Monday, July 2, 2018

Where Were YOU On the Wedding Day of the Sub-Mariner?

As Roy Thomas closed in on the end of his notable three-year run on Sub-Mariner, he set the stage for his successor(s) with two issues that were pivotal in changing Namor's course for the foreseeable future, in terms of not only his status as Prince of undersea Atlantis but also as the betrothed of the lady Dorma, a mainstay character who virtually symbolized Namor's ties to his heritage. Their wedding day, the events of which the first of these issues dedicates itself to, would be a time of celebration and, in the end, overwhelming tragedy. But it's the celebratory, festive atmosphere of the day we're meant to initially take part in--for it represents a rebirth of sorts for the people of Atlantis, who sense with this joining a turning point for themselves as well as their proud city which at long last represents the end of their wanderings and a new and rich history as one of the undersea kingdoms of the world.

Indeed, we find that even the story's splash page gives no indication of the strife its cover warns is to come.

The fine work of artist Sal Buscema, who has been with Thomas on the book for a year up to this point, speaks for itself, though on Sub-Mariner he doesn't bring to these stories more than the trappings of Atlantis which he presents virtually in the light of day--nor does he give the reader any sense that this ocean city and its population are integrated with the sea in which they thrive, something that artists such as Bill Everett, Dan Adkins, and Marie Severin made a concerted effort to convey. Yet Buscema has made his mark with the character of Namor, and this particular story would be his final issue (though he would turn in an outstanding cover for its conclusion).

As for Namor's quest in these depths we find him in, it's a fine beginning to a story which chronicles his wedding day and all involved, by having him seek out the figure who traditionally has presided over the ceremonies that join those who will one day inherit the throne--Proteus, the Preserver, who is both real and myth.

The fact that Proteus indeed keeps pace with Namor, whose strength allows him to cleave the waves swifter than any other Atlantean by far, is indeed impressive--and perhaps, as Namor believes, a good omen.

And so we proceed to touch on the lives of those who would be affected by news of Namor's wedding. It's a fine approach by Thomas, and quite interesting to make the rounds with the characters he's chosen. Yet, curiously, though he includes a tearful Diane Arliss--sister to the villain known as Tiger Shark who has developed feelings for Namor--there is no mention whatsoever of Sue Richards or, for that matter, Betty Dean, who had tearfully come to terms with the fact that her normal aging process placed her forever out of reach of "the eternally young Sub-Mariner." From what I recall, Diane's feelings for Namor were unrequited (if he ever acknowledged them at all)--an odd choice for Thomas to place above others whose involvement with him was more profound.

Appropriately, however, Thomas's next stop for his "Where were YOU...?" theme is the bride, Dorma, who has certainly looked forward to this day through many of Namor's conflicts in both Fantastic Four and in his own book, and who deserves her moment here.

There is, of course, the reaction of the world powers, many of whom have felt the ire of Namor over his long and storied history--and some who resent an olive branch from him, even on this day.

(Needless to say, Triton will probably wait to deliver his report on the delegates' response to Namor until after the wedding.)

In a twenty-page story, however, the rounds that Thomas makes in this manner must be brief--or, more accurately, they must be altered to reflect those who have a more nefarious role here. One such person is Llyra, former despotic queen of Lemuria who had been thought dead after her previous dealings with Namor. Yet her mother seeks to make that determination for herself.

While, not far from Atlantis, Namor receives two more omens to consider on this, his wedding day--one, a blessing unparalleled, while the other...? A reminder that Atlantis, like Rome, has often been besieged by barbarian hordes--and the perfect time to strike might be when its vulnerable denizens are in the midst of celebration.

That doesn't mean that Thomas can't work in his theme, even now.

And though he has his foot out the door, Buscema gives Sub-Mariner readers one heck of a bang for their 15¢.

With their enemy routed--and allowed to escape to fight another day, which wouldn't seem to be in the Atlanteans' best interests--it's finally time to be witness to the pageantry of a ceremony that will not only join Namor the First and the lady Dorma in matrimony, but also elevate them to Emperor and Empress. But even Proteus cannot possibly guess how twisted this ceremony will become, nor are the Atlanteans prepared for the shock of its final moments. Even so, they've got nothing on Namor.

Credit where credit is due:  Llyra has played her hand beautifully, returning with a vengeance to craft a scheme that has bound both Namor and Atlantis to her in a single stroke--and all accomplished within the cold, firm grip of legality. What do want to bet that even Neptune's statue has dropped its stone jaw?


Sub-Mariner #36

Script: Roy Thomas
Pencils: Sal Buscema
Inks: Berni Wrightson
Letterer: Jean Izzo


Tiboldt said...

Surely no judge in the world would not call shenanigans and grant an annulment of the marriage immediately?

Then again, this is the Marvel Universe, which once allowed Janet van Dyne to marry "Mr. Yellowjacket."

Comicsfan said...

Tiboldt, I have no doubt it's why Thomas made such a big deal about the marriage vows being sanctified by no less than Neptune, and why Proteus repeatedly hammered in the point that the bond established would be unbreakable. It's a good thing Neptune is such a stickler for details, though, as you'll discover in Part 2 of this story.