Friday, July 8, 2016

I've Got My Corrective Lens On You

Let's just skip right into crisis mode, shall we?

Despite becoming one of Marvel's most underrated villains, the debut of the Monocle was so well-handled that it was reasonable to think that he might be around for awhile. He certainly couldn't have picked a better spot for optimal exposure than in the pages of Fantastic Four, one of Marvel's top-rated mags approaching its centennial issue--and up until his capture, he had not only handily dealt with the FF but was very close to starting World War III.  But what's his angle? (Other than drawing a deadly bead on the FF with his custom-built Canon?)

When we meet the Monocle, he's already put his plan into motion. Posing as a news photographer covering a United Nations meeting of statesmen on a crisis in the mid-east, he positions himself as would any assassin--hiding in plain sight while carrying forged credentials, and playing a waiting game while making sure that he deals with any potential interference. For the purposes of this story, of course, that interference takes the form of the Fantastic Four.

The reason that the Monocle is taking the risk of getting the attention of the FF is because the team is already involved in the security arrangements for this meeting, presumably asked to be present on the scene as additional surveillance. Though with the Human Torch involved in a matter concerning his girlfriend, Crystal, being abruptly summoned back to the Inhumans' Great Refuge, it will be the other three FF members keeping tabs on things. It's a rather ordinary beginning to the story, procedurally speaking, with the FF preparing for their assignment--but with artist Jack Kirby only having six issues to go before he departs Marvel Comics, it would be one of the last opportunities to take in his interpretation of these kinds of scenes involving the FF prepping for a mission and making use of their Fantasti-Car.

With the FF making themselves so visible, they've virtually served themselves up on a platter to the Monocle, who targets them to make sure they're too distracted to interfere with his plans. Ordinarily you'd think an enemy agent like the Monocle would avoid opening fire and drawing attention to himself--to say nothing of firing at those who are operating as U.N. security, a sure tip-off that there's someone on the scene after the delegates. But it's not at all suspicious to aim your camera at the Fantasti-Car, and the Monocle's "neutrak" beam is invisible--making a conclusion of sabotage on the part of the FF difficult, at least for now. Regardless, the result is a harrowing descent following the Monocle's strike that has Reed and Sue fighting for their lives.

As for the Thing, the Monocle's ray forces his attention elsewhere, as well--making sure to occupy his time until work crews can be brought in to shore up the near-disaster that the Thing has prevented.

Meanwhile, Crystal has been taken by Medusa over Johnny's objections, leaving him frustrated with the situation and making him brusque with Reed when circumstances force him to draft the Torch into the hunt for the enemy. But the leader of the FF snaps the Torch back into line and makes it clear where his priority should lie.

Spotting the Torch's approach, the Monocle gives him the same treatment he gave the others--invisible strikes of his neutrak ray that keep the Torch occupied with rescue and repair efforts. But eventually, the Torch realizes that he's being diverted from the U.N., and resumes his flight there--but is there time? From the looks of things, the Monocle is primed to strike!

As the Monocle flees, Sue tries to stop him as well, invisibly--though the Monocle deals with her with a quick judo toss, before crashing through a window that's more than twelve stories up and unveiling another surprise piece of technology he's packing. But the writing's on the wall for this assassin.

The Monocle is featured again, over nine years later, once more in Fantastic Four but this time hired as an agent of the subversive organization known as the Enclave, which has positioned him as head of "Security University"--an institution (hopefully accredited!) where the rich and influential power players of the world are enrolling their children while being assured that the campus is (what else?) secure enough to protect them against anyone who would attempt to harm or kidnap them. Nevermind that, as the Monocle notes, it thus conveniently puts all of these children in one place to accommodate any hostiles who want to infiltrate the facility and take advantage of them--a group of targets which now includes Johnny Storm, who decides to return to college and chooses what he thinks is the ideal environment for him.

The Enclave, of course, is using the Monocle's gift for mass hypnosis--a new wrinkle of his one-piece eyewear--to awaken his charges in the middle of the night and send them to gather sensitive information from the holdings, papers, and vaults of their respective parents, such as government officials or U.N. diplomats. It's tempting to assume that it was the Enclave the Monocle was working for during his previous assignment at the U.N., though that's never been substantiated to my knowledge.

It's when the Enclave attempts to tighten its leash on the Monocle that their agent decides he's had enough of their directives and breaks with them completely. In doing so, he only has a small window in which to send the students on one final night's mission--to invade an army base and secure weaponry for the Monocle.

At this point, Spider-Man has joined forces with the Torch, and things start to go south for the Monocle. On top of his troubles, the Enclave confront their former operative with his betrayal, to which the Monocle makes it clear that he's terminating their association, just as he employs another new feature of his lens to terminate their call.

That weapon comes in handy when Spider-Man closes in on the Monocle, who manages to fend off the wall-crawler long enough to make his escape. But where the Enclave is concerned, you can run, but you can't rocket away.

As we can see, the Enclave is playing for high stakes which have yet to be revealed. We know that the Monocle won't be around to see (or in his case squint at) their culmination, unless that monocle of his also doubles as a teleporter--but until we find out one way or the other for certain, we'll have to be content with the brief stories we have of his exploits.

Just who--or what--is the Enclave??

Fantastic Four #95
(with scenes from #207)

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Artie Simek


Anonymous said...

I think I know who the Enclave is, but no spoilers from me, no sir.
D.C. Comics also had a villain called the Monocle.
Whose version came first? I smell a lawsuit!
Then again, maybe not.

Comicsfan said...

Funny you should mention the DC Monocle, M.P.--the character gave me the idea of gathering up most of Marvel's monocle-wearing characters and featuring them in a post sometime. It might turn out to be quite a distinguished lineup!

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