I’m not the kind of person who says, “Underwater character? Sales failure!” I think characters like Namor and Aquaman have a huge potential for a good series, especially when you consider how much of the planet is underwater and unexplored. And Namor, like Aquaman, has certainly had good comics in the past.
Stuart Moore’s stab at Namor with “Namor: The First Mutant” seems to almost get that idea, only to then swerve off wildly to the side, and that’s a shame. The first hint is in this new series’ subtitle, “The First Mutant.” Sure, Namor is now a member of the X-Men (who isn’t these days?) but it’s hardly a membership that I think is going to bring in the big numbers, especially once the “Curse of the Mutants” crossover with “X-Men” comes to a close. But sure enough, the book is guest-starring the White Queen and Loa from the X-Men, and in general Namor’s relationship with the X-Men and the surface world is being shown as problematic with the other Atlanteans.
I’ve come to the grim conclusion that any and all comics starring Namor will have him at odds with Atlantis; perhaps it’s a previously unknown mutant power of his to have them perpetually pissed off when he’s around. (Quite frankly it’s slightly boring after all these years, but there we go.) But does it have to be the same arguments over and over again? And that’s not even including the fact that the X-Men guest-stars feel ridiculously shoehorned into the comic. Not only is their presence mostly unnecessary, but it seems to serve only to deliver a piece of information for Namor to mull over that is so obvious it makes you wonder why none of the Atlanteans figured it out first. It makes the water-breathing characters in this book come across as stupid (especially requiring someone as C-List as Loa to figure it out for them); why not let an actual member of the book’s supporting cast step up to the plate and puzzle it out first?
Then again, this entire book is beset by Atlanteans not being able to figure things out. Namor himself has to get interrupted rather than decide how to deal with rudeness directed at himself, and the race in general comes across as befuddled. There are a few sparks of goodness here and there; Ariel Olivetti draws some creepy monsters, and I like the idea of the eyeless villain that Moore came up with. But in general, this book doesn’t work. Olivetti’s art is remarkably bright and shiny for a comic set entirely underwater, and some of the poses come across a bit too stiff and fake.
Maybe once “Curse of the Mutants” is over, Moore and Olivetti will surprise us and break out into something a bit more interesting. Right now, though, this feels like another failed “Namor” comic just waiting to happen.