Monday, September 24, 2007

Sub-Mariner #4

As one of Marvel’s oldest characters, Namor is astonishingly well-developed and remains one of the publisher’s most interesting individuals. His confrontational nature never fails to incite something interesting, but his intellect and respectable motives keep him on friendly terms with the heroes of the surface world.

Writers Matt Cherniss and Peter Johnson are pulling no punches so far with this new series focused on the Atlantian prince. In three issues, Namor has lost control of his kingdom, crossed Charles Xavier, Tony Stark and the entire United States, faced a royal coup and seen Venom viciously rip the wings from each of his ankles. If there’s one thing these writers can’t be accused of thus far, it’s sticking to the status quo. They’ve thrown the title character into one hell of a quandary, and it should be a lot of fun watching him work his way out of it.

Most importantly, the duo has Namor’s persona nailed down to perfection. When he speaks, it’s always with such disdain for the perceived inferiority of those that surround him that one can’t help but wonder if he really has to be such an asshole. That, combined with his uncanny ability to right those wrongs through his actions, is what makes this character such an interesting paradox. Cherniss and Johnson get that aspect of him, and it’s never been handled better.

My main problem with this book was with its dialog. It’s all so stilted, so stiflingly proper, that it becomes very wearying to read after a point. On one hand, sure – Namor is royalty, and such language is expected of him. I can’t expect a king to stand up from his throne and immediately speak fluently with the peasants. But when he’s interacting with characters who speak in exactly the same tone, even if it’s in direct conflict with their personality, (would the Invisible Woman really say something like “You must accept my offer”?) it gets to be a bit much.

Phil Briones’s artwork didn’t do much for me, to be honest. While he occasionally impresses with a flashy panel here and there, his work as a whole frequently reminded me of the fill-in artists of the mid ‘90s. His work feels very rushed and underdeveloped, and his style is outdated. His renditions of the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Venom… even the Atlantian warriors… they don’t connect. Even Namor, the one character he HAD to get right, doesn’t seem to be himself. He exudes arrogance throughout the issue, but I think the storytelling is more to thank for that than the artwork. This is almost a deal breaker to me, because paired with some phenomenal art, this story could have really taken off. With Briones on board, it feels like just another series.

I’m going to recommend you flip through this one. While the plot is a bit unrefined and the dialog is occasionally a hurdle, the writers aren’t afraid to try new things with one of the oldest characters in comics. While I didn’t care for the art one bit, it fits in with the generic Marvel style at the very least, so if you can stomach a mediocre visual this might be worth your while.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 5

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