Monday, July 25, 2016

The Return Of The Trikon!


Like the Enclave, the mysterious organization that began its existence in shadows before its activities were later continued and its origins were finally investigated and revealed, the Trikon got its start as a presumably deadly but unknown threat that would receive mention in one story, only to drop off the Marvel map and resurface years later in another, well after many readers had forgotten all about it. Both groups rose from seeds laid in the 1970s--and, coincidentally, both had dissimilar ties to the uncanny Inhumans. But where nearly twelve years would pass before the Enclave would turn up again and have its loose ends tied up, it would take nearly twice as long for the Trikon to have its cobwebs blown off by a different writer and receive further exposure.

For each of these groups, their respective timelines are spread out like the pieces of one large puzzle, and assembling them in stages makes for a confusing history where either the pieces don't quite fit together, or sometimes pieces are missing and left out. For instance, the Trikon first appear in an Inhumans story by Gerry Conway in Amazing Adventures in late 1971 as a looming and deadly threat that was apparently planned to be revealed once the current storyline with Magneto ran its course.




As part of that story, the amnesiac Black Bolt is abducted off the street by Magneto's henchmen (er, henchmutants), leaving behind Joey, the young boy that Black Bolt had befriended; and when Joey regains consciousness, the Trikon appear and whisk him away, for reasons unknown.



And unknown those reasons stayed. The Inhumans feature in Amazing Adventures ends abruptly at the conclusion of the Magneto tale, with the Beast taking their place in a new series of stories; while the running Inhumans story involving Black Bolt segues to and is wrapped up in the Avengers issue published that same month, with the exception of Joey's capture by the Trikon being completely discarded, as if it never happened.

And then along comes The Inhumans: The Untold Saga in early 1990, where writer Lou Mougin and artist Richard Howell have taken on the ambitious task of piecing together the events preceding the Inhumans' first meeting with the Fantastic Four. Why were the Inhumans hiding out in slums in New York City, from someone called the Seeker? Why was Medusa--at the time on the run after the rest of her team, the Frightful Four, had been defeated by the FF--afraid of being caught by Gorgon? Why was Medusa's criminal past dropped like a safe by writer Stan Lee without explanation? How did Maximus usurp the rule of Black Bolt? A lot of questions, and more, that weren't addressed by Lee in the 1965-66 original story, and this tale answers them all--and, just for kicks, it also explains the Trikon, in limbo nearly nineteen years after their debut.




Surprisingly, the Trikon are introduced almost immediately in this story, which takes us back to the time when Black Bolt ruled the Great Refuge and his brother, Maximus, was confined to a cell--presumably after he'd been caught collaborating with the Kree, followed by a tragic incident which resulted in the deaths of their parents and which simultaneously drove Maximus mad. From his cell, Maximus summons three of the Inhumans' worker caste, the Alpha Primitives, and further uses his mental abilities to stimulate their intelligence sufficiently so that they may take part in an intricate plan to wrest the throne from Black Bolt. And that plan is set in motion when the Alphas head to the Terrigen mist chamber and seize control of the facility in order to, for the first time, use the evolving mists on themselves.




The mental might of the newly formed Trikon is then used to launch an all-out attack on the Refuge and its populace--while the rest of the Alpha Primitives attack on the ground in open rebellion. Caught off-guard, and overwhelmed by the twin-pronged attack, things quickly go against the Royal Family, forcing them to split their forces in an attempt to regain control. But the Trikon are a deadly threat indeed--and everything is going according to the plan of Maximus, who has not been forgotten by the oppressed race of workers that he's befriended.




Strangely enough, Medusa seems to be the only Inhuman to realize that the Trikon are the main threat--whereas Black Bolt, whose power is best suited to challenge them, has instead chosen to deal with the Alpha forces on the ground. Not so strange for Mougin, of course, who uses the circumstances to construct a scene designed to remove Medusa from the Refuge and arrange for her to become M.I.A., one of the major developments in his story. Taking to a "sky sled," Medusa moves to attack the beings--but the Trikon deal with her decisively, and she's forced to crash-land some distance away.



It's only then that Mougin deals Black Bolt back in (and instantly, at that--Howell almost appears to have had him stashed behind a curtain) and has him reassess his priorities, taking the Inhumans' dog Lockjaw on a sled and using the canine's dimension-spanning powers in a plan that rids them of the Trikon threat.



(It's unclear why Mougin chose to use the Negative Zone for this plan. Any other dimension would have sufficed, wouldn't it? Otherwise, it looks like the Inhumans were aware of and had access to the Negative Zone well before Reed Richards started tinkering with sub-space to eventually "discover" it.)

In the same scene, we see that Medusa has survived the crash, but has developed amnesia as a result--giving her an excuse to wander aimlessly from the crash site and go missing in (eventually) Europe for an unspecified amount of time. We're going to have to assume that she crashed at the base of the Himalayan mountains, since it has the only climate that would allow her to survive a trek on foot, exposed to the elements; we also have to assume that her stamina is super-human and she's a hell of a hiker, since when we next see her she's stumbling into Paris, a distance of over 4,000 miles (to say nothing of making her way out of the Himalayas).

