Fantastic Four #131 (February, 1973)

Readers of our Avengers #105 post back in July may recall how that issue’s plot — the first from the title’s brand new writer, Steve Englehart — concerned the team’s search for their missing member Quicksilver, who’d disappeared towards the end of the previous issue.  Following the inconclusive resolution to their efforts in that tale, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes would continue their quest for the mutant speedster for months to come.  But, surprisingly — well, it surprised me, back in November, 1972 — when Pietro Maximoff was finally “found”, it didn’t happen in the pages of Avengers; instead, Quicksilver resurfaced in, of all things, an issue of Fantastic Four — which, as it happened, was the new super-team scripting gig of Roy Thomas, the man who’d written Avengers for the last five-plus years prior to Englehart taking over, and thus the guy who’d launched the whole “where is Pietro?” mystery in the first place.  From a creative standpoint, it made a certain kind of sense that Thomas would be the one to ultimately wrap things up; but in terms of the ongoing mega-story of the Marvel Universe, it seemed to come out of nowhere.  How did Quicksilver ever manage to end up in the Himalayan homeland of the Inhumans, the Great Refuge?  And why the heck was he fighting the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch, Johnny Storm?

But before we turn past Jim Steranko and Joe Sinnott’s tasty cover for FF #131 in search of the answers to those questions, it behooves us to back up a bit and take a quick look at the couple of issues prior to this one, so that we can have a better understanding of how our heroes have gotten into this mess.

We’ll start with FF #129, which sports a cover by John Buscema and Frank Giacoia, and features a story by the title’s regular (if still newish) creative team of Thomas, Buscema, and Sinnott.  In its opening scene, Johnny Storm makes a surprise announcement to his teammates: having been apart from his beloved Crystal since issue #105,* following Reed (Mister Fantastic) Richards’ discovery that our polluted modern human environment was toxic to her health as an Inhuman — and with no solution to that problem in sight — Johnny has decided to leave the FF and emigrate to the Great Refuge.  Reed attempts to stop his brother-in-law, claiming that the environment of the Inhumans’ homeland might be as dangerous to him as ours is to them (say what now?), but he’s ultimately thwarted by his wife Sue (the Invisible Girl), who believes her brother should be able to follow his heart.  It’s another example of a growing friction between Reed and Sue — a theme that Thomas had first introduced back in his second issue as the book’s new regular writer, #127, and one which will flare into crisis mode rather sooner than one might expect.

Soon after this episode, Ben (the Thing) Grimm goes for a walk, only to be waylaid by the team’s old enemies, the Frightful Four — or three of them, at least.  Luckily for Ben, however, he’s soon joined in his struggle against the Wizard, the Sandman, and Paste-Pot Pete — excuse me, “the Trapster” — by the long-estranged fourth member of the villainous quartet, Medusa.  Whom, as most of you out there reading this will already know, is, like Crystal, an Inhuman — indeed, she’s actually the younger woman’s sister.  Can the Lady of the Living Locks’ turning up in New York City unannounced like this at the exact same time that Johnny Storm is taking a fast rocket to her usual stomping grounds possibly be a coincidence?  We’ll just have to see.

But though Medusa’s assistance is more than welcome, in the end it’s not quite enough to win the day for the Thing — because, as it turns out, the Frightful Four are once more a foursome in deed as well as in name, having at last “replaced” Medusa with another member — and she’s even a female!

Thundra makes her entrance on the story’s 17th page (though of course the cover had already given the game away in regards to her debut).  This seven-foot powerhouse’s origins and motivations are kept mysterious, at least for now, but she’s evidently determined to prove something to somebody, somewhere, by defeating “one of the strongest males on the face of the earth” — and has entered a somewhat uneasy alliance with the Frightful Four’s other three members in pursuit of this goal.  In other words, she wants to beat up the Thing, and the guys have promised her she’ll get to do just that if she helps them defeat Ben’s teammates.

Once Thundra joins the fray, it’s just a matter of time until the Thing and Medusa succumb to the odds, as Ben is knocked cold by simultaneous blows from both Thundra and the Sandman, while Medusa is squeezed into unconsciousness by coils of the Trapster’s paste, which harden as they contract.  And on that downer note, we come to the end of this issue.

Our story continues in FF #130, which is fronted by the first of three consecutive covers pencilled by Steranko, while the interior content continues to be by the Thomas-Buscema-Sinnott team.  The issue opens with the three OG members of the Frightful Four preparing to take their quest for revenge to the Baxter Building next — with Thundra along for the ride until Ben wakes up, after which she intends to prove her superiority over “the little one” in a fair, one-on-one fight.

Meanwhile, the Torch has arrived in the Inhumans’ capital city of Attilan, where he’s found a very chilly reception.  Not only is Crystal not on hand to greet her long lost beau, but her family, headed of course by the Inhumans’ monarch, Black Bolt, won’t even let him anywhere near her.  Still, having seen her in the window of a tower, he knows exactly where she is, and after fighting his way past her cousins, he ultimately burns his way through to her…

And that’s where the story leaves Johnny for this issue; we readers of October, 1972 wouldn’t see what he’s seen until the next month’s FF #131 (though as a reader of this blog post, you can almost certainly guess).

Back at the Baxter Building, the Frightful Four find there’s no one there to prevent their home invasion besides Mister Fantastic, who falls to a smothering sneak attack by the Sandman.  Where’s the Invisible Girl, you ask?  Well, as it happens, she’d departed the premises soon after Johnny did, responding to a summons from the Richards’ witch-nanny, Agatha Harkness, to come pick up their kid.  Reed had begged off, saying he had too much important stuff going on in the lab to take a break for Dad stuff, and Sue had left for Whisper Hill angry, as well as alone.

But thankfully, when she returns, she quickly realizes that something’s wrong, and turns both herself and son Franklin invisible before the bad guys realize she’s there.  Somewhat less thankfully, she’s busted when they spot her footprints in some of the Trapster’s paste — but, of course, invisibility isn’t the Invisible Girl’s only super-power, and so, after setting little Franklin down safely…

But the Wizard threatens to harm Franklin if Sue doesn’t stand down; of course, as soon as she does, and is immobilized by the Trapster’s paste, Wiz reveals he was bluffing: “I’d not have harmed your infant son… under any circumstances.  I am somewhat less squeamish about… lying!“.  Why Sue doesn’t respond immediately by restoring her forcefield and busting out of the Trapster’s paste-rings, I have no idea.  (Well, actually I do, and it has to do with the painfully sexist way that Sue Storm Richards was written for decades, but never mind.)  The Wizard goes on to tell Sue that she shouldn’t expect any help from the Thing, whom he’s calculated will be out for hours from the effects of Thundra and Sandy’s combined clobbering…

Once awake, Ben breaks loose from his pasty bonds, though not without effort (say what else you want to about the Trapster, that paste of his is some strong stuff).  He proceeds to free Reed, who similarly liberates Sue and Medusa, and the fight is on.  It’s four against four now, so it’s finally an even match — at least it is until Mister Fantastic tells his wife to grab Franklin and get out of there.  “Yes, do that, dear lady!” sneers the Wizard.  “Then the odds will be four to three — and that should be enough for us to win nicely, don’t you think?”

