Namor: The First Mutant - Curse of the Mutants
By Stuart Moore, Ariel Olivetti, and Andres Guinaldo
Published By Marvel; $14.99 US
Collects Namor: The First Mutant #s 1-4
I'm always quietly excited when a new Namor project rears its head. As I said when I wrote about super-heroes I wish I like more than I do, I've always liked Namor but think most Marvel writers stubbornly refuse to tap the character's potential. Every time he gets a new series, I figure that's one more chance for someone to get it right. So when I picked up the Namor Visionaries trade at the comic shop and spotted the first collection for the new Namor: The First Mutant series, after a few minutes of inner debate about how I could spend the money on something I knew would be better and wasn't I trying to spend less money on non-essentials anyway and didn't Gary Miller say on twitter he heard it was crap, I gave in and bought Namor: The First Mutant - Curse of the Mutants.
I'm a little murky on the details because I didn't know about this event before I bought the trade, but "Curse of the Mutants" is a crossover apparently beginning with Dracula's assassination at the hands of his son Xarus. Xarus sends his hordes of vampires to attack San Francisco and the nearby Utopia, home of the X-Men. The X-Men believe the best way to stop Xarus is to resurrect Dracula so he can spank his little boy but good, so Namor makes it his quest to retrieve Dracula's head from the bottom of the ocean. Before he can do so however, he will have to face throngs of Aqueos - aquatic vampires - and a vamped out character from Namor's past.
Stuart Moore's Namor is the arrogant, insufferable dick that the character's mistreatment has made him for years. In fact, the very first 3 pages of the trade have 2 purposes: exposition introducing the history of the Aqueos and displaying just what an asshole this version of Namor really is. After a shriveled, old, one-eyed atlantean woman tells Namor of the Aqueos, he gives her a how-dare-you stare after she touches his chest and barks at her for wasting his time. I find it particularly annoying not only that the interpretation of Namor as a giant prick endures, but that in the the first scene of the first issue of his new ongoing series, it's this trait that Moore chooses to highlight as Namor's defining quality. What's worse is that Moore doesn't seem very consistent with Namor's character. I get the notion that Moore was aware of how unlikable Namor might be and so he occasionally injects some lighthearted humor that just doesn't ring true.
The story is weak and in part it's doomed before it begins. Maybe this is too broad a statement and if so feel free to call me out, but I don't remember any ongoing series beginning, from the very first issue, as part of a crossover event and enjoying any kind of enduring success. It seems to me, whether or not you make a series part of a cooperative universe or not, it needs time to breathe. It needs time to carve out its own space before it gets thrown into the world wars and the civil wars and the secret wars. Part of why I didn't care about the story in this trade is that I came into it in the middle. I didn't read any of the related X-Men stories and stupidly thought that buying the collection that begins with the first issue of the series would get me in on the ground floor.
Frankly even if the story wasn't weak and wasn't mired in Marvel's crossover insanity, the art would kill it. A character like Namor offers a unique setting that will either be a book's downfall or something than can help it stand out from the rest. Ariel Olivetti unfortunately chooses the former. The underwater kingdom of Namor: The First Mutant is a boring place. There's empty blue space and empty black space and empty blue space and on and on. And hey, maybe that's actually what the ocean would look like, particularly to non-super human eyes, but this is a comic book. If you're going to sell me an aquatic superhero, I want an ocean that excites my senses. I want an ocean just as fantastic and wondrous as Oz or Middle Earth. I get the sense that Olivetti didn't draw a single piece of landscape (waterscape?) or a single fish or any single detail that he wasn't specifically told to draw. There's nothing about this ocean world to just make me believe in it or enjoy reading a comic about it. And his action sequences come off as very stiff and unappealing. He's replaced by Andres Guinaldo in the fourth issue whose art just doesn't seem to reach a professional caliber. I can't help but wonder if, for whatever reason, the production schedule on these first issues of Namor: The First Mutant was uncharacteristically tight.
Unless you're an X-Men or Namor completist, I can't think of a single good reason to recommend this trade. It's bad, really bad, and the series won't last long.