Fantastic Four #44-47
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #44, Fantastic Four #45, Fantastic Four #45, Fantastic Four #47
Review/plot: Ooh boy, we can tell how this marriage is going to turn out. This issue starts with Sue wearing an apron over her FF uniform, washing dishes while Reed tinkers with "the world's first automated dish-washer mechanism".
Once he's done building that, he doesn't want to hear any more whining about the housework. In the meantime, Ben and Johnny are hanging around, not giving the newlyweds a chance to wash their dishes in private.
Luckily, Gorgon shows up.
He's chasing Medusa, who kidnaps Johnny and makes him help her flee. (Gorgon's name doesn't make a lot of sense. I think it was chosen because they found it when they were looking up the Medusa and it sounded cool. The Medusa of Greek myth was one of the three Gorgons. Reading this issue as if i had never heard of the Inhumans, you might think the writers were going in that direction, but it turns out to be a red herring.)
The Torch accidentally wakes up Dragon Man, who takes a liking to Medusa and fights Gorgon for her.
The rest of the FF show up as well and we get a big fun fight, with the FF eventually getting defeated by Gorgon.
Meanwhile, the Sandman and the Trapster are locked in a specially designed prison cell, wondering why Medusa hasn't come to rescue them (the Wizard is in the hospital).
Back at the Baxter Building, Johnny is moping about. Dorrie Evans declines a date with him, saying she's got another guy. He decides to go for a walk, and winds up in a slum neighborhood scheduled for demolition. There he sees Crystal, who "makes Dorrie Evans look like a boy!", but when he tries to get close to her, he is blown away by a gale of winds.
He chases her and meets Lockjaw as well.
She leads Johnny into a secret underground area to meet her family. Johnny picks up on the fact that she refers to humans as creatures separate from herself, but thinks that they can't be mutants "or else the X-Men would have found them!".
Crystal introduces the Torch to Karnak, who greets him by throwing him over his shoulder. Dick.
Then Medusa and Gorgon show up, along with Triton, who is dressed in a heavy cloak.
They try to capture Johnny but he escapes and summons the FF. The two teams get ready to fight, and then Black Bolt shows up.
Issue #45 also features the first appearance of the FF's Jet Cycle.
While the FF fight the Inhumans...
...a guy called the Seeker invades the Baxter Building and hijacks Dragon Man, who has been tranquilized since the FF's fight with Gorgon.
He also goes and snags Triton, and the rest of the Inhumans flee.
Having learned that Medusa is part of a larger race, Sue declares that it means she isn't a "freak".
I wonder if she thinks she and her fellow FF members are freaks.
The FF trace the Seeker to a building in NYC, and he tells them the history of the Inhumans, which involves a separate species of humanoid that specialized in genetic manipulation dominating the earth in pre-historic times, but being driven underground as humans became more numerous. This version of the history leaves out any involvement of the Kree.
Then Dragon Man escapes and the Seeker flees, leaving Triton to suffocate without water. Sue saves him by creating a forcefield that they fill with water.
Meanwhile, the Torch and the Thing go after Dragon Man and of course they wind up fighting him right outside Alicia's apartment. The Torch defeats Dragon Man by zapping him with ultra-violet rays.
Meanwhile the Seeker reveals he is working for Maximus.
The Inhumans show up at the Great Refuge...
...and Maximus releases the Alpha Primitives to attack them.
When the Black Bolt and co. defeat the Primitives...
...Maximus comes out and greets them and Black Bolt takes back his crown.
It's not said exactly what the Alpha Primitives are in this issue (they just seem to be minions of Maximus), but it'll turn out to be one of the more troubling aspects of Inhuman culture in future stories.
Reed has been acting cold and distant (surprise! happy marriage!), so as the FF travel to the Great Refuge (in a 'remote mountain range'), Sue decides to... change her hairstyle. And her new style does look better than the bonnet she's been wearing, but really.
Reed appeals to the Inhumans to reveal themselves to humanity but the conversation doesn't go very far because Maximus sneaks off to fire the Atmo-Gun...
So, first appearance of the Inhumans. It's clear they didn't quite know what they were going to do with them at this point, and it's hard from a modern reader's perspective to get caught up in the intrigue of this mysterious super-powered civilization, but if nothing else you can see that a lot of interesting ideas were getting thrown around.
Some squabbling fun/horribleness:
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This story continues in Fantastic Four #48. But my reprint of FF #48-50 in the Coming of Galactus trade strips out the Inhumans plot. According to the sequence of events in Marvels #3, this takes place after Avengers #25-27.
Continuity Implant? N
Reprinted In: Marvel's Greatest Comics #33, Marvel's Greatest Comics #34
Inbound References (5): show
Sue's hot in apron
Geez, the Inhumans...
Like Fourth World Saga, The Eternals, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Inhumans are one of those classic Kirby ideas that starts out overwhelmingly cool and then just kind of fizzle out.
This first Inhumans arc is fairly interesting, though I think it would work better thematically as an X-Men plot, but then for the next twenty goldang years they do almost nothing. (Blackbolt periodically annihilates Attilan, but I think that's just a stimulus program for the Inhumans' construction industry.)
Part of the problem is that the Inhuman Royal Family just suck as characters. Their powers are either gimmicky as hell (Medusa, Karnak, Gorgon) or murky (Crystal, Blackbolt).
Worse, these lame powers seem to substitute for characterization. When Madame Medusa shows up for the first time, she is a mysterious, kick-ass, domineering sexpot anti-villain who drops a nuclear bomb on the Fantastic Four. But the minute she hooks up with the Inhuman Royal Family, she becomes Sue Storm. Her only job is to interpret for Blackbolt, who never has anything interesting to say.
