Over the past few years we’ve heard a lot about decompressed storylines. Well, the first issue of “Sub-Mariner: The Depths” takes decompression to a whole new depth. This series is flying under the Marvel Knights banner, and seems largely disconnected from the Marvel Universe proper, which, I suppose, is part of the reason for using the MK banner.
Namor has been around nearly as long as any other comic book character, and his story threads though timelines near and far. Here we find a tale to be told somewhere in the early trimester of the twentieth century and Ribic brings the goods. The architecture is beautifully rendered and highly stylized in an art deco style. Zeppelins roll through the skies and science seeks to poke holes in myth.
All of these pieces add credence to this issue, which will almost certainly serve as the template for future decompressed tales.
That’s not to say this story is bad, far from it in fact. Milligan uses this issue to establish the antagonists and set the story in an almost Hitchcock-like manner. We feel Namor’s presence, but through the twenty-three pages of this issue, the closest we come to actually seeing Imperius Rex is a pair of appearances by a sub-surface shadow. Even Namor’s name is only dropped less than a dozen times.
I understand the storytelling and the idea behind this set-up, as it will almost assuredly make the next issue that much more exciting, but for the money paid, this issue should have offered a little payoff, an appearance, a splash-page, something, as the headliner is mysteriously absent in his own book.
That said, the characters within this issue provide insight into the nerves and excitement that would surround a mission such as the one contained within. Dr. Stein (a professional debunker) as well as Mister Ryan and Mister Nelson – deep men and the primary crew members of a submarine sent on a quest to discover or debunk the legend of Atlantis under the direction of Stein.
What becomes of these characters is not answered in this issue, but will almost certainly hinge the action in the issues to come. I look forward to some action, some adventure and a great deal of masterful artwork from Ribic. Hopefully a lot of action, featuring Namor. Ribic’s work is pretty, Milligan’s characterization is strong, but for almost four bucks an issue, I expect to be able to enjoy adventures featuring the title character. I’ll be back for the next issue, but if Namor doesn’t flash the winged ankles in that issue, I cannot guarantee that I would be back for a third issue.