Namor's Best 'Imperius Rex' Moments
Discover the true meaning of the phrase 'Imperius Rex' and catch Namor in action as he enacts his sovereign will as King of Atlantis.
For as long as Namor has ruled his undersea kingdom, two words have defined the Sub-Mariner’s reign: “Imperius Rex!” With that commanding phrase, Namor declares his royal will and sovereign power as the ruler of Atlantis during Atlantean ceremony or just before jumping into battle. Loosely translated from Latin, “Imperius Rex!” means “Empire King,” but it stands as a clear warning to anyone who dares to defy Namor’s will across the Marvel Universe.
Namor first used “Imperius Rex!” in TALES TO ASTONISH (1959) #70, where a Stan Lee, Gene Colan, and Vince Colletta story kicked off his solo adventures in the modern Marvel Universe. However, the phrase quickly evolved into a battle cry that Namor still uses today. Now, we’re taking a closer look at some of Namor’s most memorable “Imperius Rex” moments.
TALES TO ASTONISH #87
Since its debut, “Imperius Rex!” has become a rallying cry for Namor, Namora, and their fellow Atlanteans. In a Stan Lee and Adam Austin story from TALES TO ASTONISH (1959) #77, Namor says, “Imperius Rex!” for the first time after making a formal royal decree, cementing its importance in Atlantean culture.
Then, in a Stan Lee and Bill Everett story from TALES TO ASTONISH (1959) #87, Namor declares “Imperius Rex!” after defeating the warlord Krang, one of his most enduring undersea rivals, in a challenge for the throne of Atlantis. With it, Namor reconfirmed himself as the ruling “Prince of Atlantis, the Emperor of the Deep, the Lord of the Seven Seas, and the Supreme Commander of the Undersea Legions.”
Namor first appeared in Bill Everett’s MARVEL COMICS (1939) #1 story, making the Sub-Mariner one of Marvel’s very first heroes. During the World War II era, Namor teamed up with other early heroes – like Captain America, Bucky, and the original android Human Torch – to form the Invaders.
While they joined forces a few times in the comics of that era, most of the Invaders’ adventures have been chronicled through modern flashback tales, and Namor still shares a strong bond and mutual respect with his fellow Invaders today. In this moment from INVADERS (1993) #1 by Roy Thomas, Dave Hoover, and Brian Garvey, Namor shouts, “Imperius Rex!” as the Human Torch flames on and jumps into battle to stop a missile launched by the villainous team Battle Axis.
In the 1970s, Namor’s adventures highlighted the so-called “Savage” Sub-Mariner’s angst, and he even co-starred with his uneasy ally Doctor Doom in SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP (1975). After one particularly devastating nerve gas attack on Atlantis, Namor started wearing a dark suit developed by Reed Richards, as he appears on the cover of SUB-MARINER (1968) #70 by Gil Kane, Frank Giacoia, and Gaspar Saladino.
While shouting “Imperius Rex!,” Namor battled one of the Men-Fish, a group of fish transformed into monstrous humanoid creatures by undersea radiation. This issue by Marv Wolfman and George Tuska also marked the debut of the Men-Fish’s leader: the vicious Piranha.
FANTASTIC FOUR #149
After he went missing for years, Namor returned to the modern Marvel Universe in FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #4 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Ever since they rescued him, Namor has been a close associate of the Fantastic Four, and he has long harbored an unrequited love towards Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman. During a rough patch in Sue and Reed’s marriage, she found solace in Namor’s arms.
Knowing her true feelings for Reed, Namor launched a fake attack on the surface world with a cry of “Imperius Rex!” in Gerry Conway, Rich Buckler, and Joe Sinnott’s story from FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #149. After Sue witnessed the passion with which Reed and the Fantastic Four fought, she returned to her team and embraced Reed, and Namor thanked his allies for helping him reunite the couple.
While Namor later joined the Avengers and the X-Men, the Sub-Mariner was a founding member of the original Defenders. Along with Hulk, Doctor Strange, and the Silver Surfer, Namor was a core member of this offbeat group of frequently feuding heroes.
In a story by David Anthony Kraft, Keith Giffen, and Chic Stone in DEFENDERS (1972) #52, Namor and the Hulk started fighting on the streets of New York after a simple misunderstanding. As one of the few heroes strong enough to take the Hulk in a fistfight, Namor shouted, “Imperious Rex!” as he smashed his rampaging teammate into a building. The Defenders went on to have lengthy battle before the Hulk calmed down and apologized to Namor.
CIVIL WAR #7
Namor stepped into CIVIL WAR (2006) after his beloved cousin, Namorita, was killed alongside the other New Warriors in CIVIL WAR (2006) #1 by Mark Millar, Steve McNiven, and Dexter Vines. After he refused to support the subsequent Super-Human Registration Act that divided the surface world’s heroes, two of his Atlantean ambassadors were attacked on American soil. In response, Namor helped Captain America and the Anti-Registration heroes in CIVIL WAR (2006) #7 by Millar, McNiven, Vines, John Dell, and Tim Townsend.
With a cry of “Imperius Rex!,” Namor led an army of blue-skinned Atlantean warriors into a final battle against Iron Man and his Pro-Registration forces. Despite making a strong impression, Namor and his forces ultimately relented when Captain America surrendered to Iron Man.
FANTASTIC FOUR #585
While Namor may rule over the kingdom of Atlantis, it’s not the only undersea civilization in the Marvel Universe. After the Fantastic Four discovered the Lost Tribes of Atlantis, Namor agreed to peace talks with the leaders of this ancient civilization, which were to be overseen by the Invisible Woman. But in FANTASTIC FOUR (1998) #585 by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting, Namor killed the leaders of the Lost Tribes, proclaiming himself the only king under the sea with an authoritative “Imperius Rex!”
As Namor later explained, he believed that he and Sue were being led into a lethal trap based on the Lost Tribes’ ancient customs. Although Namor brought the underwater civilizations to the brink of war with that unprovoked act of violence, the Invisible Woman diffused the situation after becoming the de facto leader of the Lost Tribes and forcing Namor to agree to peaceful terms.
AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #8
During his time with the X-Men, Namor was one of the Phoenix Five, a group of mutants who were infused with a portion of the Phoenix Force’s unlimited power. After the Phoenix Five reshaped the world in their image, a corrupted Namor turned their frustrations with the Avengers into an all-out war by using his power to flood Wakanda.
After Captain America and Black Panther confronted Namor one-on-one, several Avengers attacked him in AVENGERS VS X-MEN (2012) #8 by Brian Michael Bendis, Adam Kubert, and John Dell. Namor knocked them all back with a single blast of cosmic energy and yelled, “Imperius Rex!” as the battle began. Despite his enhanced power, Namor was ultimately brought down by Thor and the Scarlet Witch.
For the past few years, Namor has spent most of his time fighting the surface world for its treatment of the oceans. Shortly before that crusade began, though, Thor encountered the Sub-Mariner while searching for an ancient weapon in THOR (2018) #1 by Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo. After Namor cried, “Imperius Rex!” in the heat of battle, Thor asked him what his signature battle cry actually means. In response, Namor told Thor that the phrase means he is about to beat him up and feed him to the biggest shark he can find.
As Namor reinforces here, the precise translation of his famous catchphrase may not be clear to all the surface-dwellers of the Marvel Universe, but it still comes across as an imposing message to anyone who tests his will or his might.
For more Atlantean adventures, don't miss NAMOR: CONQUERED SHORES (2022) #2, on sale now!
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