Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Vengeance of Decades


Name This Marvel Villain??

Your first impression of our mystery villain may admittedly leave you underwhelmed--but this character actually plays an incredibly pivotal role in the history of one of comics' earliest characters who would transition into the Marvel mainstream. In fact, if it weren't for his machinations, you probably wouldn't have seen this classic scene take place:

It's indeed the Sub-Mariner who had fallen victim to the plan of the man named Destiny, who began his evil plotting with the unwitting help of Namor's father, Leonard McKenzie--plotting which would lead to the destruction of Atlantis, and the Torch's discovery of Namor as an amnesiac vagrant living in the Bowery.

But how did Paul Destine acquire the power to alter the very *ahem* destiny of Atlantis? His beginnings were those of a mentalist whose aspirations simmered in decades past:

His curiosity about his mental powers led to research he discovered which made mention of a race called the Ancients, who had mastered the science of telepathy and whose civilization was reported to have been based in Antarctica. Obsessed with finding a way to gain wealth and power, Destine made arrangements with McKenzie to lead a small party of men to the site--putting on hold, of course, McKenzie's ice-breaking duties which would eventually lead the Atlanteans to his deck.

For now, though, McKenzie was persuaded to accompany Destine on his excursion--and soon enough, Destine's research pays off.

McKenzie instructs Destine to proceed no further until he returns--but this close to his prize, Destine has no intention of waiting. Unfortunately, his efforts to gain access to the machinery lead to an avalanche, and Destine is lost to McKenzie and his group. But it turns out that Destine is able to survive thanks to another mysterious artifact that he discovers.

The "helmet of power," as he calls it, in essence incubates Destine, placing him in suspended animation for forty years. When he emerges, he is eager to test the power of the helmet--and, thanks to the site of the Ancients being in close proximity to Namor's ancestral home beneath the Antarctic ice, a testing ground for his deadly abilities lies within reach.

The emperor (and Namor's grandfather) Thakorr then dispatches Namor and a cadre of warriors to investigate the source of the shockwaves. But when Destine again reaches out, and slaughters Namor's warriors to a man, Namor is left to confront "Destiny" on his own.

Destiny's powers are able to easily hold Namor at bay, and even to immobilize him. And it's then that Destiny conducts a two-pronged demonstration of his power that alters the Sub-Mariner's destiny forever. First, he turns his power toward Atlantis once again, this time decimating the city and much of its population--all of which he forces Namor to witness in his mind.

Afterward, he turns to Namor, obliterating his memory and forcing him to head for New York.

His horrifying work done, Destine places himself in suspended animation for another five years, in order for his powers to reach their height--after which he plans to summon Namor and conclude their battle. It's clear that writer Roy Thomas has thrown together these circumstances to establish a timeline for Namor without dotting the i's and crossing the t's as to their logic; for instance, whatever "plans" Destiny had for Namor's future are never made clear--and if those plans culminated in Namor being sent off for a 5-year period until he could be summoned back to be slain, Destiny was quite capable of ending Namor's life in their original encounter in that cavern, had he wished to.

The story of Destiny may seem a bit convoluted, but it does open the door to offer a fascinating look at the history and travails of Atlantis insofar as its population being displaced at various times. For instance, we know from the first FF annual that Namor would eventually locate the remnants of his people in a new and relocated settlement of Atlantis; but later, that city would fall victim to the weapons of the Plunderer:

Leaving the U.S. Navy to misconstrue the situation and, unfortunately, add to the devastation.

And that leads to another dramatic exodus from the ruins of Atlantis.

You certainly have to feel for the Atlanteans, who seem fated for disaster as long as there are villains and surface weapons and undersea barbarians like Attuma to bring down all that they've so painstakingly built. As for Namor, the five-year mark of Destiny's re-emergence has been reached, and he begins to feel the compulsion to break through the walls of his memories that still exist.

What lies within, of course, is the smirking, confident Destiny, who overcomes Namor once again and taunts him with the fact that this isn't the first time he's met defeat.

Namor is eventually able to put up a fight against Destiny--but unfortunately, his struggles result in his being virtually entombed in ice, while the villain presumes him dead and departs.

Ice, however, is only water that hasn't yet melted, and so a few drops eventually enable Namor to break free and of course vow vengeance on this man who has manipulated him and brought sorrow to his life for years.

As for Destine, he's finally returned to the states, his powers now at their peak thanks to his ancient helmet and his long periods of hibernation. And his ambitions at this point are what you'd expect.

Namor, of course, recognizes Destine's likeness in one of the many campaign promotions, and he soon enough locates the villain as he's about to go on the air. It's taken seven issues of Namor's first solo series (in addition to several decades) for him to reach the point of finally settling accounts with Destiny--but if you're thinking that Namor can't really fare any better against this opponent than he has in previous encounters, you're right. Nor does Namor choosing to battle this foe away from the replenishment of water help matters.

But it's Destine who is hastily written to bring about his own end, descending into madness (as if that ship hadn't already sailed) and believing that he's hurled the Sub-Mariner to his death--and then making himself believe that his augmented powers have no need for the helmet that, until now, he's realized has been the key to his success.

If you're curious about what happens to the so-called helmet of power, Namor (along with a host of others) will have further trouble from it when it goes on to be revealed as the Serpent Crown.


Anonymous said...

Ha - this is one of the rare times that I knew who the mystery villain was straight away. I've always thought it a bit strange how the amnesiac Sub-Mariner just calmly sat there while the Torch burned his beard off - amnesia or not, I think you'd strongly object to such a radical method of shaving !!

Anonymous said...

I always wondered what this guys deal was. I've seen him but i didn't know his history. I imagine Namor wondering the same thing. "Why is this land-dwelling clown giving me so much grief?"
Subby's rogues gallery wasn't exactly stellar. Krang, Tiger Shark...I think there was a Piranha guy in there somewhere...
It was more fun seeing him slug it out with Ben Grimm, Doc Doom, or the Hulk.
And yeah, shaving with fire, that's tough on the old kisser. no wonder Subby never liked Johnny Storm after that.

Comicsfan said...

Colin, good point! "Hey, get that flame away from me, you loon!" Then again, the Sub-Mariner was despondent at the time, frustrated with his lack of memory--he didn't even flinch when the Torch yanked him into the sky and subsequently tossed him into the ocean. We'll probably have to chalk it all up to Namor being overly preoccupied.

M.P., it seems that Destiny was mainly used as a means to connect the dots in regard to Namor's lost years. Beyond that, Thomas didn't appear to be concerned about giving the reader any explanations as to Destiny's motivations for lashing out against Namor and Atlantis; perhaps he thought Destiny simply being drunk with power would suffice.