Second Union

Second Union


Writer: Stan Lee
Penciller: Jack Kirby
Inker: Sol Brodsky
“The Coming of…Submariner” 
February 8, 1962

Author’s note: When I started writing this series of pieces for Second Union, I was hoping to discuss the issues in real-time as they were released back in 1961. But life had other plans for me. Now, with some free time on my hands, I plan on catching up, so be prepared for some releases over the next week or so as I get back into the swing of things and play catch-up.

When last we left the Fantastic Four, the family dynamic was in danger as hothead Johnny Storm left the group after one argument too many with Ben Grimm. As we open the story, now some two months later in real time, Johnny is still missing and the remaining three are searching for him, Ben somewhat reluctantly.

They take their individual sections of the Fantasti-Car and search the city. We get a look into each one and how they handle their quest, including an invisible Sue somehow being able to order a soda at a fountain counter. Reed harasses bikers on the road while it’s Ben who figures out exactly where Johnny is, a garage he liked to tool around with cars in. The two have it out with Ben throwing a car through a wall before cornering Johnny. But for a moment, he is distracted as he reverts to his human form. It only lasts a moment, but it’s all Johnny needs to flame on and escape.

Johnny hides out in the Bowery section of the city where he picks up a copy of the Submariner comic and as he reads, someone points out an old man who has the strength of the legend in question. Johnny watches as he tosses aside a number of men who press him to do a trick. The old man is covered in a thick beard, but when Johnny uses his flame to burn it away, he reveals the man is the Submariner, but with no memory of who he is.

Johnny takes him to the ocean where a quick splash in the water sparks his memories. Namor returns to his undersea kingdom, only to find it destroyed. He swears revenge on humanity for what has happened and makes preparations to destroy Manhattan.

The Torch summons the other three and together they meet the creature Namor sets loose on the city, a behemoth of a whale-like creature. Reed tries to slow it down with a chemical substance and has to rescue the Torch when the whale spouts water at him. The whale slams into Manhattan island, knocking down several buildings before coming to a rest.

Ben then comes up with the idea of strapping a nuclear bomb to his back and carrying it into the mouth of the whale. He races out just as it goes off, killing the creature. But Namor plans to call more creatures with a horn he has with him, which Sue manages to snatch away. Namor grabs her as she turns visible, smitten with her beauty. He offers humanity’s lives in exchange for Sue becoming his bride.

When accepts, making it sound like she’s sacrificing herself, Namor becomes enraged at the insult to the honor he is bestowing on her. Before he can call up another creature, Johnny takes it upon himself to create a vortex by flying at super speed around Namor, scooping him up, and depositing him back in the sea. Namor loses his horn, so he cannot continue the fight. He swears he will be back one day, but the Fantastic Four stands ready.

As a story, this isn’t terrible, but it has some really hokey points that take away from the momentousness of the return of Namor. Seeing Sue have a soda in the shop while invisible is cute, but silly, but more so, Johnny having such power he is able to lift Namor and the dead whale and deposit them back into the ocean is a bit much. Why didn’t he use this ability again? It was just all a bit far-fetched and a little rushed as we were getting to the end of the story.

This one might have been better suited as a two-parter, with Sue going off with Namor and then the other three going to rescue her as the fight is taken away from the city. In any event, Namor is back and part of the modern Marvel universe. I wonder what other characters they can thaw out?

The issue has a letters page which features one missive from a female voice who is not impressed with the comic despite its success, asking what they will do for an encore. In addition, we get another pin-up page. Who tore those things out and actually pinned them on their wall?

Finally, there are blurbs along the bottom of some of the pages asking “Who is the Hulk?” and such, clearly promotional hype for the coming of the next hero in the Marvel universe, The Incredible Hulk. And so, stay tuned, True Believers, as we take a look at the first issue of the first Hulk comic.

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