Friday, June 01, 2007

Settling the Score With the Sub-Mariner! (Marvel comics)
Fantastic Four #412 When: May 1996
Why: Tom DeFalco How: Paul Ryan

The story so far...
Reed Richards has returned from the dead, but his sudden resurrection has not healed the wounds exposed in his absence. When his wife Susan, the Invisible Woman, sustains injury after exerting herself in battle against a hallucinating Black Bolt, the turmoil begins.

The Sub-Mariner, having spent time with the Fantastic Four in Richards' absence, is quick to impose himself on Richards' presence. Untrusting of the medical analysis of surface world doctors, Namor is intent on taking the injured Susan Richards to his own facilities at Atlantis. He calls for her to denounce the weak and indecisive man they rescued.

Such claims are enough to incite the wrath of world's foremost genius, but he is met only with further arrogance from the undersea monarch. Playing to decades of tension between the two, Richards sees to put an end to their romantic feud.

Previous Form:
Mr. Fantastic (#12): Single handedly defeated Red Ghost & The Super Apes.
Sub-Mariner (#19): Victories over Tiger Shark, Magneto, X-Men & Attuma.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Sub-Mariner 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Genius)
Speed: Sub-Mariner 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Sub-Mariner 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Rubber)
Fighting Ability: Sub-Mariner 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Draw 1 (None)

Brute strength and royal arrogance, versus inventive genius and stretchy invulnerability! Though they have very little in common, these guys are anything but opposites. Together they find common ground here on Secret Earths!

These are two characters that have been talked about previously and recognised for the versatility of their abilities. Mr. Fantastic's maleability makes him a formless and incredibly diverse offensive fighter, and when he's inclined to put his brilliant mind to devisive action, he's really potentially one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe.

Likewise, Namor's strengths seem to know no bounds! He has the versatility of being able to take the fight to the air, travel at high speeds, withstand physical and mental attacks to incredible degree -- and if you're near water, you may as well just kiss your keister goodbye, assuming you have that much time!

Perhaps most interesting about this scenario is the fact that the Sub-Mariner's Hulk-challenging strength is of minimal advantage here. Due to the nature of Mr. Fantastic's rubbery disposition, it's awfully difficult to gain much from punching him. Which provides us with a convenient segue to Reed Richards' greatest key to victory: Time!

Though it tends to flucture, it's undisputable that given enough time away from the ocean, Sub-Mariner will begin to fatigue and dehydrate and proportionately become weaker and weaker. Generally we like to lean toward the more extreme end of the Namor tape, so it's unlikely that many fights are going to go long enough for this to be a viable option, but it's always something to consider.

On the flipside, the Fantastic Four operate out of Manhattan, which is conveniently girt by sea, being the manmade island and all. So, as far as taking the advantage, the Sub-Mariner has plenty of opportunity to fly rubber-chops to the coast and take it from there.

The Math: Sub-Mariner (Meta Class)
The Pick: Sub-Mariner

What went down...
Enraged by Namor's arrogant interference, Mr. Fantastic spins into a bearded jealous rage! With a super-sized stretchy fist he punches the Atlantean moncarch clean out of Four Freedom's Plaza! Though Sue Storm attempts to defend the surly Atlantean, informing Richards that he recently lost his kingdom, Mr. Fantastic is having none of it! He leaps out the window, stretching himself into a human-glader, as the Sub-Mariner recovers in the streets below.

"Beware, Richards! You have neither the heart nor the courage..."
The Sub-Mariner rips up the already cracked street below him, tossing it into the air! The floating Mr. Fantastic is caught in a volley of debris and rubble, doing his best to maneuver his stretching between the gaps.

As innocent bystanders flee from the all too familiar image of a rampaging Sub-Mariner, Mr. Fantastic braces himself for an incoming automobile!

Stretching himself into a coil, Mr. Fantastic absorbs the impact of the vehicle like a giant spring, and sends it hurtling back from whence it came.
The speedy Sub-Mariner is more than capable, ducking the car to leave it to collide with other stationary vehicles.

