REVIEW: ‘King in Black: Namor,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 4 minutes

King in Black Namor #1 - But Why Tho?King in Black: Namor #1 is a comic published by Marvel. Written by Kurt Busiek. Art by Benjamin Dewey. Colours by Tríona Farrell. Letters by Joe Caramagna. The art for the present-day sequence is by Jonas Scharf. The comic is part of the Venom-centred event King in Black. 

The issue begins with Namor in the present day, venturing deep into the lowest parts of the ocean. As he dives, we are taken into a flashback for the majority of the issue. The story features a teenage Namor, at that point just the crown prince of Atlantis. Namor and a delegation of Atlanteans have traveled to the home of a tribe called Chasm people, protected by the powerful Swift Tide. The group has traveled to the city to sign a treaty, accepting this group to become part of the imperial realms. Several other tribes and units from the undersea kingdom have gathered for a huge celebration of the visit. But when the city falls under attack, Namor must work with these new allies to protect the Imperial City.

The plot is different in its structure, as the present-day sequence doesn’t progress very far. Most of the story is spent in the past. The story itself is building up this mysterious tribe that has been hidden for so long. The tone is positive within the flashback as it creates this history of not just characters, but kingdoms as well. It has been a long time since readers have seen the underwater kingdoms like this, filled with life and excitement. But the ending is a worry, as it hints at something much darker on the horizon.

As much as the focus of the story is on the Swift Tide, it is fascinating to see Busiek’s young Namor. This is a character that has an eight-decade history, but very rarely have we seen him as a child. The adult Namor is a brooding, insanely flirtatious king; arrogant yet noble. As a leader of a people that have been through devastation after devastation, his innocence has gone. But as a boy, he still has this excitement and youthfulness. He looks up in awe at the soldiers of this elite force he has visited, and there is this curiosity towards his new surroundings.

But there are still the roots of his personality that will later blossom. The first time the readers see him, he is spying on one of the female warriors training. Generations later, this becomes an obsession with women, whereas in this instance he seemed starstruck by the warrior. 

There are other classic characters of the Sub-Mariner’s past and present that appear within King In Black: Namor #1. Lady Dorma is by his side for most of the flashback. During this issue, she is a teasing friend to the Prince, before she later becomes his doomed lover. Krang is there as his advisor and trusted confidant, not a dangerous enemy. And a bitter rivalry is started when Namor meets Attuma for the first time. This will later culminate in Attuma becoming the greatest nemesis of the Atlantean. Featuring these characters gives greater importance to the comic, as there is character development featured that may prove important for stories that come before and after this one.

The art in both time periods is fantastic, again showing how much Namor has evolved over the years. Scharf brings a rough style to the adult version, presenting an angular, saddened figure. The fury that we know he is capable of looks like it’s a microsecond away from exploding out of the clenched jaw. He is a battle-hardened warrior at this point. This is heavily contrasted by how Dewey designs his younger self. This version is still growing, with more rounded features. He hasn’t grown into his body yet. His pointed ears looking much bigger on his head than they do now. This design is fun to see, showcasing this adolescent version of a character the reader thought they knew so well. This is the case for Attuma and Lady Dorma as well, as they both look hugely different from their adult designs.

The colours of the city and citizens are gorgeous. It fills the fantastically drawn buildings with vibrant energy, enforcing the idea that this is such a positive memory for Namor. Dewey and Farrell work in tandem to make this underwater city look like a lush paradise. One detail that is subtle but greatly appreciated is the sun from the surface leaving traces of light on the skin of the people on the sea bed. It is faint but is hugely influential towards building the world.

The letters by Caramagna really suit the comic. When characters are excited, certain words are made larger, which conveys that joy over to the reader.

King in Black: Namor #1 is a great tie-in comic because it doesn’t feel like one. Whilst the Swift Tide is a part of the event as a whole, it is seamlessly connected to the underwater universe that Namor occupies. It may not be incredibly interesting to readers that have latched on because they want to complete the crossover reading list, but hardcore Marvel fans will enjoy the insight into the life of one of the publisher’s oldest characters. While this issue was fun and light, it is clear that something darker is around the corner.

King in Black: Namor #1 is available where comics are sold.

King in Black: Namor #1
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TL;DR

King in Black: Namor #1 is a great tie-in comic because it doesn’t feel like one. Whilst the Swift Tide is a part of the event as a whole, it is seamlessly connected to the underwater universe that Namor occupies. It may not be incredibly interesting to readers that have latched on because they want to complete the crossover reading list, but hardcore Marvel fans will enjoy the insight into the life of one of the publisher’s oldest characters. While this issue was fun and light, it is clear that something darker is around the corner.