Things go south pretty quickly for the Frightful Four from this point on; by the end of the next page, they choose to, as the Wizard puts it, “effect a strategic withdrawal“, making their escape in Wiz’s anit-gravity ship.

Yeesh.  Did I say that the last issue ended on a downer note?  I think that the conclusion of #130 might actually be worse.  But, in any event, we’ve come at last to the comic to which this post owes its title — Fantastic Four #131 — which opens with the Human Torch right where we left him in #130, standing in Crystal’s tower and staring in shock at… what?

As noted in the opening splash page’s credits box, this issue features a “guest artist”, as Ross Andru fills in for John Buscema.  Thankfully, Joe Sinnott is still on board, insuring that the “look” of Fantastic Four remains relatively consistent — just as he’s done for much of the last seven years, and will continue to do for another eight years hereafter.

Crystal’s explanation is briefly delayed by the sudden arrival of her cousins Gorgon, Karnak, and Triton, who’re all keenly annoyed with the Torch for his defiance of their other cousin (and king), Black Bolt.  But Crys eventually convinces the trio not only to stand down but to clear the room; and then, finally, it’s storytime:

Crystal explains that Lockjaw first took her to a location in the Himalayas some miles away from Attilan, then to… somewhere in Eastern Europe.  There’s “erratic”, and then there’s erratic, and the elemental Inhuman began to suspect that her dog was being “drawn by something — some unguessed message out of the very ether” — and then as if to prove her point, Lockjaw dropped them into yet another seemingly random spot.  The disoriented Crystal glanced around…

Panel from Avengers #104 (Oct., 1972). Text by Roy Thomas; art by Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott.

The previous version of this scene, in Avengers #104, had ended almost immediately after Pietro uttered the word “horrible”.  In retrospect, one wonders if Roy Thomas had known at the time of writing it that it was Crystal and Lockjaw whom Quicksilver was looking at in that sequence’s climactic panel, since, as Crys herself wryly suggests in this expanded version, “horrible” doesn’t seem to be the most appropriate word to use in this context.  (And I’d argue that that would be true even if Pietro had so far only glimpsed Lockjaw; that pup may be huge, but he’s surely more huggable than he is horrible.)  If, indeed, Thomas hadn’t actually been sure just whom or what Petro was looking at in the original panel, then it follows that he came up with the idea of the speedster’s disappearance and tossed it in to his last Avengers story without knowing how he (or his successor on that book, Steve Englehart) would ultimately resolve it.  I don’t suppose we’ll probably ever know, either way, but it’s interesting to speculate, isn’t it?

(Yes, Medusa did indeed just refer to her sister as her cousin.  Marvel’s writers were occasionally fuzzy on the details of the Inhumans’ familial relationships for the first decade or so of their existence.)

In 1972, having as yet no real-life experience in the ways of romance, my fifteen-year-old self was perfectly happy to accept the “two young folks get together, spend time alone, sparks fly” rationale that Thomas offers for what develops between Crystal and Pietro so very quickly here.  Fifty years later, however (and at least slightly more experienced), I have to wonder — what in the world does she see in the guy?  After all, based on how he’s been characterized virtually since his first appearance in X-Men #4 (Mar., 1964), Quicksilver must be just about the most disagreeable and humorless superhero Marvel has in its stable, circa 1972.

Maybe it’s the hair?

Since the boys won’t listen to her words, Crystal uses her power over the element of earth to give the tower a little shake.  That brings the scuffle to a halt, at least temporarily; so, when the building starts shaking a second time, Johnny and Pietro wonder what’s the big idea?  That wasn’t me, declares Crystal, and so Quicksilver dashes to the window to see if anyone else has been affected…

Panel from FF #82 (Jan., 1969). Text by Stan Lee; art by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott.

The Alpha Primitives had first appeared all the way back in FF #47 (Feb., 1966), at which time they were depicted by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as “a ferocious, senseless horde of rampaging Inhumans — under the control of none save Maximus…!”  Other than that they all looked identical (and that they all appeared to be male), that’s pretty much all we learned about them until issue #82 (Jan., 1969), where they were identified as “the Inhumans’ deadly drone race!”  That phraseology seemed to imply that the Alpha Primitives weren’t purely creatures of Black Bolt’s mad brother Maximus; but more specifics in regards to where they’d come from, or what their role in Inhuman society was when Maximus wasn’t rebelling against his brother, wouldn’t be forthcoming until the very issue we’re currently discussing.

Now we know that the Alphas normally dwell beneath the surface of Attilan; granted, that’s not much, but it’s more than we knew a single panel ago. And we’ll soon be learning a great deal more than that; but for now, we’ll simply accompany Black Bolt as he leads his cousins, the Torch, and Quicksilver to the prison cell where Maximus has been cooling his heels ever since his last defeat, as chronicled in Avengers #95 (Jan., 1972)

Karnak goes on to explain how Black Bolt had had the “finest Inhuman minds” examine Maximus’ machine; as they’d discovered no harmful radiation (or indeed any radiation at all) emanating from the thing, he’d opted to leave it running.  Even so, he thought it prudent to ask Reed Richards to take a look at the device as well, and so had dispatched Medusa to fly to New York to make the request in person.  (Which explains why Medusa showed up in #129, sort of [as best as I can tell, we never do learn how she caught wind of her old Frightful Four teammates’ evil plans in time to come to Ben Grimm’s aid].  But it also raises the question of how differently events in these issues might have gone if someone [not Black Bolt, obviously, but maybe Medusa, or Johnny] had just picked up a damn phone.)

With no further leads to the cause of the crevasse’s opening currently available to pursue, the Inhumans and their guests begin to resume their previous activities — for better or for worse…

Johnny quickly subdues to the two errant Alphas, imprisoning them in a cage made of flames; but then…

Sure, the “regular” Inhumans may be outnumbered by the Alpha Primitives, just like Karnak says; on the other hand, they have super-powers (as do their two special guests), and the Alphas don’t.  And so, just a few panels later…

But even as Crystal’s family resign themselves to her fate, her two rival suitors materialize in the “sub-city” below Attilan.  Not immediately finding the object of their affections, or indeed any other living soul, Johnny and Pietro quickly, and predictably, fall to bickering…

And that brings us to the end of Fantastic Four #131 — but not to the end of this post, as your humble blogger is opting to go ahead and continue our discussion of this storyline on through its conclusion in issue #132.  Chalk it up, if you will, to a desire on my part to follow that mildly bitter dose of Ross Andru with another, palate-cleansing draft of John Buscema.  (Sorry, Andru fans, but he’s never been a fave of mine.)

