Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Let The Silence Shatter!

If you were a reader of Fantastic Four in late 1965, when the criminal known as Madam Medusa received an abrupt "makeover" and became a member of the royal family of the Inhumans, subsequently having all references to her illicit activities promptly buried and forgotten without a word of explanation, you probably greeted the cover of Marvel Super-Heroes #15 with great anticipation.

"Finally!", you thought...

  • "At last we'll discover why Medusa became a criminal, and, more importantly, why she decided to go straight--because this woman loved being a criminal!"
  • "We know a little of why she was on the run--because she and the rest of the royal family were trying to escape the oppressive rule of Maximus. But why did she desert them and seclude herself on a Mediterranean island? Why hook up with the likes of the Wizard?"

Tsk. You thought it was going to be that easy, did you? All the explanations we needed, all tied up with a bow and presented to us in a special follow-up story? We'd have to wait 22 years for that story--The Inhumans: The Untold Saga, written by Lou Mougin and drawn by Richard Howell.  For now, the story of Medusa remained as tangled as ever.

When this story sees print, Medusa is already appearing solo in another story and getting no grief from Spider-Man about being on the Most Wanted list, so apparently Marvel intended to leave the subject dead and buried; and it would be about a year and a half before she chose to reunite with the Frightful Four, slipping back into their ranks again in order to assist the Fantastic Four, whom the evil FF were laying a trap for. In the MSH story, however, the cover implies that she's actually fighting her former partners in crime--which means that her departure from the team will be addressed, and, by extension, her reasons for choosing a criminal career in the first place. Right? Right?

Phooey. We get squat on those dangling issues, as always.

The story gets into gear when Medusa decides to leave the Inhumans' "island sanctuary" in order to hopefully locate someone who can help to rid her lover, Black Bolt, of the deadly power of his voice.

Oddly enough, we next see Medusa just wandering the streets of Europe, seemingly hoping a scientific genius just drops into her lap. Not once does she think of going to see Reed Richards, who, let's face it, couldn't be a better starting point for someone in need of a scientific genius. It's an important point to bring up, since the Wizard wouldn't be an option Medusa would even think of considering had she turned first to Reed. And speaking of the Wizard...

Elsewhere in Europe, we find the remnants of the Frightful Four, waiting for an opportunity to attack a NATO base in order to seize an element that will be used to power the Wizard's "id machine," now adapted to ray-gun form. But the Wizard needs skills that Medusa possesses in order to accomplish the theft--and, when his scanner spots her, he concocts a scheme to elicit her cooperation, in exchange for curing Black Bolt. Using his anti-gravity abilities, he brings her to his lab, and makes her an offer she cannot refuse, under the circumstances.

And so, while the three male members of the Frightful Four penetrate the NATO installation and keep the stationed forces busy, Medusa proceeds to her assigned task.

Yet once the four are airborne, Medusa refuses to turn over the canister to the Wizard, directing him instead to the island of the Inhumans--in effect forcing the Wizard's hand and revealing his plan as the duplicitous scheme it is. At that point, she realizes her only chance in evading the Frightful Four lies in forcing their craft out of control.

Needless to say, all is forgiven by Black Bolt--"needless," that is, since we can only presume he forgave her for a similar lapse in judgment once before, and appears to refrain once again from pursuing the matter further. The irony is that Black Bolt is probably the one person who you'd think would want answers from Medusa as to her criminal leanings and yet, conveniently, is unable to voice such questions, at least on panel; while readers shouted themselves hoarse to writers who thought it was best to simply turn a deaf ear.


Anonymous said...

I'd always wondered about Medusa's total change from baddie to goodie - I assumed it had been explained somewhere along the way but I'd missed it.

Anonymous said...

I've always liked Medusa. I think, in terms of personality and temperament, she was a great fill-in for Sue Storm in the Fantastic Four, and turned out to be a very complex, compelling character in Mike Allred's recent series F.F., even holding her own against the She-Hulk at one point. (dunno if that series is considered canon or not.)
Highly intelligent, experienced, always cool under pressure, tactically skillful, and probably a Daredevil-level physical combatant even without the hair, she has one major flaw: one of the goofiest superpowers in Marvel comics.
It's just hard to think of long hair as a superpower.
Still, she's usually a well-written character, and I enjoyed her membership in the F.F.
Even with that dumb superpower.

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