Sunday, November 8, 2009

I Need More Zip-a-tone!


February 1990

I've got a few minutes this afternoon, so how about another review? You down with that?

Right after High School, I was big into John Byrne. It was a good time to be into John Byrne, too. He had produced Omac for the DC, West Coast Avengers, She-Hulk, Next Men and of course, Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Of course he didn't do them in that order, but those are the comics that he worked on in the late 1980s and early 1990s that just seemed to be Byrne flexing his artistic muscles. I got rid of a lot of my mainstream comics a long time ago, but just cruising bargain boxes has gotten me replacement copies of a few that I really remember fondly.

This particular comic was stashed away in an office paper box, since it's not really among my prized possessions, comic-wise. I have to admit that nostalgia is the main reason that I own this, so a lot of this review will hinge on that perspective.

As always, Spoilers abound from here. That means I'll tell you exactly what happened.


In 1961, German agents, including a scientist stash away a project before the Russians seal them into the city of East Berlin. While escaping the scientist is shot, and the two agents violently get him past the US checkpoint in an effort to get him help.

Namor wakes up in a puddle of sludge on top of a skyscraper, after flying a viral agent into the heart of a Sewage based creature inadvertantly created by scientists that was threatening New York. In attempting to fly down, he finds that his ankle wings have vanished and only his strength and skill save him. Namorita escapes from a pod she'd been placed in inside the creature, and she proceeds to rescue other captives as Namor walks up. One of the scientists to survive tells that the creature was an attempt to escape funding cuts, and Namor and the authorities were misled by the creator, now killed by her creation. Phoebe Marrs then runs up and begs Namor to help her brother, who struck a horrible deal with the corporate raider known as Headhunter. he rides off with her, and seems to be falling prey to her charms.
Meanwhile, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing are shocked to see the return of Banny Rand, aka Iron Fist, who they believe to be dead. Namorita is being brought uiup to speed by Namor's allies, Caleb and Carrie Alexander, as Carrie confesses her love for Namor, which does not appear to be returned, as Namor looks to be enthralled by Phoebe Marrs.

Namor and Marrs arrive at Headhunter's offices and we learn that her agreements with businessmen come at a high price as she reveals her collection of their mounted heads on her wall!


The story flows by a series of coincidences, someone walks up, someone runs up, and everything happens in the course of an afternoon. There's not really a reason for this, as time could have passed before Marrs approached Namor, with no ill effect to the story. Namor's personality is very stoic and pompous, which is the biggest trouble in centering a book on him. Byrne did seem to make it work, but Namor's thought balloons should reveal more of the trouble in dealing with his loss of flight.

The largest attribute to the art that's noticeable is the zip-a-tone. Byrne used this on Omac and after leaving Namor, on She-Hulk. He uses it for shading and the colorist Glynis Oliver adds subtle colors to accentuate them so it doesn't get terribly distracting. It's an added effect that Byrne didn't need, but took the time to add, which gives some sense at how much pride he took in his work on this book. No one can fault Byrne's anatomy or basic artistic skill. If I find fault with anything in this comic, it's in the writing.

Byrne took, in this issue, a character seen at the time as one of the more powerfuul characters in the Marvel Pantheon and gave him more limitations. At the same time, there seemed to be no pondering of the circumstances that brought about it. The dialogue seems to render the characters two-dimensional in the context of this issue. Byrne was better at writing long-term, and in an era of sub-plots, he was able to excel at that. In smaller stories, he seemed hindered.


Like many comics that I've reviewed, this issue has never been collected. Also like most of the comics that I've reviewed, it should be cheap, provided that you can find it. Don't pay more that two bucks for an issue, and if you do, pick one up, try to pick up a run of several issues. Byrne makes Namorita interesting.

FINAL RATING: 6(out of 10)

The story weakness really hurts this comic. If it was on par with the art, then we'd be looking at at least an 8. John Byrne comics of this era probably need to be read in a series rather than individually.

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