Bill Everett’s Final Run on Sub-Mariner Collected in Masterworks Volume 7
This review is from: Marvel Masterworks: Sub-Mariner Volume 7
Bill Everett created Marvel’s first hero in 1939. Namor’s first adventure for Marvel appeared in Marvel Comics #1.
This volume contains the fifth and last run by the series creator. He launched the title in the pre-war years, before being drafted into the Armed Forces in February of 1942. His inventory was used for several months after he entered training, publishing eight more stories through summer of 1942. Bill penciled, inked, and wrote all the stories in Marvel Mystery Comics, while also lettering many of them. He created imaginative logotypes for Sub-Mariner on the splash pages each issue. He also did further tales of Namor in The Human Torch Quarterly, Sub-Mariner Comics, and All-Winners totalling nearly 60 stories, including comic’s first crossover story with The Human Torch in Torch’s quarterly title.
After the war, he returned to pencil Namor again, now joined by Namora. This run resulted in 17 more stories about the two aquatic avengers until super-heroes had run their course at Marvel/Timely. A few years later, Bill revisited his character when Marvel/Atlas decided to give super-heroes another shot in late 1953, shortly after the Korean War armistice. In Young Men, Men’s Adventures, The Human Torch and, of course, Sub-Mariner, Bill penciled, inked and wrote nearly 50 new stories on Namor (and a few with Namora).
In the 60s, he returned to pencil and ink 8 more stories while inking three additional stories. Between the five runs, Everett drew nearly 130 stories of Namor. Many of these he also wrote. That’s in addition to the other heroes (Fin, Marvel Boy and Venus), as well as the hundreds of horror, sci-fi, romance, westerns, and joke comics that he did.
Extras in this volume include a great introduction by Namor’s #1 superfan, Roy Thomas, the memoriam from Sub-Mariner #65, a beautiful pen-and-ink drawn & watercolored Namor by Bill Everett dedicated to his son, a sketch of an aged Namor that’s dedication to his son, a pin-up of Venus published in Marvel Spotlight #2 by Bill Everett, and four pages of Bill Everett original art plus the original art of cover #58 by Gil Kane and Bill Everett. Marvel also included Bill Everett’s four pages from #61 and the cover. The issue will be reproduced in its entirety in the next Sub-Mariner volume.
After an overly serious run in last Masterworks volume, this volume takes a more lighthearted approach, aided by the return of Bill Everett, Betty Dean and the introduction of his younger cousin, Namorita. Golden Age nemesis Byrrah returns as does the foe created by Roy Thomas, Llyra. Add in a flashback sequence of Namora, the Badoon, Crab creatures, Sunfire, the Dragon Lord, the Snow King, Venus, Ares, and Tamara for an action-packed run. The art changes when Bill Everett’s health starts to fail and other artists pitch in to help: full art by Alan Weiss on a backup story in #54, a great Dan Adkins fill-in on #56, Sam Kweskin with layouts on 58-60, and finished art by John Tartaglione on 59, Jim Mooney on #60.
Issue #56 by Mike Friedrich and Dan Atkins was a moody, socially relevant story with standout art. As much as I loved seeing Bill Everett return to his character, this issue is probably the highlight.
I also really enjoyed the Venus/Ares story as well as Everett’s take on Sunfire and Llyra.
The Steve Gerber tales weren’t up to his usual effort. The Thor story was especially disappointing, though Namor held his own. Thor wasn’t drawn or written well. Tamara was an interesting character that didn’t get developed enough.
That said, this volume was well worth it. Marvel did a beautiful job restoring and printing all of Bill’s delicate brushwork. If only he could’ve been on board when the Marvel Age was launched. His work throughout the 50s was especially beautiful.
I would love Marvel to straighten out the movie rights to Namor. He’s the original underwater monarch, debuting two years before Aquaman. Aquaman was always quite inferior to the very unique Avenging Son, first mutant in comics and first hero to fly.
Nearly as much as I’d like to see a movie, I’d like Marvel to relaunch a Sub-Mariner title and then publish a Vibranium edition of his greatest works. Imagine seeing Bill Everett’s various runs in the prestige format. Gene Colan, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Wally Wood, Jack Kirby, and John Byrne would be a bonus.