps' review namor

Electricity solves most supervillain problems.
Credit: Marvel

From there, Namor heads back to Atlantis in an adventure that spans Tales to Astonish #70-80, originally published between 1965 and 1966. We soon learn one of Namor’s instigators has taken over Atlantis. Namor is almost immediately thrown in jail but is aided by Dorma to at least get a fighting chance. Six of those issues play out Namor’s fight to regain his kingdom with all sorts of Atlantean threats to punch through. In general, you can tell Lee was attempting to build out this underwater world and flesh out Namor as a person. It’s a valiant attempt and a clear sign Namor has been an essential facet of Marvel Comics from the very start.

Closing out the collection is Namor’s renewed attempts to connect with the surface world. War is inevitable, but he wants to avoid it at all costs. He may be a brutish and brash character, but his heart is in the right place. He’s almost immediately fighting folks off, starting with Hank Pym and Wasp. This leads to Namor fighting off the U.S. Army–with a light pole no less–and getting shot. Fleeing, he’s immediately attacked by a sea beast controlled by Krang, thanks to the abilities of the Puppet Master. Dorma remains a picture in the narrative as a kind of damsel, but Namor is a romantic through and through losing her in the end and possibly the kingdom because of it.

The art is mostly by Gene Colan, with Wallace Wood drawing the Daredevil issue. Picking up these old collections, it’s always a shock to see just how good the art was for the time. It holds up, and while layouts are fairly straightforward, the level of detail, character acting, and melodrama in every facial expression is epic and entertaining.

Mighty Marvel Masterworks: Namor, The Sub-Mariner Vol. 1 is a great melodrama that helps readers understand Stan Lee’s original take on Namor. He’s a man that leads a people but lets his heart and impatience get the better of him more than he’d like to admit. It’s interesting revisiting these tales today, especially with a major motion picture depicting the character and seeing how he’s changed in over 56 years.

'Mighty Marvel Masterworks: Namor, The Sub-Mariner Vol. 1: The Quest Begins' review
‘Mighty Marvel Masterworks: Namor, The Sub-Mariner Vol. 1: The Quest Begins’ review
Mighty Marvel Masterworks: Namor, The Sub-Mariner Vol. 1: The Quest Begins
Mighty Marvel Masterworks: Namor, The Sub-Mariner Vol. 1 is a great melodrama that helps readers understand Stan Lee's original take on Namor. He's a man that leads a people but lets his heart and impatience get the better of him more than he'd like to admit. It's interesting revisiting these tales today, especially with a major motion picture depicting the character and seeing how he's changed in over 56 years.
Reader Rating1 Votes
8.8
Classic comics through and through right down to Stan Lee's love a good melodrama and near constant plot progression
The art holds up and is quite good throughout
Namor is a compelling character who isn't your usual classic hero archetype
Unclear why this collection doesn't have the origin of Namor which makes this collection seem like an odd place to start
9
Great
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