Namor the Sub-Mariner Best Comics
Updated: May 29, 2021
Namor the Sub-Mariner. The King of Atlantis and one of the strongest characters in the Marvel Universe with near invincible strength, the power of flight, and the ability to command all sea-life. You might think this character is a ripoff of Aquaman but in fact Namor came first, created in 1939. He actually is one of the oldest Marvel characters around, first published in the very first official Marvel comic. Stan Lee resurrected him from the Golden Age of comics (1940s-50s) to bring into the New Age in Fantastic Four as a foe to the heroes. Namor always stands apart from other heroes for the simple fact that he is not a hero. He is at best an anti-hero. His people will always come first and the surface will always be his enemy, no matter how many times he tries to make peace. The no killing rule that affects most of the other heroes doesn't apply to him either. He will use any methods he can to end a threat and yet still has honor, treating all foes with some degree of respect. That's what made him so popular, the fact that he was a different kind of hero than readers were used to. After appearing in Fantastic Four and Avengers as well as other comics, he eventually got his own series first helmed by Stan Lee and then later Roy Thomas, establishing the complexities of a king doing his best for his people while also trying to protect others. Namor is one of the more fascinating characters of this era. Here are some of his best comics from the Silver Age of comics:
9. Sub-Mariner Vol 1. 4: Who Strikes for Atlantis?
After Atlantis was destroyed, the Atlanteans are nomads of the sea and are all taken captive by Namor's enemy Attuma and his barbarian horde. Attuma goads Namor into fighting him in single combat, but when the horde sees their leader using an electronically charged suit to best Namor, they begin to question their leader. This is simply one of Namor's best action packed stories that also shines a light on what makes a good leader and why their people would follow him.
8. Tales of Suspense Vol 1. 80, Tales to Astonish Vol 1. 82: The Power of Iron Man
As previously mentioned in my Iron Man list, this is the duel between Iron Man and Namor, starting with Iron Man on low power and doing his best to evade Namor before coming back stronger in one hell of an brawl as the two titans go all out in trying to take the other out. This was one of the first crossover stories between comics in Marvel and it paved the way for many others.
7. Tales to Astonish Vol 1. 86-87: Moment of Truth
After tracking down his enemy, the Warlord Krang, and his love, the lady Dorma, across the ocean and New York City, Namor finally confronts him. Only problem, Krang has unleashed a tidal wave on the city and the army has mobilized, thinking Namor is responsible. Now Namor must fight through the entire military force to get to his enemy and love. And after all that, Namor confronts Krang in one last duel to prove who is strongest. Krang is a master armsman with an arsenal of specialized weapons but Namor only needs his fists. This two part story is just one epic smackdown after another. Sure, the writing falters every now and then and the ending is a little rushed, but it still holds up as a thrilling tale.
6. Sub-Mariner Vol 1. 5-6: Tiger Shark
Introducing one of Namor's greatest enemies, the Tiger Shark. When Todd Arliss, former champion swimmer, is in a tragic accident, he signs up for a radical experiment that transforms him into this hybrid monster. And after meeting Namor, he realizes there's more out there and swiftly takes the Atlantean throne. Thus, Namor must fight this new monstrosity and win back his throne. The story would be a simple smackdown if not for the sorrow as well as Diane Arliss, Todd's sister, is roped in for all of it and only wants to save her brother and must soon confront the fact that he is beyond saving.
5. Sub-Mariner Vol 1. 9-13: Saga of the Serpent Crown
The Serpent Crown, a powerful item that grants its user telepathic abilties but also can cause them to go insane as the power of the criwn has a will of its own. This story introduces Lemuria, the Pacific version of Atlantis, and their mad king Naga who seeks the Serpent Crown for eternal power. One of Namor's more vicious battles as he trails the Lemurian warrior Karthon across the Atlantic and through the Panama Canal, fighting all the way to reclaim the crown and destroy it, all leading up to a showdown with the vicious and insane Naga who warps Namor's mind around til he doesn't know what he's fighting. Action, intrigue, and tragedy are all compacted into this story as Roy Thomas has Namor face one of his greatest battles ever.
4. Sub-Mariner Vol 1. 23-24: The Coming of Orka
These two issues show Namor in one of his greatest battles as he faces off against not one, not two, not even three, but four enemies that all converge on Atlantis. Warlord Krang and Dr. Dorcas team-up and create Orka, an Atlantean with the power of killer whales who manages to beat Namor, wrapping him in chains. Then, they begin an onslaught on Atlantis, forcing Dorma to turn to Tiger Shark to save them, leading to an action-packed issue ending with Tiger Shark and Orka dueling to the death. For me, any story that has two villains fighting each other like this automatically makes it great.
3. Sub-Mariner Vol 1. 19-21: Stranded on the Surface
After a devastating accident, Namor finds he can no longer breathe underwater and is locked out of his kingdom. If that wasn't enough, he's still considered an enemy of humanity and is constantly hunted. These three issues are not stop thrills and suspense as Namor must go up against old friends, seek sanctuary with Doctor Doom, and must try to stop an invasion of Atlantean forces and monsters. Roy Thomas spares no punches in this story as Namor is brought lower and lower, doing his best to stay alive and out of the authorities' hands while also trying to do some good. The only problem I have with it as that it ends too soon. I would have liked to have seen more. But what I got was still amazing.
2. Tales to Astonish Vol 1. 70-76: Quest for the Trident
Namor's first comic line in decades and Stan Lee comes out swinging. After Warlord Krang takes over Atlantis, Namor must prove himself by finding the lost trident of Neptune to prove his claim as king. Adventure after adventure, threat after threat, Namor faces it all while Krang struggles to hold the kingdom together against a rebel uprising and Dorma tries to help Namor as best she can. I think 2018's Aquaman may have stolen some ideas from here as it is remarkably similar, even with Marvel's version of the Trench (though the Trench came much later, so really they're DC's version of these guys). Stan Lee goes all out for the first story arc, setting a high bar for what came next which sadly couldn't be met until Roy Thomas came along.
1. Sub-Mariner Vol 1. 36-37: The Way to Dusty Death
Everyone always talks about Gwen Stacy's death as one of the biggest things as it was unheard of that such an important character and love interest would be killed off. Thing was, she was second in that. In this story, on the wedding of Namor and Dorma, the bride is sadly killed. After being tricked by his old foe Llyra, Namor battles his archenemy Attuma and traitors in his own kingdom, desperate to find Dorma before it's too late. Unfortunately, it is as he arrives seconds before she breathes her last, able to tell him she loves him one last time. One of the saddest comic stories written in this era and a gamechanging moment as Namor renounces his heritage after this, leaving Atlantis. And unlike many other characters, Dorma has never been brought back. She's still dead after all these years. I think Gerry Conway, the writer following this, took inspiration from this story to make the choice to kill off Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man.
And that's the Sub-Mariner. He had a few good stories after Thomas and there were others I didn't mention that are still worth reading. Unfortunately, Namor sank in popularity after this with fewer and fewer ongoing titles. Let's hope that changes as he is truly a great character. Next up: Daredevil.