Wednesday, March 11, 2020

My Son... The Sub-Mariner!

Following the death of the Lady Dorma and the abdication of Namor The First and his subsequent departure from Atlantis, the grief-stricken Sub-Mariner turned to the surface world in an attempt to establish a life for himself there and explore his human heritage; yet, in failing, he discovers evidence that Capt. Leonard McKenzie, the human who long ago had wed Princess Fen, his mother, may still be alive. It would be the last course that longtime Sub-Mariner writer Roy Thomas would chart for the character before departing the book, a loose end which Gerry Conway would resolve in early 1972. In so doing, Conway would also demonstrate that he had in mind a different approach for Namor by severing Thomas's subplot of a Washington senator's campaign to secure amnesty for Namor by representing him as a champion of the environment.

The other loose end to be dealt with, of course, was the villainess Llyra, who had murdered Dorma yet escaped Namor's vengeance. And as Namor roams the streets of Boston for clues of his father's whereabouts, we find that Llyra has formed an alliance with one of Namor's oldest foes--Todd Arliss, Tiger Shark, who has his own plans for Namor.

Meanwhile, as marine biologist Walter Newell does some legwork of his own in investigating the whereabouts of McKenzie, we discover the 74-year-old captain spending the remaining years of his life in isolation in a Boston boarding house where he is looked after by a woman named Sara (presumably his landlady) and beset by memories of the loss he suffered fifty years ago. To understand the depth of that loss, we turn to a flashback narrated by Namor himself (via Thomas), in an exquisite origin sequence rendered by artist Ross Andru.

Events which Conway picks up on as we return to MacKenzie* again in late 1971, when we find his memories of that time are in the tortured form of bits and pieces which make clear that Fen's loss is something he has never healed from.

*Conway has changed the spelling of the last name, a trifling adjustment that could have been intentional or simply an oversight.

And so we finally rejoin Namor, who has crossed paths with MacKenzie without realizing it and now is lost in his own thoughts while walking the streets of Boston (seen here in scenes penciled by noted Sub-Mariner artist Marie Severin, with Jim Mooney).

What serves as the catalyst for finally drawing together the principal characters in this plot is the capture by Llyra and Tiger Shark of reporter Diane Arliss (Todd's sister), a woman hopelessly smitten with Namor and whose unwilling cooperation provides them with a powerful means by which they can bring Namor to them, and place him under their power.

A scene which at last opens the door to this saga's climax--for better or for worse.

Though if Tiger Shark and Llyra are sitting pretty, secure in the feeling that they have Namor firmly in their grasp, you couldn't prove it by Namor, who, to their shock, is having none of it.

Tiger Shark shows a surprising amount of arrogance here, considering the disadvantage he's at due to his fading abilities.  In view of the position he and his partner are in regarding MacKenzie, one might suspect he's lulling Namor into a false sense of security (perhaps in order to facilitate his restraint for the procedure which will regenerate Tiger Shark's power). But it becomes almost immediately clear that in the close quarters of Llyra's vessel, Namor has taken them both off guard here--and understandably so, given his rage.

Depending on the amount of resistance Tiger Shark offers, Llyra shouldn't have to wait too long for Namor to turn his attention to her, which she no doubt realizes would prove fatal to her in light of the enmity he holds her in regarding her role in Dorma's death. Clearly she's chosen to stand back and give Tiger Shark the room he needs to battle the Sub-Mariner unimpeded; but when the opportunity presents itself, she makes sure to provide him with the environment which might give him more of an advantage in this struggle. It turns out to be an erroneous calculation on her part; nevertheless, she's able to act so that Namor falls into their hands regardless.

(Despite appearances, we needn't be concerned to any extent with Lymondo, who shows great loyalty to Tiger Shark but is otherwise little more than additional muscle who isn't hesitant to rough up anyone who gets in the way of himself or his master. Even Mark Gruenwald likely wouldn't have bothered with bringing him out of mothballs in a future appearance.)

Afterward, while Llyra prepares to operate the equipment which will drain Namor's power once more to the form of Tiger Shark, memories are again stirred in MacKenzie--only this time, Namor's prostate form, combined with the mention of his realm, at last bring his mind out of its time-induced fog and allows him to vividly see before him what became of his all-too-brief time with the princess he wed so long ago.

With the procedure engaged and completed, the unconscious Namor is thrown into the same cell holding his father. Meanwhile, Newell, who has finally assembled the pieces of the mystery surrounding MacKenzie's abduction, prepares to act--and the nascent hero named Stingray lives again!

As Llyra is a water-breather, there's really no cause for her to be alarmed at the sinking of her ship. And while ordinarily Namor's possible escape would occupy her thoughts, she no doubt believes he remains helpless in his cell; but she'll soon discover the procedure he was subjected to wasn't as effective as she'd believed, evidence of which our friend Lymondo will experience firsthand.

But while things are looking up for both MacKenzie and Namor, this story's closing pages have paved the way for tragedy--and once again, Llyra is at the heart of it, albeit not the direct cause this time around.

In spite of Tiger Shark's bravado, out of fear of Namor's pursuit he'll take steps to go underground (or, in this case, under a waterfall) until the heat is off, though he'll end up mistaking the Hulk's presence in the area as an effort to capture him and bring him to Namor.

But neither Tiger Shark nor Llyra would have cause to worry, as the shock of his father's death has caused Namor to develop amnesia--though it's not immediately evident at this story's conclusion, in light of Conway's prosensity to script as if every word needed to be styled in the form of a Shakespeare tragedy.

Afterward, Namor would find himself susceptible to becoming an uneasy ally to Dr. Doom, as the armored ruler of Latveria secures Namor's help in purloining the Cosmic Cube from A.I.M. and M.O.D.O.K.; and when writer/artist Bill Everett takes over the book in its 50th issue, Namor finds his memory returned at the sight of Llyra, who finally meets her end in the encounter--presumably to allow Everett to have Namor shake off the last vestiges of his vengeance-ridden past and pivot to a new style for the book.

Sub-Mariner #46
(with scenes from #s 38, 44 & 45)

Script: Gerry Conway
Pencils: Gene Colan
Inks: Mike Esposito
Letterer: John Costanza (as Jon Costa)

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