But first, a quick look at #132’s cover, which (as mentioned earlier) is the third consecutive one pencilled by Jim Steranko.  For reasons lost to time, Marvel felt the urge to tinker more with this one than the last two; not only was Joe Sinnott replaced as inker by Frank Giacoia, but (according to the Grand Comics Database) Marie Severin made some alterations to Steranko’s drawing, including the addition of some background figures.  All that, and some intrusive word balloons, besides… ah, well, I’m sure it all made sense at the time.  Thankfully, Sinnott is still around to embellish John Buscema’s interior artwork.

Our story picks up right where the last issue left off — although I have to say that, in my opinion, our storytellers cheat just a bit, by almost immediately giving the Torch and Quicksilver an honorable “out” from the commitment they just made to Omega.  Just check out the first panel of page 2:

In responding defensively to Omega’s sudden and unprovoked assault, Johnny and Pietro quickly realize that the giant’s grip on Crystal has loosened; and so, they keep harassing him until the latter hero ultimately snatches her from Omega’s grasp.  Luckily, she’s unharmed, and swiftly regains both consciousness and composure…

Right about this time, the remainder of what’s left of the Fantastic Four — i.e., Mister Fantastic and the Thing — finally make good on Reed’s pledge from the end of issue #130, and arrive in the Great Refuge in search of the Torch.  They’re accompanied by Medusa, who has presumably clued the guys in in regards to Crystal and Pietro — and has even perhaps mentioned Maximus’ perpetual-motion thingy, that being the reason she’d gone to NYC in the first place — but there’s still a good bit of filling in to do (not to mention the need for Medusa’s family to catch her up on the most recent developments).  Triton does the honors, ending with an explanation of how Black Bolt has decreed that no other Inhuman should go into the sealed under-city after either Crystal or her two would-be rescuers.  Fine, says Ben, but that order doesn’t apply to me.  The Thing proceeds to seize a huge piece of stone from the pile of debris blocking the entrance to the AP’s domain; but even as he lifts it above his head…

We’ll pause here in the middle of the battle just long enough to note that while Lee and Kirby had originally established Black Bolt’s super-speech power as being so tremendously potent that his merest whisper could level a city block, by 1972 at least some of Marvel’s writers — Roy Thomas among them — appear to have found that limitation too stringent.  They began writing scenes like the one above, where if Black bolt is really, really, really careful, he can use his power in a less devastating, more targeted manner — say, to knock a giant-sized Alpha Primitive off his pins, without doing much if any other damage to the surrounding landscape.  While I understand the narrative exigencies that inspire these kinds of creative decisions in the moment, in this case the mild fudge works directly against the pathos that’s at the core of this particular character’s appeal.

Returning now to our story… the battle not only continues, but actually escalates, as Black Bolt’s subjects defy his edict, taking up arms with the battle cry, “Death to the traitorous Alphas — and to the filth they’ve dragged up with them!!”.  Right about now, Reed Richards decides that Maximus’ perpetual-motion gizmo just has to be involved in all this, and so he heads over to the building where the renegade royal is imprisoned, intent on learning more…

The loyal Inhuman subjects of Black Bolt fall silent and still, as do the rebelling Alpha Primitives — up to and including their mysterious champion, Omega…

Is the moral parable offered here a little heavy-handed in its delivery?  Perhaps, especially for contemporary tastes.  But the message at its core is still quite valid — and also still quite timely, alas, a half-century after this story was first published.  (And within the narrower context of comic-book continuity, Marvel very much needed such a resolution as this to the whole unsavory notion of the Alpha Primitives being a “drone race” — at least, if they wanted to continue to credibly cast the Inhuman Royal Family in the role of superheroes.)

Our story concludes with an epilogue, set the following day, in which the three FFers are honored by the Inhumans for their role in helping to bring not only peace, but also (in Medusa’s words) “the beginning of understanding” to their land.  In recognition of this, she offers Ben, Johnny, and Reed the opportunity to repair their somewhat tattered costumes using an “electro-weave device”.  But the Thing passes, noting, “I ain’t got enuff of a costume to git tattered”; and so…

OK, now, let’s be honest; the only element that makes Medusa’s new outfit more of “a customized variant of an F.F. uniform” than her old purple bodysuit is that “4” emblem on her belt.  Otherwise, the whole point of the updated costume is to show more skin.  (Not that I recall my fifteen-year-old self complaining, you understand.)

And considering that the whole reason that Crystal had to leave the FF a couple of years prior was the toxicity to Inhumans of our polluted environment, the casually tossed-off, but actually completely out-of-left-field revelation that Medusa has “apparently developed an immunity” to said toxicity represents the kind of pure narrative convenience that might well cause your eyes to roll right out of your head.  (Though, again, I’m pretty sure that I just went with it, back in ’72.)

In his 2011 introduction to Marvel Masterworks — The Fantastic Four, Vol. 13, Roy Thomas writes about his rationale for changing up the FF’s costumes along with their lineup:

I… got Stan’s permission to do something else I thought might be good for Marvel’s flagship title, which hadn’t been quite as popular since Kirby had exited a couple of years earlier, after an initial spike in sales during the handful of Romita-penciled issues.  Like many other fans and pros, I’d long felt the F.F.’s cookie-cutter uniforms were holding them back so, as I’d done earlier with the X-Men, I varied their coloring if not their details.  I put Johnny Storm in red and yellow, the colors of the original Human Torch, while Medusa wore purple and black.  Reed and the hardly-garbed Thing kept their old looks.

“Like many other fans and pros”?  Well, I can’t speak for the pros, but I can’t say I remember any great (or even modest) fan demand for individualized FF costumes back in the day, at least not as reflected in the “Fantastic 4 Fan Page” letters columns.  (Though I can’t claim to have actually gone back and done an issue-by-issue analysis of those columns, so I could be wrong.)

