Monday, March 14, 2016

The Judgment And The Judged


Name This Marvel Villain??

Whether or not we can apply the word "villain" to this reserved yet highly observant person is a matter for debate, since even the most well-intentioned woman can stray from the path of fairness and decency and convince herself that the persecution she takes part in is conducted in the name of righteousness and for the good of all. Such are the delusions of Elspeth Cromwell, whom we might at the very least describe as terribly misguided. Cromwell, who has built a reputation as an exorcist, arrives in the suburb of Belle Port at the request of nosy neighbor Alma Chalmers, an aficionado of the occult who has given her binoculars quite the workout in observing three recent additions to the neighborhood, Reed and Susan Benjamin and their young son, Franklin--in reality, Reed and Sue Richards, who have moved to the area in the hopes of providing Franklin with a normal life, now that his mutant power is in check. Mrs. Chalmers, a busybody if ever there was one, has seen enough through the windows of the Benjamin home to alert Cromwell that these people are not what they seem.

(Personally, I think Alma is just miffed that she wasn't invited to the Benjamins' housewarming.)

Having secured the personal attention of Cromwell in this matter no doubt has Mrs. Chalmers feeling that her long fixation on the occult has at last been validated, and that the joke is now on those who always mocked or doubted her. It's probably no stretch to assume that she'll live out her life friendless and embittered; but as for Cromwell, her vocation appears to be its own reward, as long as there are demons like the Benjamins presenting the facade of humanity but planning the devil's work. Finally, the time comes for her to confront this "family"--and in announcing herself, she seems intent on seeing that her reputation continues to precede her.

Reed's claims of the true identity of both himself and Sue fall on deaf ears, convinced as Cromwell is that lies are a demon's stock in trade--and so Sue and Reed must defend themselves, against an incredible offensive launched by Cromwell that would seem beyond the ability of a mere exorcist.

Reed's forte is science, but he's seen enough in this battle to deduce the terrible cost that Cromwell will likely pay in summoning forth such creatures from hell to do her bidding. As is usually the case with such self-described crusaders, Cromwell is desperate to prove the lie in Reed's accusations that imply that she has been manipulated.  But she has indeed been foolish in her bargains with the dark forces--and with innocent blood spilled, her bill finally comes due.

The timely arrival of Dr. Strange helps the Richards family to escape the clutches of Mephisto, with Franklin's unleashed power banishing the demon indefinitely. But there is no hope for Cromwell, who pursued a life of accusation and misplaced judgment only to fall victim herself to the forces she believed she could master.

Hang up those binoculars, Mrs. C.--you've meddled in enough for one day.


Anonymous said...

I remember this comic. I actually felt sorry for Elspeth Cromwell.
Not one of my favorite comics. There were times when John Byrne's writing struck me as petty, vindictive, and mean-spirited, but that's only my opinion.
I do, however, think he had a point, that the lesson implied here is worth noting, particularly in today's political climate, which is toxic.
There is something to be said for probity, responsibility, and seriousness, and measuring one's words and their effect (and whether they are in any way true) before expressing them.
Pretty hard lesson to learn, as I've discovered.

George Chambers said...

And at first, Mrs Chalmers was written as a parody of Gladys Kravitz from Bewitched. That turned dark quickly, didn't it?

Dale Bagwell said...

I personally don't really see anything vindictive here. She meddled with forces she shouldn't have, made assumptions she shouldn't have, and paid for it. Simple as that.

What would be interesting, but possibly not written correctly, would be for some sort of relative of hers to possibly seek revenge against the FF and/or Dr. Strange. Or even a Cromwell from a different time era. I don't, but definitely a very nice two-parter, if nothing but see the priceless look of fear on Mephisto's face when Franklin woke up.

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