New Reviews of Old Comics
I’m sure what the deal was, but my favorite local comic shop, Comic Depot in Saratoga Springs, NY, had a slew of older comics in the dollar box the last time I was there. I felt like I struck gold. Granted most of them were in rough shape, not exactly “collectible” condition, however for someone who just wants to read old comic stories it was like heaven. Check out the cover on Sub-Mariner #22. Doctor Strange with a mask? Never knew he had one. Namor has an impossibly muscle filled arm. This is classic stuff. Is the story as good as the cover?
Roy Thomas penned and aptly titled this story “The Monarch and the Mystic!” while Marie Severin handled the art duties. The splash page opens with Namor descending to Atlantis while wearing a dome over his head which seems odd for someone who can breathe underwater. Luckily Namor is in a reminiscent mood so clueless readers like myself can get caught up in how an alien closed his gills with some cruel and senseless surgery. During this little retrospective Dr. Strange chimes in to Namor’s thoughts, sort of like a mental call waiting, to plant the sub-conscious seed for a mission. Dr. Strange’s powers prove to be good enough to have the Sub-Mariner awaken with the desire to visit Boston. He skips the Freedom Trail and Duck rides in favor of taking some clothes from a “house of charity” (leaving gold as compensation) and visiting a private residence. The owner isn’t home, but his supposed daughter is and she has no qualms about letting a perfect stranger into her home. Good thing Namor wasn’t wearing a Yankee’s cap or this story would have been over at this point. Dr. Stange mentally points Namor into a demon filled room which leads to a fight scene. Once Namor has found what he’s looking for the good mystic doctor finally makes an appearance to take the statue he’d been compelling Namor to find. Nice, eh? Make Namor do all the dirty work. Anyway, this then leads to a whole slew of demons showing up and some more fight scenes. By the time we get to the last page Doctor Strange decides he no longer needs Namor and sends him back to Boston, leaving the Prince of Atlantis feeling like he owes a lifetime debt to Doctor Strange. Funny how that worked out, isn’t it?
This forty year old story was rife with classic Marvel corniness, which is exactly what I was expecting. It did seem more like a one-off than part of a larger storyline, but that’s how comic stories were back in the day. I like this stuff and am more than a little thrilled I have three other Sub-Mariner issues from this run to look forward to.
Here’s something I’ve always wondered about lettering in comic books; is there any rhyme or reason to why some words in a balloon are bolded? I used to think it was for inflection, but that doesn’t seem to be the case because it just doesn’t make sense at many points. Who talks like that? The second balloon on the splash page isn’t a standard oval, but an explosive shape with “The Sub-Mariner is home once more!” I guess the inflection works there, but is the explosive balloon necessary? And then when he arrives in Boston, in the dead of night, he stands on a rooftop and declares “The city called…Boston!” In addition to being overly dramatic the inflection doesn’t work on this one at all. Maybe I’m thinking way too much about this stuff and should just enjoy the old comics for what they are.