The issue — and storyline — ends as it must, with the revelation of Crystal’s final decision regarding her choice of swain — not that the outcome is in much, if any, doubt at this point…

Just in case you’re wondering, as of December, 1972, Dorrie Evans hasn’t been seen in these pages (or anywhere else) since 1965.  Johnny has been hung up on Crystal for a loonngg time, y’see…

Roy Thomas has written as well as spoken publicly in interviews about how he and his first wife Jean were separated for several months in late 1972 and early 1973 (for the record, the couple eventually reconciled, but then divorced for good later in the decade).  While I’m loath to interpret a work of fiction in terms of its author’s personal life — at least in circumstances where, to the best of my knowledge, the (living) author in question hasn’t himself invited such interpretations — I think it’s reasonable to assume that what Thomas was going through at home at the time he wrote these stories had to have at least some influence on them.

Speaking more generally, both the separation of Reed and Sue Richards (which proved to be temporary) and the breakup of Johnny Storm and Crystal (pretty much permanent, at least as of this writing) reflect the zeitgeist of the early 1970s — a time when the feminist movement was spurring an overall reevaluation of gender roles and responsibilities, including those associated with the institution of marriage in particular.  Such reevaluation is generally understood to have contributed to the substantial increase in the U.S. divorce rate over the course of the decade; an increase which, as the decade wore on, was mirrored in comic books as it was in other popular media.

But while we comics readers of the ’70s would see a number of comic-book couples break up over the next ten years or so, I’m happy to note that Reed and Sue weren’t among them.  True, things would get worse for them before they got better (indeed, in about nine months, they’d get a whole lot worse).  But the couple would never formally split up, and, half a century later, their union seems as solid and permanent (not to mention healthy and happy) as any relationship in the Marvel Universe can ever be.  (Incidentally, over most of that same period, divorce rates in the U.S. have declined overall; make of that what you will.)

By the same token, Johnny Storm’s status as a singleton (albeit a very socially and sexually active one) seems pretty secure at this point as well.  Yes, he’s been in serious relationships since his breakup with Crystal, and, sure, he even got married to a Skrull that one time (hey, that could have happened to anyone, right?), but, ultimately, nothing has lasted — often (though clearly not always) because Johnny himself effs it up.  Frankly, I don’t think that has much to do with societal change or cultural trends or whatnot — rather, it’s a case of Marvel’s editors and writers over the last several decades mostly having the same basic creative instincts about what works best for the character.  Which indeed may well also be the main reason why Reed and Sue have lasted so long (and are likely to go on lasting, indefinitely) — the ups and downs of American divorce rates notwithstanding.

Roy Thomas had, by his own account, been looking forward to a nice long run as writer on Fantastic Four; however, that was not to be (at least, not this go-round). Though he’d make plotting contributions to three of the next five issues, #132 proved to be the last he’d both plot and script until his return to the book some twenty-five issues down the road.  While Thomas would remain the book’s editor, for the next couple of years it would mostly be up to Gerry Conway, and then Len Wein, to navigate “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” through the big changes in its status quo that Thomas had instituted during his relatively short stint as writer — which, in addition to all the important relationship stuff we’ve just discussed, included the first truly significant modifications to the team’s costumes since they’d first got them, back in FF #3; and the second major shakeup in their roster since issue #81 had seen Sue replaced the first time, by Crystal.

We’ll close this post with a few brief musings on the ultimate fates of both of those changes, beginning with the sartorial adjustments.  Medusa’s outfit would last for as long as her FF membership did, i.e., until issue #159 (although she’d carry the same basic bare-limbed, pirate-booted look with her back to the Inhumans, just without the “4” belt-buckle); Johnny’s, meanwhile, would retain its red-and-yellow color scheme through that same issue.  After that, it was back to basic blue for everyone, though we would of course see modest modifications over the years and decades to come — changes of shade, white collars replacing black, and so forth.  And — every once in a while — we’d see a more drastic overhaul, such as the black-and-white color scheme of the Jonathan Hickman era, or the blazing red hues during James Robinson’s run — though of course none of those changes lasted for very long.

Cover to FF #1 (May, 2011). Art by Daniel Acuña.

Even so, those alternative FF uniforms help underscore a point — which is that Roy Thomas’ perception that “cookie-cutter uniforms were holding them [i.e., the FF] back” wasn’t shared by most of those at Marvel who followed him on the series; nor, I suspect, by the majority of the team’s fans.  For better or worse, ever since Fantastic Four #1, the quartet’s visual identity as a team has been at least as important as their individual images, and probably more so.  It was as a unit, after all, and not as an essentially accidental assemblage of already-established solo stars (a la the Avengers, or DC Comics’ Justice League of America), that the Fantastic Four had launched the Marvel Age of Comics, back in 1961.  Other superheroes wore costumes; the FF wore uniforms, and if you were going to join up, then new togs came with the gig.  Even if you had as characteristic and brand-defining a look (or two) as Spider-Man.

And that brings us to the second of Roy Thomas’ status quo shakeups, and the one which, in the end, is likely more significant — the roster change.  While Lee and Kirby’s induction of Crystal back in #81 was unquestionably a big deal, it might well have been taken for a once-and-only aberration, if not for Thomas’ bringing Crys’ big sister into the lineup in #132.  That bit of organizational restructuring would be followed by any number of others, the majority of which involved characters who weren’t members of the Inhuman royal family — and some of which even involved someone stepping in for an FF member who wasn’t named Susan Storm Richards!  Can you imagine?

And so, while the phrase “Fantastic Four” is still likely to first conjure up the images of four specific Marvel characters for most people reading this — four individuals we think of as being a family as much as a team, despite the fact that they’ve never all been “officially” related by blood or marriage — it may conjure up images of a diverse assortment of other characters as well.  Because even if we see the FF as a family, that doesn’t limit it to being a nuclear one.  Right, Reed?

From Fantastic Four (2018) #2 (Dec., 2018). Text by Dan Slott; art by Sara Pichelli and Elisabetta D’Amico.

UPDATE, 11/19/22, 4:30 p.m.: An earlier version of this post erroneously referred to Medusa as being Black Bolt’s wife and royal consort at the time of this story.  Many thanks to reader brucesfl for the correction.

*With the exception of one brief, bittersweet reunion in FF #117-118.


