This issue of FANTASTIC FOUR was another book that I got from my friend and classmate Donald Sims. We were only tight for about two years, taking up separate paths when we entered junior high school. I haven’t seen him in easily 35-plus years. But I hope he’s doing well. This was another FF issue that was older than most of what I’d already acquired, making it a prized addition to the collection. Unfortunately, it’s also a bit of a mess as a story.
The story in question is continued directly from AVENGERS #127 and constitutes a rare early cross-title adventure. This kind of thing only happened rarely in these days. But in this instance, the wedding between Crystal of the Inhumans (a former member of the FF) and Quicksilver of the Avengers, it was warranted. This would also mark my first exposure to Ultron, a villain who had only appeared in three stories prior to this, and whose days as one of the Avengers’ greatest enemies lay ahead of him, in the hands of Jim Shooter and George Perez. Here, Maximus the Mad had fused Ultron’s head to the body of Omega, a titanic figure representing the amalgamation of the Inhumans’ prejudice. (Don’t ask.) Somehow, he was able to expand the size of that head so that it fit properly on Omega’s oversized shoulders–don’t ask me how.
So Ultron has captured Crystal, but before he attacks the assembled super heroes, he pauses to monologue for several pages about how he was reconstituted by Maximus. There’s a lot of standing around and talking in this comic book–and when I eventually was able to read the AVENGERS chapter many years earlier, I found that the two halves didn’t quite line up properly. For one thing, there’s a lot of talk about Crystal being Ultron’s prisoner, but we never see her as such, so it feels like writer Gerry Conway and his AVENGERS cohort Steve Englehart attempting to cover a non-existent plot point in dialogue.
Ultron’s gambit is to unleash a psychic assault, one intended to destroy the minds of all present, reducing them all to vegetables. Sadly for him, one of those attending the wedding is Franklin Richards, who has been in a coma for many months since Reed was forced to shut down his mind in order to contain his uncontrollable power. But Ultron’s attack wakes him up–and in a matter of seconds, everything is over, as the power lying dormant within Franklin’s mind strikes back at Ultron’s assault, anniilating him utterly.
As a side effect, Franklin is awake and aware again. What’s more, his destructive powers seem to have completely vanished! That’s not the way things would work out over time, but hey, let’s give the FF the happy ending in this instance, since things had been so dour in the series for the past several months. This also represented the final reconciliation of the estranged Reed and Sue, putting an end to the divorce subplot that was, frankly, grating and counter to the spirit of the title. So, yeah, the main adventure story is done halfway through the book–with the balance of the issue devoted to the actual wedding and a lot of character-building and sub-plotting.
For all that this is the wedding of Crystal and Quicksilver, the two of them get almost no screen time, nor does either one get so much as a single line in this comic book. That strikes me as a massive miscalculation. Instead, we spend some pages with Thor and Iron Man musing over their various busted relationships, Reed and Sue reconciling in a manner a bit too cutesy considering just how contentious and Kramer vs Kramer they were just an issue or two ago, and Medusa trying to console Johnny Storm about the fact that her sister has thrown him over for a fast-talking mutant. It’s all very much par-for-the-course for Conway’s FANTASTIC FOUR, where it often seemed as though nothing genuinely happy was ever allowed to occur.
Anyway, there’s a lot of narration, the ceremony is held, Black Bolt and the hospitalized Whizzer give their consent (this was during the period when the golden age Whizzer was thought to be the father of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch) and that’s pretty much all she wrote for this one. As comic book weddings go, it’s an underwhelming outing–made more so in my case because I’d still only had limited interactions with both the bride and the groom. I liked Crystal a lot in her role as the Torch’s girlfriend, too, so I wasn’t really all that on board with passing her over to Quicksilver. But what were you gonna do? Amazingly, the wedding splash features one of those bottom-strap ads on it, in this case for the first part of this story in AVENGERS #127. Yeah, I think we’ve figured out that Crystal and Quicksilver are getting married by this point, guys!