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Namor: The First Mutant Annual #1

Posted: Friday, May 20, 2011
By: Shawn Hill

James Asmus
Max Fiumara, Normal Lee (i)
Marvel
This is the finale of an oddly entertaining crossover between three annuals, the first two of which were Uncanny X-Men and Steve Rogers: Super Soldier. Weird, right? They've all had the same writer, but the art has varied greatly in what looks like a series of tryout sessions for new talent. While the story has been sustained and consistent, this issue is the worst-looking of the three, thus dragging down the bullet score somewhat.

Why shouldn't Captain America, Namor and the X-Men all hang out together? Especially if they all end up in the Negative Zone with Blastaar breathing down their necks? Asmus makes sure all the characters explain (but in dialogue, so it's subtle) their feelings for each other and reasons for being there, which boil down to some quite reasonable reactions. Hope is annoyed at Cyclops' attempts to boss her around, but he's just trying to protect her, and he's one of the X-Men who Steve most respects -- and you know it's due to his level head for battle, without anyone having to say it. Namor and Steve, of course, go way back, and since the sea king is hanging out on Utopia these days with the X-Men it makes sense that there's a mutant-Invaders-Avengers bridge of sorts being formed.

It would all work out much better if Namor hadn't gone insane from lack of water in the Negative Zone. "Somehow he's losing his mind a lot faster than his strength!" cries someone in winking mumbo-jumbo babble.

Ibraim Roberson's work on Part 2 was more polished and painterly than Nicholas Bradshaw's on Part 1, which was cartoony in an Art Adams sense of consistently exaggerated features and poses and detailed, hard-edged inking. Fiumara's expressionism is like let's see Kevin Nowlan on a bender? That horrible art from Dead Space: Extraction when you couldn't ever see what was happening or who it was happening to? Like Aeon Flux, all elongated lizard people or evil elves? Jae Lee on a bad day?

Given that disappointment, Cap comes off best of our cast, and the rest are admittedly at least discernable. After Namor injures Hope, there's a scene where Cap cradles her between his broad shoulders that shows exactly who Steve Rogers is supposed to be ("Ugh, you really are a boy sco--" snarks Dr. Nemesis). He also promises an ever-protective Scott to treat her "as if she's one of mine." Which kind of says a lot, as she both is and isn't. There's a sequence between Steve and Hope where Asmus comments on the mutability of her ambiguous powers that is only slightly satirical, even as Steve praises her and suggests a long-off future with the Avengers.

Such telling and other very funny lines are to be found throughout the script; in fact, Dr. Nemesis gets to be the resident cynic laughing off the aliens and monsters with only dart guns and hidden tech devices as his defense. Asmus also captures Emma perfectly in only a few words at the denouement, when she reacts to Scott's return as only she would (and as Scott has learned to love). However, she and everyone else back at Utopia Infirmary look like someone is stretching the film mercilessly from frame to frame, undercutting the intended sentiment.



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