Fantastic Four #129-132
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #129, Fantastic Four #130, Fantastic Four #131, Fantastic Four #132
The FF return home their fight with the Mole Man, exhausted and cranky. Johnny reasonably decides that if Crystal can't live with him, he'll go live with Crystal. Reed tries to stop him but Sue intervenes. What business does Reed having trying to stop Johnny from doing anything? Sue and Reed's marriage isn't going well.
At the Great Refuge, Johnny is attacked by Inhumans and he assumes that Maximus has staged yet another revolution.
But after he is captured he finds out that the Inhumans attacked on the orders of Black Bolt. He fights his way up to Crystal, and sees... something, that makes him realize their relationship is over. We won't see what it is until Fantastic Four #131, but i suspect it's Quicksilver lounging about in his boxers in Crystal's bed, smoking a cigarette.
Update: Well, i'm adding issues #131-132 to this entry, and... i was pretty close.
We'll get back to the Inhumans in a bit.
Meanwhile, Agatha Harkness contacts Reed and Sue and asks that they come and pick up Franklin. Reed tells Sue to go get Franklin by herself; he's too busy. This obviously doesn't sit well with her. It's nice to see Thomas picking up on and examining the worst aspects of the way Lee wrote Sue and Reed.
To get away from what he calls the "Bickersons"", the Thing decides to head to Alicia's. On the way there he's ambushed by the Sand-Man, Wizard, and Paste Pot Pete. Medusa also shows up, but she's on the Thing's side. Then a new character, Thundra, shows up and beats the Thing up.
She's not a villain, but she's formed an uneasy alliance with the Frightful "Four" in order to get a chance to fight the Thing.
She talks as though she comes from a place where men are considered the "weaker sex", but we don't get any details about her origin yet.
Reed, back in his lab, is shown to be regretful of the way he's been treating everybody. Maybe if Sue had stood up to him years ago he wouldn't have evolved into such a dick. Anyway, he hears it's the elevator and hopes it's a member of the team returning, so he can apologize, but it turns out to be the Sandman, who captures Reed and knocks him out. Sue returns with Franklin, and makes an agreement with the Wizard that she can put her baby down and leave him out of the fight, which the Wizard quickly reneges on, angering Thundra. Then Franklin uses his magic to wake up the Thing.
After a big fight, Thundra decides to leave, bringing the Frightful Four with her.
Reed forgets his earlier regret and snaps at Sue for endangering Franklin. Sue quits the team and leaves Reed, taking Franklin with her.
Ok, back to the Inhumans for #131-132. We left off with Johnny finding out that Crystal has been making time with Quicksilver. It all started after she tried to get home after coming back from the far future with Diablo. On her way home, Lockjaw's teleportation powers went on the fritz, bringing Crystal first to a Communist country and then to the Sentinel base where Quicksilver was fighting with the rest of the Avengers. Quicksilver was wounded and in trouble, so Crystal was able to rescue him and bring him home.
Crystal nursed him back to health, and soon they fell in love.
Johnny and Quicksilver only fight for a couple of pages before they are interrupted by an earthquake, and soon after that, the Inhumans start to have trouble with their Alpha Primitives.
Soon it's a full-scale rebellion.
During the battle, Crystal is kidnapped by the Primitives and brought underground. The Human Torch and Quicksilver follow, and discover Omega.
Back at the Baxter Building, Medusa very cheerfully convinces Reed to pick himself up after his fight with Sue and go back with her to the Great Refuge.
She was actually sent there to bring Reed back to investigate a device that Maximus had built. It's a perpetual motion machine that doesn't seem to have any actual purpose or effect. But when Reed arrives at the Refuge with the Thing and Medusa, he inspects the device while everyone else is fighting Omega.
However, when he tries to get the Thing to destroy it, Crystal and her suitors show up to stop them.
Even though Crystal and co. won't use their words to explain what the story is, Reed eventually figures it out.
He's not forthcoming, either, but he's able to stop the big fight and give Crystal the floor.
The idea is that Maximus built a device that channeled the Inhumans' latent guilt over their enslavement of the Alpha Primitives, creating and empowering Omega. And now the Inhumans realize the errors of their ways and free their slaves (we'll learn in later issues both that not all Inhumans agree with this idea, and that the Primitives' "freedom" was the freedom to starve in their underground caverns with no support from their former owners).
There's two separate points i want to make here. The first is, as a strange, literally inhuman, society, the idea that it is morally wrong to breed mindless slaves genetically designed for that purpose does not seem inherently morally wrong. Not to the point that all the Inhumans would have latent guilt about it strong enough to power Omega. It might have been more interesting to have Crystal return from the outside world with ideas based on the civil rights movements and start applying them here. The resolution is so quick, and the question so obviously settled, that it loses a lot of its drama and fails to treat the Inhumans as a special, weird, society.
The second point is that, unless i've overlooked something, this story that frees the Primitives is also the one that really reveals that they are slaves in the first place. Possibly a stray line in an issue of Amazing Adventures confirms that they are slaves, but in their Lee/Kirby appearances they were mindless warriors used by Maximus for his misdeeds. We otherwise didn't really learn anything about them. So this story is introducing a problem in order to solve it. Which is fine. But this story shouldn't be seen as a commentary on the way the Inhumans were written in the past. It's introducing a new element here.
