Dish Of The Week 3/11/20: Sub-Mariner – Marvels Snapshots #1

Each week I highlight the ultimate Comfort Food Comic release. This is the comic that gets me the most hyped. The comic I’ll remember and revisit the most. The one that gave me that special feeling above all the other releases that new comic book day.

The Dish Of The Week for 3/11/20 is Sub-Mariner – Marvels Snapshots #1 by Alan Brennert, Jerry Ordway, Espen Grundetjern & VC’s Travis Lanham

When Marvel announced a series of one shots celebrating all of Marvel’s characters and histories with creative teams curated by Kurt Busiek I immediately knew we’d be getting some of the greatest comics anyone could ask for. I didnt know it would be THIS GOOD though!

What an all star creative team here. Alan Brennert has basically never written a bad comic in his life writing some of the most moving and poignant Batman stories ever. Mostly a TV screenwriter and producer its always a treat when we get some comic project from him. Jerry Ordway – The Ord – should need no introduction. The man has put his definitive stamp on Superman and Captain Marvel/Shazam so much at this point its hard not to picture his renditions of them in your head when you picture those icons. He is a comic art master and as shown in this issue has not lost a single step. And the colorist! I had no idea who Espen Grundetjern was before reading this but my goodness, what an amazingly skilled colorist he is.

The comic uses old Namor supporting character Betty Dean to tell the story through and it tells a surprisingly moving, powerful tale about PTSD, World War II, and Namor himself. Brennert uses Betty’s brothers to start as an example of how the horrors of war can hurt a person’s mental state before juxtaposing them against Namor as him and Betty go on a date to an amusement park.

It’s here we get some really nice character stuff between Betty and Namor and what it must be like being in a relationship with such a unique individual. This book thrives on its Marvels line mandate in being yet another wonderful book from a human’s perspective in this crazy Marvel Universe. Seeing all of Betty’s ruminations and anxieties really makes this feel as special as Marvels was thematically and character wise. It really grounds the story and makes it stay with you. I love the “Herring. A frivolous answer to a frivolous question!” line by Namor. Always the haughty blowhard. Its also such a nice touch that Namor would always be in his swim trunks. He’s prepared for even a wading pool date.

We eventually see Namor hear amusement park game gunshots and react as if he is back in the midst of war, stunningly displayed in a chaotic suffocating red done by Grundetjern. Betty notices he too is suffering from PTSD just like her brother.

Later, real gunshots ring out as Verril Shark attacks and Namor responds. Unfortunately the Shark is wearing old Nazi armor and it sets Namor off. He attacks the Shark, wrecking the entire carnival as Betty calls in the All Winners Squad to help. When the Shark is subdued Namor intends to finish the job and murder the villain. It’s here we learn Namor was the first in Bitburg, Germany. First to see the ovens, the mass graves, the atrocities of the Holocaust and how it has stuck with him and severely altered his mental state.

“No. It will never be all right.” muttered by a crying Namor is so powerful and so simply emblematic of what those affected by trauma feel. All of this is done in such a gut punching, serious, horrible fashion, you as the reader cant help but feel it all too. You, along with Betty start to learn, to empathize with Namor and her brothers and all the rest of those feeling the same way. It’s also a perfect blend of art and dialogue. No inner monologues or bloated word balloons here. The striking horrendous artwork speaks for itself.

The issue then ends with Betty able to sympathize more with her brother and the positive message of being there for people and encouraging talking and mental health help. I think its all extremely emotional,real, troubling stuff done through a lens of everyone’s favorite fishman dick and somehow it isnt corny or depressing. It delivers all you could want in old school super hero action but also gives you that deep good human level stuff. So its the perfect Marvels style comic.

Ordway’s art in this issue is so clean and so damn good. I wish the man was on a monthly book like this. The art in here is as close as you could get to saying perfect comic art. The Ordster is on another level. The coloring also just amazingly shines. There is some shading and gradient to it to resemble an old time comic but this is the comic I will keep pointing people to to say that flat colors belong in more comics. We’ve had such a trend in the 2000’s to remaster and recolor comics to look more realistic or really use every tool we have now and I often think its the absolute wrong move. The flat color style used in this issue by Espen Grundetjern is so impressive to me. I mean it when I say this is one of the all time best coloring jobs I have ever ever seen on a comic book. The bright flat style just makes everything pop so well. The coloring helps in literally every panel to make the art something elite. I really, really love it and wish more comics would look this way. It’s rare you get a single comic where the writing AND art AND coloring are all some of the best youve ever seen in this industry. Its SHOCKING. Thats how good this book is. You could give this to anyone to learn from how to dilaogue, draw, or color a comic to the best of your abilities. Its a literal masterclass.

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