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Tales to Astonish 96
"Somewhere Stands... Skull Island!"


Seaworthy STAN LEE Presents
Masterwork of Marine Magnificence!
Crown Jewels Insured By FORBUSH of the Bronx
Reviewed By STEVE CHUNG Of San Bruno

(Originally Reviewed On 11/16/01)

On the cover, it is The Plunderer who stands on Skull Island, and who is taking aim at Namor, The Avenging Son, who is emerging from the pounding surf!

In the throneroom of Atlantis, Prince Namor has decided to speak with the Atlantean leaders about war, with Lady Dorma begging him not to be rash of his hatred of the surface dwellers! Foremost on his mind, however, is her near doom at the hands of The Plunderer!

With the building of a city on the ocean floor, one which was destroyed by the self-same Plunderer, The Sub-Mariner has decided to take up arms! Lady Dorma believes her beloved is being reckless, while he sees himself as the defender of fair Atlantis against the barbarians of the surface world, and a fight which he would willingly wage to preserve all they treasure. Vashti agrees to follow Namor, but tells his king that The Plunderer should be defeated first, an idea which appeal to Namor, particularly since he knows where his foe is! Swiftly telling Dorma that he will return to the land which spawned the Atlantean race, Namor will head to The Savage Land, which is close by, and where he will find The Plunderer! Dorma regrets that she can't accompany him and hopes that Neptune will guide him! Hours later, The Sub-Mariner's strength enables him to swim at speed undreamt of by other beings, let alone maintained! Feeling the change in temperature, Namor reaches the frozen surface of the Antarctic, where penguins are his only company, and the elements have managed to outwit man's efforts to tame them! (Holy Selegue, Batman!)

Heading towards the ocean floor, Namor continues to swim, where nearby reefs serve as markers for his childhood days of playing with friends, and nearby -- The Gates of Atlantis, and beyond them, the remains of the kingdom of Atlantis. Polar serpents emerge and wrap themselves around The Sub-Mariner, who notes that they are all which remain of his ancestors' land, and even such as they may not attack The True Prince of The Realm with impunity...

Leaving the serpents behind, Namor feels the beginnings of grief, as he continues onward, and sees more of what the surface world had wrought on his homeland, with few memories to fully recall, and the imperial palace in sight... Near the structure, he approaches the burial place of his mother, Princess Fen, and a trip which he had mean to undertake, now has brought grief to the fore! Wrestling with the memory of her tragic death, Namor instead recalls happier days when he was a boy, and she encouraged him to study, for a prince must be wise, as well as valiant!

Decades passed, and he grew strong, but the time came when all of Atlantis came under attack by a series of explosions, leaving his people scattered, and himself with amnesia! When he had been reunited with his people, he learned how his mother died in those selfsame explosions, and vowed to have vengeance on those who caused her death! At this time, he had not learned the true cause of those explosions or why! With this barren landscape in his mind's eye, Namor knows that it must have been the humans who had established a colony on the Antarctic, and with no doubt, their greed and treachery stands before him like a cast gauntlet, with him time and time again having the desire to declare war on his hated enemies, only to be counciled by Dorma and Vashti. The moment he stood before his mother's grave, The Sub-Mariner vowed to harden his heart... IMPERIOUS REX!

Before he can begin to enact his vow, Namor must seek out The Plunderer, who is lurking in the Savage Land! Skull Island, which Namor once saw as a boy, now has buildings near its natural stone, and whatever scheme The Plunderer has in mind, Namor is determined that it will not succeed! Within his island fortress, The Plunderer orders the arsenal loaded for his Vibra-Cannon, and moments later, the device is adjusted, aimed at bringing the very world to its knees! As Namor approaches the island, he is set upon by a gigantic sea creature!

With its murderous jaws threatening to envelop him, The Sub-Mariner struggles to avoid them, while The Plunderer watches the fight, tipped off by his alarm system, and is surprised to see that Namor is about to counterattack! Determined to stop the saurians path, he uses a prow to jam it between its jaws, but it serves only to anger the sea creature, who snaps it in two, and Namor begins to swim away...

As the beast charges, Namor nimbly steps aside, and the stunned saurian submerges its head within the muddy sea bed! Unbeknownst to Namor, Lady Dorma has been following his trail, and now is in sight of Skull Island, where she sees him break the surface!

As she watches, Namor is struck by the electron blaster, which scores a direct hit, and she, too is knocked senseless by the device! The Plunderer intends to haul them in, but Namor rises from the waves, and leaps for him!

Gripping an iron bar, The Plunderer seeks to keep Namor from him, but The Sub-Mariner's brute strength is able to bend it in two, with The Plunderer growing desperate! He tells Namor that Dorma was also struck by the ray and sank from sight. No sooner has he mouthed these words that he is knocked senseless by a left to the jaw by Namor!

Before the unconscious crook has a chance to hit the ground, Namor dives in for Dorma, then sees her recovering from the stunning blast! Seeing his plans jeopardized, he orders her to leave, and she wonders if he wills it for her safety or because she has angered him? On the surface, The Plunderer has been revived by his henchmen, who wait for Namor to resurface, and for him to be blasted by the Vibra-Ray!

The hired thugs fish him out of the water, with The Plunderer making plans, and hours later in Atlantis, Lady Dorma and Lord Vashti consult The Tracio-Scope to locate Namor, and see both he and The Plunderer in a seemingly peaceful setting, but unfortunately, the image is blurred, preventing them from reading lips! While Lady Dorma fears that their prince will side with The Plunderer and strike against the surface world, she is unaware that in fact, The Sub-Mariner is being held motionless in energy bands, while The Plunderer is confident that neither the surface world or Atlantis will stand in his way!

I wonder if Raymond Marais was an nom de plume or the author's real name?

Bill Everett's Sub-Mariner certainly shines, head and shoulders above the rest.

Was The Ghost Who Walks on vacation when The Plunderer took over his summerplace?

It would be revealed later that the villain known as Destiny and his helmet of power (which was really a disguised Serpent Crown) were responsible for the destruction of Atlantis and for Namor's amnesia.

Steve Chung
"Somewhere Stands... The Review!"