  1. frednotfaith2 · November 19

    Great overview of those old comics, Alan! In this instance, I got all the issues covered back when they were new, even Avengers #104. Roy’s short 1st tenure as FF writer certainly brought some significant changes to the quartet, even if the only one that lasted was the breakup of Johnny & Crystal. Still, that break up was initiated by Stan Lee, as was the growing friction between Reed & Sue, and both not too long after Kirby’s departure. Lee probably had no specific direction as to where he would take those simmering threads but Thomas made a big play on them in short order, then left Conway to further play them out.
    I seriously doubt Thomas intended for the separation of Reed & Sue and Medusa replacing her on the FF to be permanent, but it made for an interesting change of pace for the team. At least Conway avoided building up any obvious romantic overtures between Reed & Medusa — that might have been a bit too much to throw on the mag’s audience, of which in 1972 I’d guess was still predominantly children, mostly of pre-high school age, albeit with many older teens and young adults also keeping up, including those who’d been fans since the mag’s debut 11 years earlier. I can’t really remember how my 10 year old self felt about Reed & Sue’s separation. It’d be another 10 years before my parents split up but even from when I was much younger, I recall them engaging in spats that sometimes became physically violent, making the Richards’ verbal jousting seem tame by comparison.
    Regarding Crystal falling in love with Pietro, while it seems bizarre from a rational point of view, particularly for anyone who is familiar with how Pietro had been characterized previously, to be honest I’ve personally known of many bizarre relationships in real life, including those of my brothers, that were more based on raging hormones and chance encounters with little or no rational thought — until long after the breakup, when, “duh! How’d I ever get myself involved in that?” comes up in reflection. It’s not even a matter of the participants being dumb and young, as even people with much experience and decades into adulthood get themselves in relationships that they later realize they should have avoided (happened to my dad with his 3rd wife). Admittedly, when I read this story, I didn’t have a strong opinion about Pietro as I’d only read maybe 4 or 5 stories featuring him previously, although I could certainly feel for Johnny’s heartbreak at being jilted. I’ve never read if Lee or Thomas or anyone else really felt that young readers would better relate to Johnny if he remained a bachelor on the prowl — if so, I think that reasoning was ridiculous. In the 50 years since FF 131, Johnny’s romantic life has been horrendously bad, including having seemingly married the former longtime girlfriend of a teammate and best friend only for her to turn out to be a Skrull. Yeah, aside from the part about the Skrull, that sort of thing happens in real life too, but it certainly didn’t make either Johnny or “Alicia” look good. Back to this issue, I don’t think it really struck me upon first reading in 1972, but now reading those parts in the story wherein Johnny seems so nonchalant about the Alpha Primitives and their status as a “servant” class doesn’t come off well at all. Johnny comes off as really shallow, although Roy tries to make up for it by having Johnny later take up their cause over the course of events. I wonder what Kirby’s thinking was when he created that class of servants for the Inhumans, somewhat similar to the Moleman’s near mindless Subterranean servants, who likewise are depicted as all male.
    Finally, to the costume changes, I fully agree with your assessment that wearing a particular uniform is a big part of what makes the FF unique, even if Ben’s version is only the trunks and when Johnny is flamed on and Sue is invisible, their uniforms can’t be seen. Still, I didn’t mind at the time, and Medusa’s “swimsuit with boots, gloves and mask” costume appealed to my budding hormones, although I do wonder why they stuck with the mask. It’s not like Medusa had a civilian identity to protect. Seems Roy as editor figured Medusa’s mask had been part of her identity for so long he opted to keep that as part of costume despite that the defining aspect of Medusa was her unmistakable mass of red hair! At least Rich Buckler did draw her without the mask a few times during his run.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · November 19

    As you and Fred both alluded, Alan, the whole Alpha Primitives thing certainly doesn’t play well today. But Thomas’ comic book “fix” in which the problem is just hand-waved away as if it never existed, is equally problematic. The fact is,Thomas never acknowledges is that the Alpha Primitives had a point. They were a slave race, put down and dominated by their “masters,” and suddenly pulling back the curtain and showing the Inhumans as the collective dicks they were, while sending the AP’s back into their cave, where one assumes they will either never come back out or emerge to simply take up their old lives again, doesn’t solve the problem at all. Granted, this is all scene through the lens of fifty-years of hindsight, but we would have been better served if all the ugly truths of the Inhumans/Alpha Primitives dynamic had been put on display and dealt with, fairly and openly. It would have been hard to do in a super-hero comic, but Thomas could at least have used Medusa’s presence in the FF to allude to the problem now and then to demonstrate that it was an on-going one without any easy solutions in sight.

    And then, there’s the way Marvel treated women fifty years ago. While I credit Thomas for trying to give Sue some agency back in those early days of feminism, Reed really was a product of his fifties upbringing, wasn’t he? I was a big FF fan during this time and I remember being sad at the problems in Reed and Sue’s marriage, but I also never doubted that they’d work things out and get back together again down the road. It was comics, after all, and if we’d learned anything by then it was that nothing significant ever truly changes in comics, not even Marvel ones. Was I overly influenced by this attitude in my own life as I navigated the romantic mine fields of my own marital landscape? Probably not. Real-life marital discord is too large and convoluted to try and tackle it with a comic book roadmap, but I wonder at the influence the break-up of Johnny and Crystal had on my tender young heart in those early days of my own romantic entanglements. Because subplots have to take up as little space as possible, and because these are super hero comics and not romance comics after all, their problems are alluded to in huge broad strokes that often make one person look more guilty than the other. For example, Reed is absolutely an a-hole in regards to how he treats Sue and denigrates her worth to the team, but Thomas’ writing robs Sue of much of her responsibility for this by never showing the ways in which Sue has failed their relationship as well. On the other hand, Crystal cheats on Johnny and the message is that he should just “man-up” and swallow his pain (as Reed does as well) and take the high road in wishing her well, while never really acknowledging that cheating on your partner is wrong and the various obstacles and difficulties that led them to this impasse in the first place.

    I’ve often spoken of how my early beliefs about race and social justice came from comic books and I have to wonder about how much of my formative development in regard to love and romance came from them as well (also books and movies). While I certainly can’t blame Thomas or the FF or even comics at large for the lessons I chose to take away from those experiences, I have to wonder how much those choices shaped the man I’ve become.

    Sorry…I missed my court-mandated therapy appointment this week. Also, my lithium perscription ran out. I’ll try to be more “bam biff pow” in response to your next post. It’s just that the Fantastic Four and it’s historical treatment of Sue Storm as merely an appendage to the team (when in reality it also had to do, in large part, with the passive nature of her powers and how no one knew what to do with them), has always been a sore point for me. Even fifty years ago, I knew the way Reed (and by extention Marvel) treated Sue was wrong, only now, half a century later, if have a much better understanding as to why.

    But if you want some “bam biff pow” in this comment, how’s this: I never liked Ross Andru’s art either, Alan. his long run on Spider-man really diminished my enjoyment of that book as well.

    Thanks for the great post, Alan. When you’re ready to discuss the first issue of Doctor Doom… Marriage Counselor-for-Hire, let me know.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Chris A. · November 19

      I agree re: Ross Andru. Never cared for his work on Spidey. My collection goes up to 125, then skips to 132 (a Romita fill-in issue), and ends there, despite enjoying a number of Romita covers during Andru’s run.

