By Stuart Moore (writer), Ariel Olivetti (artist)
The Story: As the assembled tribes of a now unified vampire nation descend upon the island haven of Utopia, Namor volunteers to embark on a suicide mission to retrieve the severed head of the one vampire capable of saving the mutant species: Dracula.
The Good: In the spirit of total disclosure, I’ll get this out of the way right now: I’m an avowed Namor fan. Not so much when he’s pining over Sue Storm, but definitely when he’s the cocky, assured, audacious bastard that I found him to be in this issue. From the moment he derides Oudvrou for being weak for losing an eye in her escape from the Aqueos to his dispatching of a vampire squid (oh yeah, you read that correctly), Namor is at all times portrayed by Moore as a man so convinced of his own moral and physical superiority over his worlds on land and in the sea that his dominion over them would be all but assured if not for inconveniences like this vampire insurgency. Characters like Namor, Dr. Doom, Mr. Fantastic, and Magneto aren’t heroes as villains as much as they are men who are utterly certain that their way of looking at the world is the Right Way, and it’s the rest of us who ought to fall into line. I know that’s an incredibly atypical morality for a hero like Namor to possess, but damn it all if it doesn’t make for some entertaining reading. My feeling on this character has always been that the more of an arrogant, yet noble prick Namor can be, the more fun he is to read, and from what I’ve seen in this issue Moore seems ready to take him down that path, and this pleases me. I also liked how Moore began to develop Namor’s undersea world as a fully realized culture, unique unto itself. In the same way that the recent, and incredibly cool, “Death of Dracula” one shot firmly established the vampire nation in the Marvel Universe, I think Moore has the creative chops to achieve the same outcome for Marvel’s ocean denizens. I didn’t see as much of that world-building in this issue as I would have liked, but I’m willing to let that play out over successive issues provided Moore can pull me deeper into Namor’s world. I’ve always thought it strange how an environment that covers seventy-five percent of the world Marvel comics take place in has never been nearly as fascinating or dynamic a place as, say, New York seems to be, and I hope Moore and Olivetti can change that perception and making the Marvel’s a haunting, adventurous new setting in this world.
The Not So Good: You know, not that I really have anything against him, but for some reason Olivetti’s art has never done anything for me. Although the man does wonderful things with his use of color, his art is too often sparse, thin, and unremarkable. Many moments in this issue felt more like photoshopped collages than works of art created to convey a sense of action in environment, and exposure to this kind of adequacy simply left me shrugging my shoulders in indifference. But here again, Olivetti’s panels aren’t bad, per se, I would simply argue that he has used his strengths as a colorist like a crutch to hide the fact that his actual artwork is not terribly interesting to look at. Some moments, like Namor and the Tridents confronting the assembled might of the Aqueos, were pretty damn spectacular and terrifying to look at, but I felt like they were the rare exceptions tucked in between too many pages of Namor striking stoic poses against blank panels rendered in various shades of blue. If this comic’s going to have a fighting chance, Namor’s underwater world needs to be a much more visually interesting place to behold. Given what I know of Olivetti’s work, I don’t think he’s the man to make this happen.
Conclusion: Namor is not your typical hero. He’s cocky, conceited, and an unimaginable bastard, but in an industry drowning in Typical Heroes, is Namor’s demeanor necessarily a bad thing? I don’t think so. Despite Olivietti’s adequate artwork, this is a comic I’m going to stick with for a while, if only to see what Moore can do with it once this vampire storyline is concluded.