Meanwhile, back at the Refuge, Maximus has capitalized on the chaos and seized power, even going so far as to don the ruling crown. He's also used the distraction of the Trikon and the Alpha rebellion to collect key hostages, threatening to kill them if Black Bolt doesn't cede the throne to him--starting with Gorgon's parents. Gorgon's reaction is predictably one of rage when his father is presented to him as a captive--but a quick trip to the catacombs makes it clear to the Royal Family that Maximus, at last, has prevailed.




And so with the dawn, Black Bolt surrenders his crown to Maximus, under the pretense of guilt and taking responsibility for the riot and the lives lost during the rebellion. It's a rather insubstantial reason that Mougin puts forth for surrendering the throne--Black Bolt, after all, was unflatteringly viewed as an "Alpha lover" because his policies favored the Alpha Primitives, so it doesn't make sense that those policies would lead to open rebellion. (Though Mougin tries to have his cake and eat it, too, by establishing that the Alphas viewed Black Bolt as "a hated tyrant." How would Black Bolt be both sympathetic to the Alphas yet hated by them?) Regardless, the populace feels betrayed by him, and loudly supports his march to exile.




It also bears mentioning that Stan Lee's original story is on record as having Maximus refer to Black Bolt's "accident" that rendered him speechless as the stated reason which forced him to relinquish the throne to his brother, which Mougin chooses to disregard, or avoid, since Black Bolt's speech condition is a different can of worms that this story doesn't allow room for.

Time passes, and the Royal Family spends a great deal of time searching for Medusa, whose body was not at the crash site and is assumed to have survived. At one point, Gorgon begins to feel badly for Crystal, a child who is now constantly running and hiding and has no young people to relate to and grow up with. Consequently, he returns to the Great Refuge and petitions Maximus on her behalf--though the Refuge is now a kingdom which, as Triton predicted, has now become one ruled by an iron hand, its people spied upon and even persecuted. Looking to ease his status as ruler, Maximus, ever the canny politician, strikes a bargain with Gorgon, hoping to sway the disgruntled populace in his favor once more.




(Gee, what's Marvel Girl doing living at the Great Refuge?)




Gorgon unfortunately is only partially placated--his mother remains alive, but in her grief she reveals that the Seeker has killed Gorgon's father during an attempted jailbreak. Yet Gorgon is prevented from carrying out his vengeance on the Seeker and is instead deposited outside of the Refuge and instructed to return with Medusa; simultaneously, Maximus assigns the Seeker to keep track of Gorgon's progress, and return to the Refuge with all of the Royal Family as prisoners once Medusa is found.

In Paris, meanwhile, Medusa has fallen in with Paul Dumas, a practiced jewel thief who offers her a life off the streets in exchange for becoming his accomplice--and "Madame" Medusa is born.



Unfortunately, betrayed by Dumas to the police following her departure, Medusa has no choice but to leave behind her life of ease and new independence and again become a fugitive. But before she's run too far, Gorgon intercepts her and attempts to bring her back into the fold, with no success.




From here, events play out much as we remember them from Medusa's early appearances in Fantastic Four--throwing in with the Wizard, and, after the Frightful Four was captured, finding that her exposure with the group had once again put her in Gorgon's sights--all under the watchful eyes of the Seeker, who is ready to make his move once Medusa has been caught.

Once Gorgon has brought Medusa to the Inhumans' underground lair in the Bowery, her memory is restored. But when the Inhumans are discovered by the Fantastic Four and a battle ensues, the Seeker captures Triton--and the rest of the Royal Family escape by teleporting back to the Great Refuge to face Maximus, where Black Bolt regains his crown, forcing Maximus to attempt one last gambit that involved the attempted destruction of all human life on the planet. Since you and I are here to talk about it, his plan obviously failed--but in retaliation, he created a negative barrier around the Refuge which trapped the Inhumans within and prevented any entrance from without.

That just left the little matter of Gorgon's retribution against the Seeker--as well as against Maximus, who makes a last-ditch attempt to stop Gorgon by taking mental control of Black Bolt and forcing him to act in his defense. But when Gorgon is rendered helpless and the Seeker takes deadly aim at him, Gorgon uses Black Bolt to deflect the blast, and the feedback strikes Maximus and sends him further into a state of madness--while a shockwave courtesy of one of Gorgon's famed stomps brings the house down on the Seeker, who's sought his last Inhuman.

All things considered, it's a satisfactory attempt by Mougin and Howell to shore up Lee's original story with supplemental information, albeit with a sweeping-out-the-door treatment of the Trikon that doesn't trouble itself to reference Conway's debut of them. The Trikon would later make an appearance in a Quasar story which had them included among a collection of prisoners on the Stranger's world, though no story material to speak of came of it. As for Medusa, her bout with amnesia can reasonably fit it (if we put our minds to it) with a later story which provided its own explanation for her criminal actions while with the Frightful Four. For instance, Medusa might well have considered at some point leaving the Frightful Four on her own, just as she did with Dumas--which is when the Wizard might have resorted to his "id" device to compel her continued cooperation.

Just how did Black Bolt come to be speechless, anyway?

The Inhumans: The Untold Saga #1

Script: Lou Mougin
Pencils: Richard Howell
Inks: Vince Colletta
Letterer: Diana Albers

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