      Liked by 1 person

    • frednotfaith2 · November 19

      Enjoyed reading your thought on this issue and the various social issues brought up by Thomas’ tale, although I think we put his outlook on his, rather than Reed’s, ’50s upbringing, when Thomas went from ages 10 to 20. Reed, at this point, was still of “the greatest generation” (I have some problems with that term, as well as any term that implies any one generation is in lockstep agreement with anything when that has never been the case) mostly born in the 1920s and having gone through the Great Depression and World War II and the early Cold War. Reed & Ben were, in a manner, stand-ins for Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, and while there had been some shifting in attitudes towards the role of women between the Lee & Kirby’s generation and Thomas’ generation, the centuries old conservative outlook had not fully dissipated as Thomas came to adulthood in the late ’50s, and his outlook wasn’t all that different than Lee’s, and still rather old-fashioned although I don’t think either of them would have described themselves as conservatives in regard to equal rights. My dad is about the same age as Thomas, both born in 1940, and I know his attitudes have evolved over the more than half century since he became an adult. He was much more sexist as a young and even middle-aged man than he is now in his senior years.
      As to Lee, that he thought it was a good idea to work on an animated series called Stripperella when he was in his 80s is rather embarrassing to contemplate. Well, it would have been embarrassing at any age, but even more so for someone who had become the elder statesman for mainstream comics. Thundra came out of Lee’s one-shot tale with Romita of a world ruled by beautiful, buxom warrior women, which I only know about because it was included in the Fireside collection The Superhero Women, which I got back in 1977, and is rather fascinating for showcasing some of the development of Marvel superheroines from 1963 through 1977, including the introduction of Janet Van Dyne and the issue of FF wherein Sue’s powers were expanded, as well as stories featuring Medusa and Black Widow taking on Spider-Man, Carol Danver’s transformation into Ms. Marvel, as well as Shanna the She-Devil, Hela and Red Sonja, but no Scarlet Witch or Jean Grey, as either Marvel Girl or Phoenix.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. “Fifty years later, however (and at least slightly more experienced), I have to wonder — what in the world does she see in the guy?”

    I wondered that for years. A while back on FB on some comic book group or another I was pondering this subject, and it was suggested to me that Crystal fell in love with Quicksilver because she met him when he was seriously wounded, at his most vulnerable, in desperate need of help as he first fought for his life and then had a slow physical recuperation. She fell in love with *that* Quicksilver, not the arrogant, hot-tempered, domineering Quicksilver that he normally was. So Crystal thought Quicksilver was one thing, when in fact he was something else entirely. And since both of them were barely out of their teens they impulsively rushed into marriage, only to very soon realize they were incompatible. It was an explanation that actually made a lot of sense to me.

    I’ve also heard it suggested that Roy Thomas broke up the Human Torch and Crystal because he believed that if they remained together they would eventually become serious & get married, and that would seriously disrupt the “illusion of change” status quo Marvel superhero stories had firmly embraced by the beginning of the 1970s. If that’s the case, I suppose we should be grateful that Crystal *only* hooked up with Quicksilver. Less than a year later, when Gerry Conway was concerned that having Peter Parker & Gwen Stacy remaining together would inevitably result in their marriage, he threw Gwen off a bridge to solve the problem!

    Liked by 3 people

    • frasersherman · November 19

      I really hate the phrase “the illusion of change” because I find it so vague almost anything can be described as illusory change.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Chris A. · November 19

    Steranko’s cover to FF #131 was altered quite a bit. Have a look at this scan of the original art.

    Romita Sr. was the art director at the time, so he probably moved things around a bit on a photo stat prior to printing.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Chris A. · November 19

      It’s easier to compare with the images side by side:

      Liked by 4 people

      • Alan Stewart · November 19

        Fascinating! Thanks for sharing, Chris A!


      • Lar Gand · November 25

        Interesting. Although there’s nothing “wrong” with Sterenko’s original composition, it could be that Romita felt that Pietro’s pose was too static for this particular speedster. While the Flash typically ran in a very upright posture (like an Olympic sprinter), Quicksilver was usually depicted leaning heavily forward, as on the revised cover.

        But it seems like a lot of work for those pre-digital days — photostating, cutting, pasting, redrawing — just to keep Pietro on brand.

        Also surprised to see Sterenko on a run of covers while making no interior contributions. Was his reputation and/or style strong enough at that time to boost sales? If so, I’m not sure Marvel got their money’s worth, since only 131 jumps out as Sterenko, thanks to the figure work and distinctive background detail. 130 at least features a dynamic composition with surprising depth (and would look fantastic in 3-D), but 130 is largely indistinguishable from a run-of-the-mill Marvel cover, without a hint of Sterenko (although the four heroes engaging a single, monstrous opponent seems to be to a nod to FF #1).

        Regarding Ross Andru: probably colored by nostalgia, but I’ve had a soft spot for him from his time at DC on Brave & Bold, World’s Finest, Flash, etc. Although awkward and often ugly, his figures, faces and panel compositions were always bold and energetic — never boring. His work here seems a bit more restrained than usual — with the exception of one character. He goes full Andru on Maximus and the king’s brother has never looked more Mad.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Lar Gand · November 25

          Sorry, the third paragraph in my previous post was supposed to read “132 is largely indistinguishable”, rather than repeating 130.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Steve McBeezlebub · November 25

          Andru did awesome cityscapes in Amazing Spider-Man. Some have equalled him bu I can’t say he’s ever been topped.


          • frasersherman · November 26

            The Andru/Esposito work on Superman/Spiderman really does an amazing job using the added space the tabloid style gives them. Including some great city shots.


  5. brucesfl · November 19

    Great post as usual, Alan.

    A few quick points: Sorry to mention this but Medusa was not Black Bolt’s wife yet in 1972. I can understand why you said that because since Black Bolt was introduced in FF 46, Black Bolt and Medusa were always considered a couple and I do believe at some point she was considered the “royal consort.” But they did not get formally married until the mid-80s…I believe in Fantastic Four Annual 18 or 19. It never made much sense why it took so long for them to get married since they were never dating others (nor was that ever implied…although some readers wondered if Medusa should get together with Reed or Johnny during her time in the FF…yes I know, that never sounded like a good idea to me…).

    Regarding Crystal and Johnny’s break-up, Tom DeFalco interviewed Roy several years ago and specifically asked him about this. Roy explained that he had no great feelings for Crystal and that he did not even consider her a “major” member of the Inhumans and was looking for a way to shake up the status quo of the FF. I remember being sad about this at the time because I had liked Crystal as a cast member and her being with Johnny, and certainly did not really like Quicksilver that much. Looking back in retrospect, I suspect that the powers that be did not really want their relatively younger characters, Peter Parker and Johnny Storm, both presumably in their early 20s at this time, to be getting married so soon. We know of course what happened to Peter (or more correctly to Gwen…and I presume you’ll get to that eventually…but that was a pretty extreme decision in retrospect). It’s interesting that Johnny would not do very much dating over the next couple of years…actually not until Roy returned to the FF. As I recall there were not that many big weddings at Marvel in the 70s, but surprisingly one of the biggest was for Crystal and Pietro just a year and a half after FF 132 (that was fast)…and I suspect it was a wedding no one was particularly asking for.