"A man who thinks he looks fashionable in swim trunks and a pony-tail... Has no business criticizing others!"

While I whole heartedly disagree with Mr. Fantastic's remarks, he does well to punctuate them, snagging two street lamps to propel himself like a giant slingshot, feet-first into the Atlantean-Human hybrid.

Realising the need for strategy, Mr. Fanatstic puts his brilliant mind to analyzing the facts. Fully aware that the chances of exhausting Namor are slim to none, he makes the decision to use his attack to try to keep his opponent on the backfoot.

Hoping to keep the balance in his favour, Richards moves in at close quarters, wrapping his elastic body around the Sub-Mariner's. Even Namor has no choice but to acknowledge the tremendous pressure a contracting Mr. Fantastic produces, but for one who regularly traverses the greatest depths of the sea, it has little lasting effect.

The battle continues with little or no regard for the passing bystanders, as Namor pursues the shifting tides of battle through the window of a nearby department store!

More inclined to put his own motivations aside, Reed Richards finally pays mind to the safety of those surrounding.

On his back, Mr. Fantastic stretches his fist into a giant club and knocks the charging Sub-Mariner into a rack of jackets, using the opportunity to try to lead the battle to a safer scene.

Believing Mr. Fantactic's tactics to be an act of cowardice, the Sub-Mariner gladly follows the bouncing ball out of the department store, and down into the Manhattan subway system.

Looking to escape the urban sprawl, Mr. Fantastic stretches his way onto a passing train. The Sub-Mariner's fantastic powers of flight make little work of making up the time lost, catching up to Richards as they exit into an elevated area of track.

In spite of his brutish indulgence in this macho display of fisticuffs, Richards denies the Sub-Mariner's call for the victor to take Susan. Whether or not it's out of realization of Sub-Mariner's inevitable superiority in battle, or just chivalry, IS OPEN TO DEBATE!

Richards again flees, stretching his arms out to become a human balloon style structure, catching the air beneath him as he floats gingerly down to a nearby construction site. There, he agrees to engage Namor in final battle, willing to cause willful property damage, but not civilan casualty.

Stretching his arm out, Richards swings it around at speed, generating a gust of wind that pushes Namor from the air to ground. Even still, it is no match for Namor's strength, which retaliates by hurling a massive coil of cable from the site.

As the woman over whom they battle, Sue Richards, arrives on the scene with Lyja entow, Mr. Fantastic is still using his cosmic gifts to stretch around projectiles hurled by Namor. This time, giant steel girders are the weapon of choice.

As the first lady of the FF runs onto the battlefield, both men stop in their tracks, Namor content to lower the girder from above his head.
The moment of distraction quickly passes, but Susan calls for the Sub-Mariner to end the madness. Just in case he isn't inclined to listen, the shape-shifting Skrull, Lyja, shifts herself into a Barsoomian Snow Ape, and wraps Namor up in a bearhug.

While Sue berates Richards for his macho foolishness, she at least recognises how sweet it is to see him fighting for her again - much to the entangled Namor's dismay.

With the power of the pounding surf, the Sub-Mariner breaks free of Lyja's grip and throws himself like a torpedo at Mr and Mrs Fantastic with the declaration, "If Susan be not mine... Then none my claim her!"

Richards uses his elastine body to turn Namor's berzerker momentum against him, hurling him into a pile of wooden blanks. As the Sub-Mariner emerges from the rubble he continues to spew deranged threats at the "puny human", Mr. Fantastic.

Calling for a need for uninterrupted closure, Mr. Fantastic hurls another stretched out fist, clobbering Namor to a standard that would impress even Ben Grimm!
He then continues to open a can of fantasti-whoop ass the likes of which have never been seen, all the while delivering an empassioned speech about his realised failings as a man and husband!

A thunderous echo reverberates through the sunken build-site as Mr. Fantastic lands a final blow, before recoiling from the fallen Namor in shock. He apologises to the unconscious monarch, begging him for forgiveness for his prolonged violent outburst.

