“Captain America and Namor” #635.1 is the sort of average superhero comic read as a kid because it’s around, but although a few moments stuck, it’s mostly forgettable. It wasn’t terrible enough to throw away, but it wasn’t the sort of favorite carried into adulthood. The book isn’t quite good and it isn’t quite bad — it simply is.
It has to be noted that it’s galactically impressive that Marvel made a Point One issue on a title that doesn’t actually exist (it was “Captain America and Iron Man a few weeks ago and will change its name again very soon) and has such a high number because it leeched the numbering system from another title. If anyone ever wishes to pinpoint the moment Marvel numbering imploded into a Cronenbergian mess, then this issue is the beginning of the very end.
This jumping on point starts a story from 1942 with Cap and Namor teaming up to battle some scientifically nasty Nazi team up to no good. Cap is heroic as he dives from a plane and Namor is bullish as he uses brute strength to smash things by flying at them in only his skimpy swimming underroos. Both men are strong for different reasons, and each uses their powerful abilities in varying ways for various reasons. Cap looks to inspire others while Namor looks only to please himself or the pride of his people, which is often only an extension of his own pride. Cullen Bunn does a fine job showing these differences in the two men both through their actions and words.
There is some fine action in this issue as Namor flies right through a plane and then takes down an Atlantean patchwork monster charged up by the Nazis with a special helmet and ready to get destructive. On this level, the issue works fine. When it uses some fractured time structuring to build a bit of tension things kind of fall apart. By the end, Namor’s pride causes him to do two very stupid things. While this is bad enough, readers must further endure Cap standing by through it all and not really caring whatsoever. Namor has his hands on a helmet that could help end the war three years early and when he ensures that won’t happen — purely for matters of pride — Cap doesn’t budge an inch. It’s slightly understandable to see why Cap would allow it — he is a gentleman and no doubt understands honor — but why both men then allow this pithy show of masculine stupidity to yield a second chance for the enemy of this issue is beyond belief. As a result, the issue never really gets off the ground.
Will Conrad comes from the school of overly crosshatching things and so his pages come across like Mike Deodato lite. There aren’t major technical flaws in Conrad’s art, people look mostly consistent and his layouts allow for action to flow on the page, but the life is stilted by the glossy sheen of the entire world and the people created in it. If nothing else, Conrad certainly does draw a hell of a set of quads on Namor.
“Captain America and Namor” #635.1 is a jumping on point that will quickly allow the reader to also jump off. When dipping back into a title, readers want to see something new, but this book seems to only accomplish exactly what came before it. It’s such a shame that two great characters are used to merely fight a foe, play to their cliches and then wait to repeat the cycle. That’s not what comics needs either now or in the future.