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Monday, September 21, 2009

Suspended Animation For September 18, 2009 - John Byrne's Namor The Submariner

Namor, The Submariner, published by Marvel Comics, 32 pages, back-issue prices vary.

In 1990, Marvel Comics began a second on-going series for an established character; The Submariner. This was not, however, a redo of the former series which had ended over a decade before. Gone were the "Atlantean King" storylines, and undersea adventures. Instead, using the vast riches of the sea to finance a different kind of coup, Namor decided to tackle the business world, in hopes that, as a corporate mogul, he could affect the cleanup and maintenance of the world's seas. This was the premise of Namor, The Submariner.

Considering how many attempts have been made over the years to revitalize seemingly worn-out characters, I believe this was one of the best such projects the industry has ever seen. One of the things which made it so was the introduction of new foes, by writer and artist of the series, John Byrne.

Namor's main nemeses in the series were Desmond and Pheobe Marrs, the brother/sister head of the Marrs Corporation. Also introduced in the series was an albino businesswoman called "Head Hunter," who, fittingly enough, had the heads of her defeated corporate enemies mounted on her walls; or...did she?

Also appealing in the series was Byrne's art. Many comic fans will say that his best work was done during his runs on The Uncanny X-Men and The Fantastic Four, but his work on Namor gets my vote. I've never seen a better use of shading and textures in Byrne's work than in this series. In fact, I've rarely seen better in comics, period. Of course, his ability to relate great action sequences, as well as more subdued scenes is as strong in this work as anywhere.
Namor, The Submariner is suggested for anyone who enjoys thrilling super hero action, stories of corporate intrigue, or just good comics art.

You can find the series at comics shops, online auctions, and comics conventions. It can often be found in 25 or 50 cent boxes.

Review by Mark Allen

Suspended Animation For September 11, 2009 - Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One

Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One, published by Marvel Comics, 120 pages, cover price $13.99.

It’s always exciting when comics creators can broaden and more deeply define a classic character. And, as so many popular super heroes have even more interesting villains, this is all the more true with the bad guys. A great example of this is Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One, published by Marvel Comics in 2005.

Writer Zeb Wells takes readers on a guided tour into the psyche of the fan-favorite Spider-villain, Doctor Otto Octavius. Beginning in his childhood, Wells lays some great after-the-fact groundwork on who Doc Ock is, and why. From his relationship with his parents, professors, colleagues, a potential love interest, and, of course, a certain wall-crawling hero, it all seems fresh and new. Wells also manages to present Ock as a sympathetic, yet frightening, character, making this collected story hard to put down from start to finish. Extremely interesting is the root and nature of the villain’s obsession with Spider-Man, earning Wells hearty kudos.

Kaare Andrews lends his considerable artistic talents to the story, bringing wonderfully vibrant life to the characters. Visually, he stays true to the classic look of Ock, while being unafraid to take chances with some more realistic design characteristics where his mechanical appendages are concerned. His subtle variations were enough to make me wonder why Ditko, the Romitas, Andru, or any of the other classic Spidey artists never thought of similar possibilities. Also a great storyteller, Andrews weaves an artistically astonishing tale which pulls the reader along effortlessly, while lending a subtle ominous overtone to the whole, which foretells what long-time fans already know: that Doctor Octopus will be/is one of Spider-Man’s most intelligent, ruthless and dangerous villains ever.

All in all, this is a great addition to the Spider-Man mythos, and worthy of inclusion in fans’ collections. It is highly recommended to all but the youngest of Spider-Man fans.

Review by Mark Allen