Moving on, after the battle, the Inhumans arrange for Medusa and the FF's costumes, torn during the fight, to get fixed up. This includes a new costume for Medusa, who, we learn, has been invited to join the team.
It's a costume that shows a lot more skin, and i don't really think it's an improvement. Also note the hand-waving "whose pollution i have apparently developed an immunity". This was a topic of much concern for Crystal in earlier issues; Reed could not find a solution. But now it's just dropped now that a contrivance to keep Johnny and Crystal separated is no longer needed.
The Torch also gets a new costume, subconsciously inspired by the original Golden Age version. Torch even speculates that his love of the original is what caused his cosmic ray mutation to manifest the way it did.
Reed's costume remains unchanged, and the Thing declines the offer to use the device. The end result is four characters without matching suits, and, of course, no Invisible Girl, all of which makes the group more like the Avengers and less like the "family" team. In response to a letter suggesting that Marvel ought to cancel the FF now that Lee and Kirby are no longer involved, it's said that the idea is to give the book "some new directions, some general over-hauling".
Crystal tells Johnny that she's decided to stay with Quicksilver, and he puts up a good front, even telling her he's got a date lined up with Dorrie Evans, but in fact he is heartbroken.
The Torch/Crystal break-up is pretty abrupt. The last we saw them together (#118) they were very lovey-dovey, and there haven't been any hints since then that Crystal's feelings for Johnny were waning.
Nathan Adler has some controversial ideas on the subject of Crystal's decision here. Some potential support for it is the fact that Lockjaw picked up Quicksilver in the first place, which you otherwise have to believe is a freak random coincidence, and this line from Medusa which could be read to imply that she's aware of Crystal's purpose.
I don't necessarily want to endorse Nathan's idea, and it certainly wasn't Thomas' intent at this time, but i think it's worth a read.
Some rough stuff in these issues. Good ideas that are very roughly thrown at us. A lot of physical fighting when it doesn't seem merited - the idea that Crystal couldn't just say "Hey, Mr. Fantastic, don't destroy that device! It'll make the situation with Omega worse! Let me explain!" is ridiculous. And then there's Roy Thomas' self-indulgent dialogue. Look above for the scan of the Inhumans where Gorgon is saying "Hey, I'm talking like you!" to Karnak. If you find yourself writing that, erase it, and write something in the character's voice instead.
Then there's this clunker"
Yeah, ya think?
That said, if you allow for the Thomas Factor, you've got the introduction of a potentially interesting new female villain, marital strife that was a long time in the coming, and some real attempts at shaking up the status quo (which was probably ill-advised, but you understand the need to get the book out of the Lee/Kirby shadow). And John Buscema's art on the FF never worked for me as well as it did on other titles, but it's still John Buscema. Ross Andru does a decent job on #131 keeping things consistent.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The FF just left Franklin with Agatha Harkness "a few short hours ago", "or back in" Fantastic Four #127, "take your pick".
Continuity Implant? N
Reprinted In: N/A
Inbound References (12): show
The relationship, and eventual marriage, between Quicksilver and Crystal is one of those monumentally bad in hindsight moments in comics. It added nothing to either of their two characters and created a whole lot of mess.
It's amazing how one bad idea, that should just be forgotten and moved on, sometimes just grows more and more in comics.
Weird proportion problems in Buscema's art. In the panel above in which Sue is angrily walking out, she looks like a female bodybuilder. In the same sequence, the Thing looks malnourished.
While maybe not intended my "fix" resolves the monumentally bad moments writers like Roy caused while restoring Crystal and moving her forward as a character.
Thanks for the reference.
This is the start of a series of stories that paints the Inhumans' culture in a bad light. Part of this is due to changing views about eugenics- in the '60's, eugenics was viewed positively but now, eugenics is viewed in a bad light. And part of this is due to the Inhumans' racism- openly racist characters are usually antiheroes like Namor. As it stands now the Inhumans practice genetic engineering upon their children, are openly racist towards non-Inhumans, had a slave race for years and practice population control, including forced abortion. Only the first two were implied in their early appearances.
In this story, Omega seemed to be virtually indestructible. Yet in the later Quicksilver-Crystal wedding story, his head apparently gets replaced by Ultron's rather easily(and, apparently, overnight).
I've never minded the idea that a group called the Inhumans might have values different from 20th century Western liberalism. In fact, I think having an advanced society that is still imperfect gives writers an opportunity to explore concepts that would otherwise be portrayed too defensively or not at all in more realistic venues.
I do agree that it would have been better if Crystal's exhortations was shown to be inspired from her experiences with humanity. It would have been a stronger story.
I think most problems with the Inhumans is that ultimately they are not superheroes themselves, and attempting to write them as such fails. There is a lot of intrinsic drama contained in the royal family's situation, but it's rarely been utilized well.
Some fans back then thought that Medusa should have replaced the Invisible Girl permanently. Also, most fans appeared to blame Susan Storm for the marital split and not Reed Richards.
Future comics writer Mike W. Barr has a letter in #131.
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