    One last point, it seemed very interesting to see Medusa become a member of the FF, and the new uniform was great…but it seemed like Gerry as the new writer (as of 133) never really knew what to do with her. She did have a few moments here and there but it seemed disappointing in the end. Some have pointed out that she was more interesting as a villainous member of the Frightful Four. Not sure if that’s true, but she always seemed to have a lot of potential and was underutilized.

    Thanks again, Alan.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Alan Stewart · November 19

      You’re welcome, brucesfl — and thank you for the catch re: Medusa and Black Bolt. The correction has been made (and credited 🙂 ).


  6. frasersherman · November 19

    I presume by “drone race” Stan and Jack were thinking of something mindless, like the Subterraneans. There was probably no solution that would have worked perfectly.
    Lord, rereading Thomas’ run on Avengers, his handling of the Wasp is painful. Like when she’s caught in Princess Python’s pet snake’s coils and doesn’t shrink, doesn’t do anything but scream. At least this is something of an improvement, and he’d do much better by the 1980s.
    The widespread collapse of classic Silver Age marriages has always bummed me up. Flash and Iris hit some heavy-handed marital problems, then she dies. Ray and Jean divorce. Odin mindwipes Jane Foster and attaches her to another doctor. MJ and Peter split. Etcetera.

    Liked by 2 people

    • frasersherman · November 20

      Forgot to add that I had the same annoyance at Black Bolt being able to weaponize his voice effectively as you did. The filp side of characters growing more powerful every decade is that the mind-blowing concepts get more mundane. The Silver Age Negative Zone is a nightmare realm no normal person wants to be in; by the time of Civil War, Reed’s building a prison there.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Steve McBeezlebub · November 19

    I loved Medusa as a member and she is my favorite temp to this day. (Oddly though, I’ve come to believe she should never have been made an Inhuman and remained a Frightful Four member. The team never really recovered from her loss and I have always hated her role in her and Blackagar’s marriage) She Hulk is a close second definitely. The groundwork Thomas left for his successors did result in some great Reed and Sue drama. It’s too bad he didn’t realize Sue was already the most powerful member of the team. I did like Byrne making her the Invisible Woman finally but his kink for barely post pubescent girls and adult men tarnished his run for me. (He did some backstory of when Reed rented a room from a relative of Sue’s. It makes Kitty and Peter over in X-Men seem palatable in comparison, though I recall he tried to dirty that up more in his fan fiction. Didn’t even his most obsequious fans show disgust at that?)

    Liked by 2 people

    • frasersherman · November 20

      I disagree on that one. Sue’s clearly crushing on him but his reaction looks less Heh heh heh, cool than Oh, This Is Soooo Embarrassing. Which is reasonable.


  8. David Macdonald-Ball · November 20

    Like most of my FF reading in the early to mid-Seventies, I experienced this issue originally as a b&w reprint for the British weekly comic market. I hadn’t re-read it – or experienced it in colour – until very recently when I bought the Epic Collection Vol. 8. Consequently, the story is pretty fresh in my mind and, strangely, made your overview all the more interesting.
    I can take or leave Andru’s art, but have fond memories of it in those hard cover Spider-Man Annuals (again produced specifically for the British Christmas market) that my parents always seemed to place atop my stocking on Christmas morning.
    Reading the Epic Collection, and your overview, reminded me of an embarrassing conversation I had with my grandparents when I first read the British comic re-prints of this storyline back at some point in the mid-Seventies. We were living with them at the time whilst my parents had a house built and, by no stretch of the imagination, could they be described as young. Both had been born prior to World War One and had lived in the same small farming community in in N-W England all their lives… and I initiated a conversation about divorce! You’d have thought I’d suggested giving up Methodism for pagan worship.
    I know that at no point does FF #131 mention the “D” word – maybe it was even to do with the Billy Connolly version of the Tammy Wynette song that was in the UK charts around that time – but I was foolish enough to mention it and got a serious lecture on the sanctity of marriage for my big mouth. Consequently, I cannot read those Sixties and Seventies issues of the FF without wondering at the manner in which the writers of the era portrayed the Reed / Sue relationship.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. B Smith · November 20

    I quite liked Ross Andru’s artwork…and was never able to look at the sleeve art for Paul Simon’s “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon” LP without thinking of Medusa (and vice versa).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · November 20

      Not a connection I’d ever thought to make, B! Very interesting!


  10. Shar · November 21

    Excellent post, Alan.

    That silly new Medusa costume, with its bare arms and legs, buccaneer boots, etc., has always reminded me of the Black Cat’s

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Shar · November 21

    Sorry, I tried to add an image in my comment above, but I guess I’m unable to. Just highlight the link included to see a Black Cat cover.


    • Alan Stewart · November 21

      Shar, I managed to edit your post so the image link worked (don’t ask me how!). Thanks for sharing it!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Shar · November 21

    “Fifty years later, however (and at least slightly more experienced), I have to wonder — what in the world does she see in the guy?”

    Well, look at him! 🙂 Especially in that 3 panel sequence when he’s awakening: his sculpted face–those cheekbones, jaw, intense eyebrows, his mouth…Crystal put it best in Silent War #3: “There was a time when he would take my breath away. He was so beautiful.”

    As of FF #131, over the years Dorrie had been referred to in-story a few times (by the Torch) in the Fantastic Four comic, but surprisingly back then she’d never actually appeared in the FF comic itself! She’d only appeared in the Torch/Torch and Thing feature in Strange Tales and also in an issue of Spider-Man.
    It wasn’t until a few months after #131 that she makes her first FF in-story appearance, namely in FF #134.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Stu Fischer · November 22

    I’m going to give my take on the “what does Crystal see in Quicksilver” question, but first let me say that when I read this is in 1972, I was unhappy because I wanted Johnny to be happy and thought that Crystal was good for him. Of course, being 11 years old, I would never think of the following analysis which I think of now:

    Unlike many of you, I think that it is easy and consistent to believe that Crystal would fall in love with Quicksilver, as ornery as he is. Crystal grew up in a dysfunctional environment without, in my opinion, any soft and warm role models. The Inhumans actually are a pretty imperious and ornery bunch, not very warm and fuzzy at all, and completely obsequious to Black Bolt. I never really noticed this about the Inhumans until ABC gave them a television series and gave them the same unlikeable personalities they had in the comic books. No wonder the show was awful. Anyway, if you need any harder evidence about my comment about the prickliness (take that word as you like), harshness of the Inhumans and their slavish regard for Black Bolt, look no further than the panel near the end of FF #131 when Black Bolt decides not to save Crystal from the Alpha Primitives and walks away, leaving the Inhumans to conclude that Crystal must die because they have to listen to Black Bolt. I note that they don’t even say that they hope that Johnny and Quicksilver can save her. Oh yes, and the other Inhumans are slaveholders.

