Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Will Of The People

For an issue of Fantastic Four, this one doesn't make for a bad Sub-Mariner story:

"Beware The Ravaging Retrievers!" comes at a time when the team has disbanded due to Reed's loss of his stretching powers, and its members have gone their separate ways in finding different occupations for themselves--which leaves a few issues to explore each of the FF members on their own. Johnny indulges in professional car racing; Ben does some test piloting for NASA; Sue is off to Hollywood to be featured in a film project; and Reed takes a position with a group of scientists working on a classified project, supposedly involving national security. We learn later that it turns out to be a ruse involving Dr. Doom--but even in these early stages, Reed is becoming suspicious of the work being done:

While Johnny and Ben have had their own brushes with trouble. Once their respective affairs are settled, Johnny joins Ben in a welcome chance to reconnect with his friend:

But the focus of this issue is Sue, who is brought in to meet the head of the movie studio and discovers that it turns out to be not only an old friend, but someone who at one time meant a good deal more to her.

Namor purchasing a movie studio was one of the more curious developments for the character--going all the way back to FF #9, and the first instance where the FF considered breaking up. Namor as an executive would be something writer/artist John Byrne would pursue in his 1990 Namor the Sub-Mariner series, where Namor becomes a financier; but here, it looks like he held onto his old movie studio, which he originally purchased "out of boredom" but which now offers welcome refuge from his rule of Atlantis.

The story, written by Marv Wolfman, follows up on the people of Atlantis being revived from the surface world nerve gas that they had fallen victim to as a result of Namor fending off the twin attacks of Orka and the She-Beast. Wolfman's approach is a little hard to swallow, at first--but it soon becomes intriguing, and understandable, given the travails of the Atlanteans over the years of Namor's reign as well as their seemingly endless wanderings in those instances when they've been uprooted and forced to find a place to settle. For while Namor has proven to be a frustrating ruler at times--his loyalties either divided between the surface world and Atlantis, or occasionally committing his people to a state of war--he is nevertheless their most powerful defender, as well as a deterrent to any hostile forces that would seek to capture a city such as Atlantis and enslave its people.

So with Namor being the one who secured the aid of Victor Von Doom in bringing the survivors of the nerve gas disaster out of their long state of slumber, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that the Atlanteans, who often react in the moment, now treat Namor with more reverence than ever before--only this time, taking their gratitude even further:

Namor reacts distastefully to such associations with divinity, and essentially bars access to himself until his people come to their senses. Namor's own impatience works against him here, as a more seasoned ruler would have quelled his subjects' fanaticism with a ringing speech that would have disspelled their misguided impressions of him as a deity and instead inspired their own self-confidence in their ability to survive a near-disaster and thrive as a people in the face of adversity. Instead, while the words of his advisor, Vashti, put the matter into perspective, Namor reacts with outrage and resistance, which do nothing to address what has now become a crisis.

To Namor, he likely believes he's safely insulated from his people on the surface world. But for the Atlanteans, who are already paranoid about being deprived of Namor's presence and certainly his power, Namor must be located and retrieved, by whatever means necessary.

As for Sue, she can only comfort Namor during this time, and perhaps take his mind off of the volatile situation within his realm. Sue's presence, of course, is a distraction that's welcomed by Namor at any time, any place; but unknown to Namor, the Atlanteans have already acted to counter Namor's rash choice.

The purpose these Retrievers serve in Atlantis invites speculation.  For instance, we learn that they serve as Namor's Imperial Guard--but why design a group of androids for that role but name them "Retrievers"? It's unlikely their main purpose is to hunt down and retrieve a ruler who appears to have abandoned his people, since it would be an unbelievable preventive measure to see put in place by the Atlanteans, nor would Namor ever approve it.  Granted, we saw something similar when the Seeker (of the Inhumans) was sent to retrieve Black Bolt and return him to his people--but the difference here is that Namor has not abdicated his throne, whereas the circumstances of Maximus usurping the throne made Black Bolt's status uncertain more than alarming.  We could presume that the Retrievers received their name by being tasked at times to deal with insurgents or suspected threats to the throne (though that's a pretty big leap to make here). We could also assume that their creation is fairly recent, as there were no Retrievers activated when Namor did formally abdicate his throne following Dorma's death; either that, or Namor's decision to leave--a decision wholly unexpected by the Atlanteans--was unprecedented and left his people too uncertain as to how to respond.

Whatever the reason behind their creation, the use of the Retrievers against Namor would seem to indicate just how far gone the Atlanteans are in terms of thinking themselves helpless and doomed without Namor among them. Equally alarming is the assumption that Vashti would have had to sign off on activating the Retrievers to take Namor into custody and return him to the throne by force. Again, a Sub-Mariner story that would have been riveting within his own title. For now, consider that the Retrievers seem specially outfitted to deal with Namor, and only Namor:

Fortunately, Namor has Sue in his corner, who takes a hand in this battle while also providing Namor with the resources to regain his strength. Though you can almost sense Wolfman's discomfort in writing her scenes, as he appears to strike a balance at having Sue go into action while at the same time weighing her down with self-doubt as well as lamenting the absence of Reed's guidance:

When Namor is back on his feet in a fit of vengeance, Wolfman meshes well with artists Keith Pollard and Pablo Marcos in giving a fine showcase of Namor in action. It's difficult to decide whether or not Marcos is the right fit for Fantastic Four, based on this issue; though in all honesty I'd have to admit feeling the same about almost any finisher who didn't significantly add to the FF's features as long-time inker Joe Sinnott was so proficient at. But these scenes of Namor in battle are fine work from Marcos, who in other scenes provides only minimal finishes to Pollard's layouts.

With the battle over and the Retrievers dispatched, Namor must at last come to terms with the reason for their deployment. The decision he makes is surprising, given the actions his people have taken toward him this day.  To say nothing of the message he sends with his acquiescence--that his subjects' use of force against him was not only the correct course of action, but that it yielded the desired result. In his final words to Sue before departing, he seems to have accepted his treatment with a shrug:

Though if I were Vashti, I'd start thinking of creative uses for the word "malfunction."

Fantastic Four #195

Script: Marv Wolfman
Layouts: Keith Pollard
Finishes: Pablo Marcos
Letterer: Denise Wohl


Anonymous said...

The "Retrievers of Atlantis"?
What the heck...
...oh, why not.
I hadn't seen this one before, so it's a new one on me.

Kid said...

I haven't seen this one either, so I must look out for it. Namor and Susie, eh? Do you think they might've...you know...when Reed wasn't looking?

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