Monday, April 24, 2017

Allies No More!

"I did seek to ally myself with one as tempestuous, as regal, as I myself must be! I was in error!"
-- Victor Von Doom, speaking of the Sub-Mariner

While it's easy to look in writer Roy Thomas's direction for pushing the pairing of Dr. Doom and the Sub-Mariner on readers, we'd technically have to regard Stan Lee as that idea's catalyst, since he had the two (briefly) joining forces in one of the earliest issues of Fantastic Four--a teaming which didn't work out, and certainly didn't leave us with the impression of long-term prospects with these two. (Lee would also have Namor attempt an alliance with the Hulk once or twice, with similar results.) In their respective proposals of alliance to each other, both Doom and Namor would have instances where each was either certain that an alliance would be beneficial, or certain that it shouldn't be pursued. Given that the two often couldn't make up their minds in this regard, it's no surprise that their alliances never went the distance.

That was never more clear than in the Super-Villain Team-Up series that Thomas set in motion, with stories which saw Doom and Namor exist in a rocky relationship with each other, their "alliance" never truly on firm footing. Given that they rarely if ever saw eye to eye, the problem with their association was probably rooted in the type of alliance that they sought to form. Not all alliances share a mutual agenda; many simply involve general cooperation for specific purposes. In the case of Latveria and Atlantis (assuming we're talking about nations rather than individuals), one might come to the aid of the other in the defense of their borders or some other crisis, or pursuing diplomatic matters or goals requiring a united front. Doom offering to assist in the revival of the comatose Atlanteans (due to exposure to a deadly nerve gas) is a perfect example--though Doom would hold that over Namor's head for quite awhile before finally delivering on his promise. Yet the alliance sought by both Doom and Namor was originally envisioned as their joining together in conquest--a course which was usually only embraced by Namor when he felt wronged, whereas for Doom it was a singular and constant pursuit. There was also the matter of each of these men being proud rulers in their own right, whose goals were as much in conflict as their regal temperaments.

So it came as no surprise that, by this series' fourth issue, their formal alliance was on the verge of collapse--and it took only one incident to make Namor realize that this despot was unsuitable as an ally. The turning point comes after Doom has joined Namor to defend Hydrobase, where a group of amphibians in Namor's charge had settled but which had been invaded by the forces of Attuma and joined by Tiger Shark and Dr. Dorcas. Doom, set upon by a group of Attuma's barbarians, responds with deadly force--and in his lingering rage, decides to make an example of Attuma's court jester. Namor, shocked at such callous cruelty, minces no words with Doom regarding his behavior--and the confrontation between them leads to a savage battle that makes it clear that these two have finally had it with each other.

While you'll definitely see Namor and Doom take the gloves off in this battle, what you'll mostly see is a good deal of posturing, as each of these men asserts their will with the other. When one of them exclaims, "You dare!?", it's likely shorthand for the fact that each regards the other as their inferior, offended by the presumption and temerity of their foe at considering himself their equal or in a position to make demands. From that point on, neither man is going to be satisfied until the other grovels--or, at the very least, kneels--before them.

(Does "mortality" make sense in the context being used here? Perhaps writer Bill Mantlo meant for Doom to refer to Namor's "morality," since it's Doom's treatment of Attuma's jester that Namor is taking issue with.)

With Namor now being struck--perhaps an offense that either of these men in his pride and arrogance would find unforgivable as tempers flare here--the Sub-Mariner will settle for no less than crushing Doom in his royal grip, as he would no doubt put it. Namor is also savvy enough to know the surest path to victory--separating Doom from his armor, if he can.

Doom makes a fair point here, especially when you consider that Namor is surrounded by water yet fails to take even the briefest of dips and replenish his strength. Had Namor not been hamstrung by Mantlo (and artist Herb Trimpe) in that regard, we might have seen a Sub-Mariner here that once awed even Iron Man, an opponent who was of course protected by his own suit of armor during their one-on-one battle: "It's incredible! Without armor--without weapons--his power is the equal of mine!" At the time, Namor even considered a similar strategy against the golden Avenger: "...but, truly, your power lies in your protective armor! I shall rip it from you--and then we shall see which of us is the mightier!" Such a strategy might have prevailed against Doom, or it might not have. I'd like to think that Doom is resourceful enough to have prevented it.

Fortunately for Doom, it's Namor's rage that makes it possible for Doom to have some distance between them and possibly regain the momentum, though he might need a few aspirin as a result.

Namor seems to unquestionably be doing well enough against his foe, even neglecting his contact with water--and tossing his enemy away like so much trash no doubt scores a few humiliation points against a man like Doom. But despite the horrendous impact Doom makes with the Navy vessel he collides with, Namor's maneuver doesn't yet signal an end to this battle. Today, that honor belongs to Doom--at least in part.

With Namor's admission, we'd have to call this battle a draw, though it seems Doom believes otherwise. But what a confusing turn of events. It really makes no sense for Namor to withdraw and declare the battle "useless" to continue, since he was enraged enough to vow to crush Doom then and there. Why wait until a time when Doom is "unprepared"? Does Namor seem like the type to call off a battle only to bide his time and sneak up on his foe?

Namor is of course wrong in thinking that he'll no longer be entangled in Doom's plots, which will become apparent when Doom sabotages Namor's life-giving costume in order to secure his subservience. And while it's almost certain that they won't be considering joining forces to conquer the world anytime soon, there's still plenty of enmity between them to see this series through the bulk of its run.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Gotta keep 'em separated!'
See, there was this song years ago that...oh, never mind.
I remember picking up this back issue decades ago and wondering what the gosh-darn point of all this smackin' each other around and indignant yelling was. You're right, C.F., the Namor-Iron Man clash was a lot better.