What is an annual? Before the era of yearly company / universe-level crossovers, we had annuals. These were big fat issues, in this case, 72 pages, filled with epic action and excitement. The annual slowly died off through the 1990s, where they briefly themselves became the land of crossovers. They were usually big summer crossover events like Days of Future Present and other even less memorable storylines. For the purposes of Marvel, this is the first ever annual, at least one of the first annuals with largely original material, Fantastic Four Annual no. 1 from 1963!
The story opens up with three full-page panels of Namor returning to his kingdom. It is Kirby at his best, taking advantage of the extra pages an annual allows. We also get a few cool details, such as learning that Namor actually means “Avenging Son” in Atlantean. We also get a hint of the drama affiliated with Namor’s return. Warlord dude (Krang) likes the girl, the girl (Dorma) now likes Namor.
We then get a few pages of the FF being the FF. Bickering, fighting yet loving each other no matter what. With the extra pages you just get more of pretty much everything in this comic, so every fight, every conversation, you name it and it’s longer. As to the plot, the stressed out team needs a vacation, so they head to sea. They are of course attacked by a sea monster, which was of course sent by Namor.
Namor captured the team, only to quickly free them so they can go to the United Nations. The Fantastic Four tell the world leaders that Namor is king of the sea! We then get a long fairly detailed history of the Atlantean people, told by some random old scientist, that then reveals himself to be Namor. I have no idea why I guess they just wanted a dramatic reveal. If nothing else, it is dramatic.
Namor’s legions take over New York and the whole Earth. As I said, this is the 1960s equivalent of a huge universe-wide crossover, so yeah, Namor just conquered the surface world.
The FF are essentially on the run, but they’re working on a plan. Ben captures one of Namor’s soldiers so Reed can figure out a way to defeat them.
Namor eventually attacks the team, and again, we have several pages of action here. Just before the attack, Reed activates a device to de-liquify the helmets of the Atlantean soldiers.
The fight here is particularly intriguing as Reed was injured just before the fight, and despite his injuries, he battles valiantly.
Sue gets captured by Namor because she always gets captured by the villain. Poor Sue. To think, her character was progressive at the time. Dorma, the girl who’s into Namor sees that Namor is into Sue and gets angry. Women? Am I right? No, I am not. It is actually a bit of a nice twist as it was set up that Krang would be angry with Namor and revolt. However, Dorma is the jealous one, breaking the glass in order to drown Sue. Like I said, she got angry.
Thing and Namor battle into the water, however, they both stop fighting in order to save a potentially drowning Sue. Krang and Dorma resent Namor for saving a surface dweller, specifically that he used their warship to do so. The ending is as beautiful as it is tragic. Namor returns to Atlantis mocked by his people.
There is more in the comics, several pages of the best villains, which for some reason includes Miracle Man. Then we get a fun Q and A section. After that a Baxter Building breakdown and more bad guys. There is also a reprint of Spidey’s visit to the Fantastic Four from Amazing Spider-Man no. 1, but that’s a retro review for another day. Finally, we get more villains, mostly lame, however, it also includes the Hulk – who was a straight-up bad guy back then if you ask me.