REVIEW: ‘King in Black: Namor,’ Issue #4

Reading Time: 4 minutes

King in Black: Namor #4

King In Black: Namor #4 is a tie-in to the King in Black event by Marvel Comics. Written by Kurt Busiek. The art in the present-day story is by Jonas Scharf, while the artist for the flashback is Benjamin Dewey. The colors are by Tríona Farrell, and the letterer is Joe Caramagna.

The tie-in has told the story of the Swift Tide, an elite team of Atlantean soldiers. A young Namor and Lady Dorma traveled to a city among the Chasm People with intents for them to join Atlantis. The two heroes met Attuma, a city member, and the trio helped the Swift Tide against an attack. As a reward, the teenagers were permitted to travel on a mission with the unit to recover a mysterious and ancient relic called the Unforgotten Stone. The stone was in the hands of a Russian scientist, who unleashed the eldritch power it wields as a dark cloud into the ocean. The Swift Tide entered the cloud, coming out changed into evil versions of themselves. Transformed into monsters, the Tide turned back the way they came like a murderous wave, slaughtering anyone in their wake. The young Atlanteans tried to catch up to them, to warn those ahead, but they were too late to stop them from wiping out Attuma’s people.

In this issue, the three main characters struggle with the sight before them. Attuma is enraged and distraught, blaming Atlantis for the demise of his city. He swims away from his allies, devastated. Namor and Dorma find a mortally wounded survivor who tells them where their enemies are going next. Now an uneasy alliance, the trio set off again. Because the Swift Tide have reached Atlantis…

The plot continues to be intense. The mood has consistently shifted while reading this series. There was this sense of dread for the first two issues as we knew something bad would happen. When the Unforgotten Stone was found, and the Swift Tide changed, that turned into fear and terror. The wreckage of the city now leaves the reader feeling sad and empty. But that fear comes back when the Tide’s next target is revealed.

The pacing is just right, always moving but slow enough to maintain the suspense. When the Swift Tide reaches Atlantis, King in Black: Namor #4 becomes a war movie. What happens through most of the issue aren’t huge surprises, but one shock is left until the final page.

I mentioned in my previous reviews that the star of this comic hasn’t necessarily been Namor. Instead, it has been Attuma that has drawn all the attention. This tie-in serves as an origin story for him, revealing what sent him down such a dark path. Before this, Attuma was a very two-dimensional villain. He was simply a nemesis for Namor and would occasionally appear as a one-issue foe in other comics. But Busiek provides a backstory that generates sympathy for the character. 

Atlantis exiled Attuma’s people before he was born, forcing them to rebuild elsewhere after years of hardship and suffering. Only for Atlantis’ missions to be their destruction overall. It is a tragic yet well-written origin. Within this issue, Attuma acts much more like his future self. His dislike of Namor also becomes clear, as the prince is a reminder of his suffering.

We see Namor in two points in time again. The flashback takes up most of the issue, but the present-day sequence exists as a brief prologue. In it, Namor and Andromeda are preparing for a huge battle, building up to something big. Busiek uses this scene to address a misconception some may have about the Atlantean, as he did with Attuma. Namor has often been seen as selfish, arrogant, and uncaring. But when he finds out about the deaths of his warriors, he is crestfallen and heartbroken. This shows that he adores every one of his subjects, even wishing to have taken their place when they fall.

The dialogue is fantastic. It is written in a fantastic, close to Shakespearean-style, similar to how characters like Thor and Namor speak in the present day. In fact, the story between Namor and Attuma has felt like one of the bard’s plays in general. The captions detail how the three heroes can feel the presence of the Swift Tide with poetic terror. This accompanies their arrival on Atlantis, starting a very chilling scene.

The art in both past and present has been stunning previously, and that does not change within King in Black: Namor #4. The battle, combining the underwater world with medieval armor designs and eldritch renditions of the Swift Tide, is drawn spectacularly. Both Dewey and Busiek have highlighted the differences between Namor and Attuma’s upbringing during the whole series, but that is done subtly within this issue. After showing the ruins of the city in the Chasm, there is a transition to Atlantis. This shows off the beauty and power of the crown city, still standing strong. 

Dewey, for the first time, places Attuma in his iconic costume. The story behind his signature headdress, actually a skull as a grisly souvenir of his despair, is just another small but impactful detail towards a backstory we didn’t know we needed.

Scharf’s art in the flashback is beautiful as well. Older Namor looks completely different, angular, and angry. A panel worth noting is one where he swims at superspeed away from his imperial ship. It is when he does this that he looks his most powerful.

The colors are what generates the atmosphere in this underwater world. In some fantastical environments, the reader can sometimes be overwhelmed by it. But there are times where one finds oneself forgetting that it’s taking place at the bottom of the sea. A feature that has been present around Atlantis is that the light from the surface does reach it, which Farrell captured stunningly. This means that the sun catches surfaces and makes them shine and glint. As with their overall design, each Atlantean has a slightly different skin tone. This represents another aspect of individuality that reveals how much care the book’s creators provide to every character.

The letters from Carmagna match the grandiosity of the tale. The placement of the word balloons and the size of the font adds to their dynamism. 

King in Black: Namor #4 is another epic chapter in this underwater high fantasy story. What is fantastic about the tie-in is that it doesn’t feel like a tie-in at all. Yes, the deciding factor in the plot was due to a Symbiotic item, but that could easily have been something different. Still, this is a loving flashback that truly submerges the reader into a lifestyle, an entire world. It all ends next issue, which means decisions must be made…

 

 

King in Black: Namor #4
5

TL;DR

King in Black: Namor #4 is another epic chapter in this underwater high fantasy story. What is fantastic about the tie-in is that it doesn’t feel like a tie-in at all. Yes, the deciding factor in the plot was due to a Symbiotic item, but that could easily have been something different. Still, this is a loving flashback that truly submerges the reader into a lifestyle, an entire world. It all ends next issue, which means decisions must be made…