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Fondly Remembering Atlantis Attacks, the 14 Part Marvel Comic Annual Event

The Wakanda Forever trailer gave fans the first look at Namor the Sub-Mariner in the MCU. And Namor’s Mesoamerican motif seen in the trailer was an incredible design choice, even though it is a look that differs from Namor’s itty-bitty green speedo of the comics.

Make no mistake, Namor is a boorish, dastardly jackwagon in the comics, despite generous-hearted attempts to rationalize him as a misunderstood “anti-hero.” Namor will make an excellent foil in Wakanda Forever because Atlantis has a history of spiteful attacks on “surface dwellers,” frequently with, but not limited to, Wakanda.

Both Wakanda and Atlantis are hidden civilizations in the comics, and each have advanced technology and destructive militaristic capabilities. Both Wakanda and Atlantis also decided to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. Wakanda feared that their vibranium-induced technology would be abused. Atlantis feared that surface dwellers would profane their mythical city of Atlantis just as they did so many ages ago.

But let’s zoom out and focus on Atlantis beyond their long-running animosity with Wakanda and lean in instead with nostalgia toward their most infamous storyline in the comic books. I’m talking of course about Atlantis Attacks!

Atlantis Attacks was a Marvel Comics crossover storyline that ran through summer annuals published in 1989. (While there were some additional tie-in issues, they offered nothing much to the story and could be skipped.) The storyline is contained in the 14 annuals below:

  1. Silver Surfer Annual #2
  2. Iron Man Annual #10
  3. X-Men Annual #13
  4. Amazing Spider-Man Annual #23
  5. Punisher Vol. 2 Annual #2
  6. Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #9
  7. Daredevil Annual #5 (Mislabeled as Annual #4)
  8. Avengers Annual #18
  9. New Mutants Annual #5
  10. X-Factor Annual #4
  11. Web of Spider-Man Annual #5
  12. Avengers West Coast Annual #4
  13. Thor Annual #14
  14. Fantastic Four Annual #22

Now, let’s see if I can sum up the plot:

Prodded by both the Deviants and the Lemurians, Attuma and the Atlanteans are used as an invading force to conquer the surface world. The scheme involves bringing back Set, the seven-headed serpent god tied to the Serpent Crown, an artifact of unimaginable power that corrupts anyone that wears it. Eventually, when the invasion fails, an attempt is made to kidnap seven super-heroines to offer as brides to Set.

Honestly, the plot didn’t matter. The entire story was just an excuse to get Marvel’s various superheroes to come together and engage in massive battles. Sometimes it was done even to the point of comedy, like Storm’s appearance as one of the brides, even though she was supposed to be dead after the events of Fall of the Mutants, another Marvel event that occurred just prior.

Further, the 7 brides trope was Marvel’s obvious attempt to pull in their most popular female heroes in order to drive interest in the event. Comic books – and Marvel in particular – does this all the time. It’s a feature, not a bug. (When the Incredible Hulk appeared in Fantastic Four #12, it was a genius move by Stan Lee, who instinctively knew that a shared universe of characters would entertain fans.)

Atlantis Attacks began oddly enough on a surfboard in space, but the set-up worked. The opening was like catching a good wave. Then the pawns were moved onto the board by Iron Man Annual #10. Atlantis Attacks set a good hook, in other words.

Unfortunately, the story got a little bloated in the middle, like a fish in the sun. A 14-issue storyline is a lot to begin with and this is especially true when there were such a diverse array of heroes that Marvel editorial wanted involved. Street level punisher? Yeah, he’s a fan-favorite, let’s wedge him in there!

As a result, the event was bogged down by frequent recaps. The nature of an annuals-only storyline necessitated that to a point, I suppose, but it became noticeable. The backup stories were often fun as well as integral. Of particular note was the backup story that run through most volumes and told the history of the Serpent Crown.

After I used 150 words to talk “bloat” and “drift,” you might think Atlantis Attacks was a mediocre event. Not at all! It is highly entertaining and definitely worth a read, particularly in light of Namor’s appearance in Wakanda Forever.

A great place to read the entire event is via Marvel Unlimited, Marvel’s digital subscription service. But while the nice hardcover omnibus is out-of-print and pricey as a result, Marvel published a softcover collection just recently that is available here.

But the best way to read Atlantis Attacks is by collecting the original annuals. Treat yourself! Spend a lazy Saturday going comic shop to comic shop. None of the annuals will be priced at more than $3-4 bucks and it’s fun to flip through late 80s Marvel comics when they still had that Jim Shooter feel to them, even though he was already out in order to pave the way for the 90s Rob Liefeld invasion.

Collecting comic books is an incredible hobby. It might take some time, but piecing together the 14 annuals of Atlantis Attacks will be inexpensive and a great way to spend time in the comic book hobby. This is particularly true given Namor’s appearance in Wakanda Forever!

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