I’ve never been a particularly big fan of the Sub-Mariner, and even less so in his capacity as a mutant, so imagine my joy when I found out that the X-Men instalment of “The List” was going to be about Namor coming to terms with his place as an X-Man. It’s fair to say that I was not particularly keen.
Perhaps it was those low expectations that made me find this comic more engaging than I thought. It certainly helps that it’s drawn by Alan Davis, who reminds us just how definitive an X-Men artist he is whenever he puts pen to paper, but it’s Fraction’s presence that helps keep the story grounded enough in continuity to work.He knows what he’s doing with the characters, so when Psylocke shows up with her new powers, or Emma and Namor’s relationship is tense, it builds perfectly on earlier groundwork.
The issue sees Namor accepting his role as both leader of the Atlanteans and a member of the X-Men, and dredges up an old piece of continuity to make a point – which it does very well. If anything prevents the story from being particularly interesting, it’s that the focus is heavily on Namor, and at this point in time, it feels too early to base an X-Men special around a character who only just joined the team and, more importantly, doesn’t really fit into the mutant-verse remit. There’s nothing of traditional X-Men themes in this story, and very little in the way of traditional X-Men characters. As a fan of specifically the X-Men, I feel a little like I’ve been cheated out of a story. Had it been called “Dark Reign – The List: Sub-Mariner” I’d be much more forgiving.
So, while this works as a Sub-Mariner story, I’m still left uncertain that it fills an important role in the Dark Reign arc. The Avengers issue contained a major Avengers development, the Daredevil issue, although less important, did at least showcase the new direction for the character – this just feels like another X-Men issue with the focus on a transitional period for Namor, but without any major turning point revealed. And particularly when placed alongside the recent X-Men specials, Exodus & The Confession, it feels decidedly unimportant in the grand scheme.
So, we’re left with the most damning of faint praise: I didn’t hate it. Unfortunately, since this was supposed to be a special, it’s hard not to argue that its failed in its mandate. A backup strip of Fraction’s earliest Marvel work is welcome, especially since I hadn’t read it before, but it doesn’t change the fact that this supposedly important comic involved little more than Osborn fighting a few X-Men, ending in a draw – and we only just read that crossover.