With the fight over, Susan calls for Richards' attentions, needing him to return to Four Freedom's Plaza to aid the mortally wounded Inhuman, Black Bolt. Content to leave Lyja to tend to the kingdomless Sub-Mariner, they leave.

Having done so, the Sub-Mariner rises on Lyja's cue.
An experienced warrior, Lyja saw through Namor's ploy to feign insane rage. She commends him on his act of nobility, but ever the prick, Namor takes the compliment and casts the doubt of his own motivations on it, before flying away to find peace away from the Fantastic Four.

"Even the SUb-Mariner can know patience when it is his only recourse! For I am destined to return... When the Fantastic Four least expect it!"

The hammer...
Due to Namor's noble sacrifice, the winner of this bout - Mr. Fantastic! Hey, I know what you're thinking. He threw the fight!
Ah, what can we say? None's fair in love and war!

Y'know, well written or not, I always find it interesting when I come across something that provides any kind of support for the turn of character and events in Civil War. Sifting through the blogosphere's entries in the negative, it's actually surprising how many examples of precedent you come across. [Like Iron Man #312]

By no means am I about to say this sums up neatly why Reed Richards would turn on his friends and family, but it at least exposes precedent for his inner bastard. Peculiarly enough, I actually enjoyed feral Mr. Fantastic after his return from apparent death. It's been done before, and since, but with the benefit of time, it's really quite a fun little era of turmoil for Marvel's first family.

One of the most interesting things about this particular issue - which quite literally serves as little more than one giant fist fight between one of the longest standing romantic rivalries at Marvel - is the total disregard for human safety that endures even in the latter part of the fight, even after Richards has at least taken it to an off-duty construction site.

It's not very often that you see Mr. Fantastic act in such an unrefined matter, let alone when human life would be at stake. And while it devolves into madness all too familiar - [to the point where it was only when Lyja called attention to the act that I realised Namor's "puny human" line was out-of-character] - it's nice to see Namor's obscure sense of nobility in the spotlight.

As we've discussed before [X-Men #6], there is a lengthy history of writing Sub-Mariner one of a few different shades of 2D. In fact, this issue is arguably one of the more recent cases of that, but I still have to at least acknowledge that it paints two of those very flat strokes of the character -- arrogance and nobility.

I never thought I'd say it, but today's Marvel could just about use a dose of that over the top temper and arrogance right about now. With the death of Captain America, Sub-Mariner is now arguably the premiere elder statesman of the Marvel Universe, and as always he has been connected to the very heart of events occurring ranging from his cousin Namorita's death in Civil War, to his disapproval of the ejection of Hulk in Illuminati, and now even the death of Captain America, who is arguably one of the Sub-Mariner's few friends and agreed equals.

Through the majority of these events, Namor has had very little direct involvement. He strongly opposed Hulk's ejection in flashbacks, but has currently been seen swaring relative indifference to Hulk's return, taking more of a 'I toldja so' approach -- while in Civil War he joined Wolverine in the pursuit of Nitro, the man responsible for Namorita's death, despite the fact Wolverine not too long ago murdered his closest advisor, Sulumor. [New Invaders #6]

Likewise, thus far Namor has had little reaction to the death of Captain America. Granted, while Marvel combats the issues of running a cohesive universe - something the distinguised competition has been doing to widespread success - they have arguably fumbled the ball on a whole, on reaction to Cap's death.

While many of these events still have a margin of results remaining to be seen, it continues to be said that DC have arguably been doing Namor better than Namor with the arc carried by Namor-lookalike, Black Adam.

Noone wants to see the Sub-Mariner declaring random incursions of the surface world, but truly it would be nice to see some reactive, if not impulsive, reaction from the legendary hot-head. It seems once again he has become the victim of singular broad strokes, liberated of his two-dimension rages at the cost of any signs of concereted action.

Just recently I read about concepts pitched by JM Dematteis to have Captain America abandon America in times of Reagan's Cold War provocations, and lead a charge with Namor and Dr. Doom to purge the planet of war. This war on war concept might be a little radical, but it's the kind of decisive action I'd love to be seeing from the character. At the very least he could punch Black Panther.

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 3.5

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