Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Beware The Deadly Tendrils of... Alicia!?

Following a recent run-in with Deathlok the Demolisher, Ben Grimm (a/k/a the Thing, well-known member of the Fantastic Four) has brought him to London on the recommendation of Reed Richards, in order to seek the help of Dr. Louis Kort in removing a mind control device which the Fixer used to take control of the cyborg and use him in a presidential assassination attempt. That plot failed--but with the device now responsible for Deathlok being in a catatonic state, he could die unless Kort can find a way to help him.

While Kort tends to his patient, Ben has taken the opportunity to bring along his girlfriend, sculptress Alicia Masters, and spend some quality time with her while indulging in some sightseeing. But one of the sights that the Thing never expected to see in London, swooping down to attack, is Spider-Woman--and she is also not feeling like herself, thanks to a cell of Hydra agents that have captured her and hypnotized her into doing their bidding.

Yet before unleashing Spider-Woman on the Thing, Hydra had already forced Kort to isolate the genetic code which first created her and produce a serum which, when injected into others, could result in an army of spider-women under their control. But first, a test subject was needed--and gee, you'll never guess which lucky person they've settled on to take the first injection.

Now be honest--wasn't this a line you thought Marvel would never cross??

By this time, Spider-Woman has broken free of Hydra's control and is doing all she can to help the Thing. Spider-Woman vs. Spider- er, Alicia is a match that plays out well enough visually, since Alicia in her present state is perfectly willing and able to kill whoever she is directed by her Hydra masters to go after; but since Hydra still has plans for Spider-Woman, it's Grimm that they truly want to test her against. And other than for shock value, it's not clear what we should expect in the way of a story, since neither Alicia nor Ben can do much against the other. Ben's rocky hide protects him against Alicia's poisonous tendrils--while Ben is loathe to battle Alicia other than defensively.

But when Spider-Woman makes Ben aware of what she knows about Alicia's metabolism, it helps to give this situation at least some sense of urgency.

But despite Spider-Woman's plan to subdue Alicia, she's soon put out of action when she's cornered and restrained in webbing which spews from Alicia's (ugh) mouth. (If Alicia makes it out of this in one piece, my hat's off to Ben if he can ever manage to get the image of "Spider-Alicia" out of his head from this point on.)

In the meantime, Ben has used his time to phone New York for some help from the FF; but when he returns, he finds he must intervene when the London police are given the order to move in against Alicia. And in a tense moment, he plays a hunch--one that he comes to realize has caused more harm than good to the one he loves.

But what about our beleaguered Agent Four, who initiated this plan mainly to have his base become more prominent in the organization? Now he must report in that his test subject is out of control, and plead for assistance--and in light of the fact that his failures have begun to mount up, gaining the notice of the Supreme Hydra doesn't turn out to be the windfall of opportunity that he was hoping for.

As for the crisis at hand, the cover of the climactic issue has already spilled the beans on just which FF member will show up in response to Ben's call to the Baxter Building--and given that the goal is to subdue Alicia without causing her serious injury, it was really the only call for the writer to make, as well.

Fortunately, Kort succeeds; in fact, he's two-for-two, having saved Deathlok from death (though recovering in a special capsule for a sixty-day period). If Kort keeps this up, Hydra might be tempted to offer him a healthy retainer for his services--and it's been made abundantly clear that disappointing the Supreme Hydra is something to be avoided.


dbutler16 said...

Interesting story.

I've always wondered how organizations like Hydra keep up their membership, what with killing anyone who fails and all that.

Comicsfan said...

Given the stories we've seen, dbutler, it's easy to feel that Hydra's schemes fail to pan out much of the time--and no doubt, a few heads roll when it's time for people to be held accountable. That said, it takes a certain mentality to want to be part of an evil organization with a global reach, so we're left to presume that they're willing to take the gamble for whatever payoff they believe is coming their way. I don't suppose they're called "the hordes of Hydra" for nothing.

Big Murr said...

One can only assume Hydra has an amazing dental-benefits package. (With the odds of getting a superhero fist in the face, they'd have to, I guess).

Years of stories provide many little tidbits on the level of brain-washing (on several fronts) recruits in such mega-crime organizations endure. I'm sure some standard issue low-life criminal thinks s/he is joining a normal gang. If they show the right aptitudes, they are manipulated and molded until one day they are wearing funky green pyjamas and think it perfectly normal.

I never read this actual story. I only know of it from the call-back it received in the "Spider Island" epic, where the Alicia's blood provided key data points for developing a cure.

Anonymous said...

Same thing with A.I.M.
Their benefit package must be fantastic.
"Welp, it's either this or McDonalds...Modok's not currently in charge, is he?"