Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Final Fate of The Bride of Doom!

We've taken a look at the brief story of Helena, a woman living in Latveria who was summoned by Victor Von Doom to become his bride, only to play a much larger role in a scheme that would entrap the Silver Surfer and compel him to destroy the Fantastic Four. It was Helena's uncanny resemblance to the Surfer's lost love, Shalla Bal, that allowed Doom to manipulate the Surfer, a plan facilitated by Doom suppressing her memories so that her true identity remained a mystery to her. Fortunately, her interaction with the Surfer restored those memories and allowed her to confirm that she was not the woman the Surfer believed she was, in time for the Surfer to join the FF in bringing an end to Doom's plot.

Unknown to anyone, however, was that "Helena" was part of another scheme--set in motion by Mephisto, the underworld demon who coveted the Surfer's soul. In a plan of revenge involving S.H.I.E.L.D., Mephisto had abducted Shalla Bal from her world of Zenn-La and brought her to Earth with the goal of manipulating the Surfer into killing her; but when that plan failed, he caused Shalla Bal to vanish before the Surfer could free her. Presumably, she was returned to Zenn-La--but we discovered instead that Mephisto had sent her to Latveria and given her false memories of being a local peasant girl. Still trapped on Earth, the Surfer continued to believe that Shalla Bal was lost to him forever, when in fact she was closer than he knew--and when Doom launched his own plot, it further advanced Mephisto's plan to strike another blow against the Surfer and increase his agony by dashing his hopes that Helena was more than she seemed.

Yet she was more, all along--and, with the exception of Mephisto, only you and I are aware of it.

Which paves the way for an agonizing

Marvel Trivia Question

Whatever became of "Helena"?

To discover the answer, we have to fast-forward seven years to a story from 1982, when the Surfer, with the help of the Fantastic Four, is provided with a one-time-only method of escape from Earth. After successfully piercing the barrier of Galactus, his first destination is Zenn-La, where he discovers from Shalla Bal's father, Anddar Bal, that she was taken by Mephisto. Curiously, the Surfer doesn't make the connection to when Mephisto had allowed his escape from Earth (as part of the SHIELD plot), where it was again Anddar Bal who informed the Surfer of his daughter's abduction by the demon. The discrepancy amounts to no more than a minor stumble in connecting the dots--suffice to say, the Surfer, after living in ignorance for years, is finally onto Mephisto's game and races back to Earth, heedless of Reed Richards' warning that to return would trap him once more on the planet.

And with Mephisto realizing that the Surfer is now finally aware of the full extent of his plan, the game is definitely afoot, though it remains to be seen which of the two will be able to capitalize on the knowledge. The smart money is on Mephisto, since he spun this web, after all; and indeed, when the Surfer arrives at Doom's castle*, Mephisto is ready to take further advantage of his pawn.

*Perhaps the logical place for the Surfer to begin his search, though "Helena" had no reason not to return home following the collapse of Doom's scheme; Doom likely had no further interest in her and presumably would have annulled their marriage almost immediately.

Unless Mephisto has further tampered with her memories, Helena would have indeed remembered the Surfer from their prior encounter, so her protestations otherwise make no sense here. It's worth noting, however, that her Latverian name isn't mentioned once following the Surfer's return, so it's certainly possible that Mephisto dispensed with the Helena identity. (Though it's hard to say why he'd bother.)

Yet it's a moot point, since the final confrontation between the Surfer and Mephisto is at hand.

To skip to the story's end, Shalla-Bal is returned to Zenn-La, with the Surfer once again unable to follow--restoring the status quo between the two, and bringing us full circle to a pivotal scene from the Surfer's origin story in 1968 which serves as a reminder that these two remain the very essence of star-crossed lovers.


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