The other major problem with the Inhumans is that they have no real agenda, other than existing in secret. The Fantastic Four are explorers; the X-Men have a political mission; the Avengers exist to fight bad guys no one hero could defeat. The Inhumans, um, live in a super-cave.
My suggestion: The Eternals meets Nine Princes in Amber. Instead of ganging up to fight Maximus, each member of the family could have his or her own political faction, and it's just stone-cold political intrigue all the time. Blackbolt, their nuclear deterrent, is politically impotent because he can't talk, so he keeps getting manipulated by Medusa who has her own agenda. Crystal throws everything into chaos when she falls in love with a human, and Mister Fantastic is always snooping around in the background trying to rip off all their secrets. Plus the usual Maximus and Kree plots.
Alpha Primative is a pun on "alpha privative," which is the use of an alpha prefix to mean non or not--as in atheist or abiogenesis. I assumed Roy Thomas was responsible for the name, since classical references (usually myth rather than language, to be sure) are more his thing than Stan's.
The comics code demanded that the last page of #44 be redrawn so as not to show Gorgon carrying off Medusa and Dragon Man carrying off Sue. Instead, the ladies' bodies are mostly off-panel.
These issues are simultaneously awesome and frustrating. The plot changes midstream, and the initial hooks are just forgotten. I agree with James Nostack's description here. The Inhumans make an intriguing concept, but were not handled very well. The Royal Family vs Maximus angle is just boring, and they simply don't work as a superhero concept. It would have been much better to protray Inhuman society as much more complex, and treat some of them like the Sub-Mariner - sometimes good and sometimes bad.
Medusa's switch was never adequately explained. I have a pet theory - utterly unsupported - that Medusa never had amnesia, but was using the Wizard and the Frightful Four to eventually get them to help the Royal Family regain power in Attilan. When the Frightful Four were defeated, she changed gears and conned the Fantastic Four into helping them instead.
Chris, Medusa's amnesia was shown in an Inhumans Special Edition to be a result of one of Maximus's schemes.
There was a debate at the time going on in the letters pages about the use of Communists as villians and how they were portrayed. This was Stan's story about the cold war/Berlin Wall/Iron curtain. The Inhumans seem loosly based on charaters from Dostoievsky's "Idiot": the beautiful fallen woman fleeing from marriage, a noble prince who people think is an idiot. In the inhumans we have Blackbolt who is "dumb". "Madame" Medusa is the fallen woman fleeing marriage. There is also a pure innocent female charater in the Idiot who is represented by Crystal in the Inhumans. As a cold war metaphor we have the outside world unable to separate the great barrier between the two sides. It is only when the a good leader steps forward and with a voice that has seemed absent untill now speaks powerful words and the barrier is swept aside. There is also the story of John who armed with a weapon forged in Avalon (Excaliber, the sword of King Arthur was forged in Avalon) tries to remove the barrier between the two sides. ...then a shot rings out. This was FF #54: the human torch carries a torch (for Crystal). This story of course is inspired by Kennedy. My first Fantastic Four comic was #45. I loved the Inhumans but as a young boy didn't understand the story until recently. I read Dostoievsky's Idiot and at the end thought,"What a way to spend a honeymoon."
I don't recall there being an innocent/saintly female character in The Idiot, but I could be wrong. There are such women in other works of his (the prostitute in Crime and Punishment for one) but his only saint in that book was Myshkin. So there may not be a direct match for Crystal.
Still, the possible connection/reference is interesting. I'm a big fan of that FD book and I know the Inhumans story, yet never made the connection.
Aglaya was the "virtuous, pretty" (described in a Wikipedia article) and younger woman in contrast to Nastasya Filippovna, the "beautiful, kept woman." Nastasya was passionatly and obsessivly pursued by Rogozhin. As Medusa was pursued by Gorgon. Gorgon did not want to marry Medusa himself but was to return her to Maximus who wanted to marry her. Issue #54 of FF would have been more obviously Kennedy inspired if they had said Avalon was mentioned in the legends of King Arthur rather than King Richard. Richard Burton and Richard Harris played Arthur in the stage and movie versions. Avalon is where Arthur's sword was made I think. And the Kennedy link (As Johnny said to Wyatt in the last panel of the story, with his head hanging down) "maybe it would have been better if you had kill me." Well maybe it would have been a better Keneddy metaphor but Marvel fandom would have been in an uproar!!!
I don't have the comic right if front of me. I think Johnny said "better if it had killed me" ...the explosion, not "if you had...".
Aglaia was not a very virtuous character at all, still less a "saint" as Dostoevsky drew them. His saints are very distinct. Aglaia was depicted as young and attractive and of good family, but less attractive than Nastasya Filippovna.
Of course I don't know Crystal that well, so I can't really say how her side of that comparison works out. But if she's drawn as a naive or saintly character, that isn't Aglaia, who wasn't naive at all (quite the opposite).
Although she was a supporting character in the Torch series in Strange Tales, #45 is the first time Dorrie Evans is actually mentioned in the FF comic.
marvels #2 retroactively shows Dorrie
Ah, didn't finish my comment. :) Marvels #2 retroactively shows Dorrie with Johnny around the time Sue and Reed announced their engagement circa FF #36.
Oops, I'm wrong about #45 being the first mention of Dorrie in the FF comic. The first mention was actually back in FF #35, when Johnny bumps into Peter Parker and is reminded that she flirted with Peter in ASM #21.
Amazing how the Kirby art for the Iron Man / Sub-Mariner fight looked so bad, but his art for the initial intro of the Inhumans is so cool.
I always liked Black Bolt because he could do so many things, but he was always so damn mysterious. I love how not only can't he speak but he almost never gets thought bubbles either. And what precisely are his powers other than the voice (the best use of which, in my opinion, was in Earth X)? They really seem to be all over the place.
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