    So, given the personalities of the folks she grew up around (her sister Medusa isn’t very emotionally gentle and supportive either), I don’t find it surprising in the least that Crystal fell in love with the possessive hothead, Johnny Storm and then dropped him for the more stable Quicksilver, whose personality fits in well with the family, plus he dotes on her. Additionally, Crystal always seemed to be the Marilyn of the Inhumans (that’s a Munsters reference which I suppose we are all old enough to remember) because she seemed to be more childish and less serious than the other Inhumans. This is undoubtedly part of the Marvel Silver Age way of portraying any woman as soft and flighty unless they are a villain (which is how Medusa was saved from this–she was originally created as a villain). Before I leave this, consider how boorish and possessive Johnny Storm treated Crystal and then think again why you think it’s unrealistic that Crystal would go for Quicksilver.

    Crystal never really changed as far as I’ve read. Over the years (at least between the late 1980s and mid 1990s which is as far as I’ve read Marvel Comics), Crystal was portrayed as a fickle flirt and a homewrecker. I think that it makes sense that she broke from Pietro–once they married and had Luna he stopped doting on her–but then she wound up having an affair with a real estate salesman(!), tried to break up Johnny and “Alicia” and then vied for the Black Knight with Sersei. She didn’t do any of this with calculation, but emotionally.

    But I digress. After my obligatory disclaimer that I haven’t read anything in this blog post (or the comments) that dealt with FF # 132 yet (as I read the 50 year comics in the anniversary month of their release), I truly find it hard to believe that Marvel got away with creating a slave class for the Inhumans and then made the Inhumans the heroes for trying to preserve it. Obviously Marvel had come a long way from creating the X-Men as a covert way of pushing civil rights.

    Finally, Alan you and the commenters so far have not mentioned an extremely egregious error near the end of FF #130 when Johnny bursts in on Crystal (and an unseen Quicksilver)–Crystal is wearing her FF uniform!! Are we to believe that Crystal wore it for months on end (perhaps without even putting it in the wash) after returning to the Great Refuge? Did she wear it because she was feeling guilty about betraying Johnny? Was Johnny even more furious at Crystal’s betrayal because she was betraying him while wearing her costume? Undobutedly the answer to all of these questions is no because when FF #131 starts, Crystal is wearing a plain bright yellow outfit.

    P.S. Judging from some of the comments here about what happened to Gwen Stacey I expect a very lively and long discussion here in a few months. . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · November 22

      Good catch on Crystal’s between-issues costume change, Stu! And a very interesting character analysis, to boot.


      • Stu Fischer · December 3

        I’ll expect my No-Prize in the mail any day now. I realize that Christmas mail might delay me receiving it.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Marcus · November 27

    I think some of you have such a poor opinion of Quicksilver because you are viewing this using hindsight. This is Pietro before Englehart. His major character trait was his love for and desire to protect his sister. I can’t even call it being over-protective since in their first appearance a mob was out for Wanda’s blood and later she was shot by the police at the UN ( I guessing Pietro never found out that was Magneto’s doing), and her powers were unpredictable and unreliable. Pietro’s bickering with Hawkeye during his first stint with the Avengers was mostly due to his respect for Captain America, while Hawkeye was constantly disrespecting Cap.

    It was a dick move not calling Wanda to let her know He was ok. I’m sure he would not have liked it if it had been the other way around.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alan Stewart · November 27

      I dunno, Marcus. I kinda think that Pietro’s turning away from his fellow Avengers and throwing back in with Magneto back in Avengers #47-49 was indicative of a serious character flaw, well in advance of Englehart’s arrival on the scene. But that’s just my take. 🙂

      At least we can agree that he was a dick to take so long to let Wanda know where he was and that he was safe!


      • Steve McBeezlebub · November 27

        He was but as a consequence of Thomas not deciding immediately what Pietro’s fate was. Englehart, howevre, would make Pietro an out and out villain two different times. The man had a singular vision of Pietro as a horrible human being, a characterization sometimes still used by writers who grew up reading it.


      • Marcus · November 28

        Turning against the other Avengers was of course a bad move, but anti-mutant prejudice was weighing heavily on his mind and this was Magneto, who saved Wanda’s life when he couldn’t.

        About the Alpha primatives, before this, they were speechless and capable only of following orders. I wonder if the changes seen here were influenced by the then recent Conquest of the Planet of the Apes movie.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Stu Fischer · December 4

    I feel like I should add another comment here as I’ve just re-read FF #132 (now that it’s December, it’s 50th anniversary month). In my previous comment on FF #131, I took Marvel (and the Inhumans by extension) to task for the whole idea of the Alpha Primitives basically being a slave race. I’m sure that everyone who read that realized that once I did re-read FF #132, I would have a more informed opinion.

    I certainly applaud Roy Thomas for dealing with the issue (no pun intended) in a direct way, albeit a little too allegorical for my taste. Still, the Inhumans are shown to have subconscious guilt and accept the freeing of the Alpha Primitives in the end (OK, if they didn’t then Omega would reanimate so there is that incentive). A happy and appropriate ending.

    I honestly think that somehow I did not read this issue in 1972. I seem to remember reading the next issue (which I do remember very well and still have) and wondering where Johnny got the red costume. I confess that I liked the consistent uniforms too and really did not like the change, even if it made Johnny look like the original Human Torch. I think part of the problem was that it was only Johnny that had the change. Sue was gone at this point and Medusa was, well, I looked at her as Medusa, a temporary replacement so it did not really matter to me what she wore. Ben and Reed looked the same so the only real costume change for an original member was Johnny.

    As I stated in my first comment on this blog post, I’ll repeat that in 1972 I was very disappointed that Crystal stayed with Quicksilver and did not go back with Johnny (maybe Medusa could have given Crystal a sisterly blood transfusion so that she could get the same immunity Medusa seems to have :D). However, as I wrote in that first comment, I now realize that Johnny’s impulsiveness and possessive nature makes him not such a prize either (now if only Black Canary had got the memo regarding Green Arrow).

    Liked by 2 people

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