Monday, June 1, 2020


While I'm sure none of us would want to take on the engineering ordeal of having to devise a way to move and relocate an entire city, along with its foundation, intact, there doesn't seem to be much to it in the world of fiction, depending on the level of science and technology that's available to draw on. We know the Borg can have a city excavated and airborne faster than its population would even realize what was happening, which is saying something. In comics, the uncanny Inhumans have accomplished such a feat twice, though each time they received invaluable assistance from allies.

Back in the day, Attilan, the Inhumans' Great Refuge, was located on an island (the "Isle of Attilan"), where Black Bolt, troubled in the 1950s by a growing fear that their civilization would inevitably be discovered by the advancing technology of humans, began a search for a more isolated location for his people; yet originally, the plan to relocate was far less ambitious, involving nothing more than locating a suitable, secluded site and moving their population, supplies, and technology by use of massive ark-ships. Having encountered the Eternals and their leader, Zuras, who gladly offered the assistance of himself and his people in their undertaking, the new location was selected in a valley in the Himalayas which had a perpetual cloud cover to hide it from the air. Using their mental energy, the Eternals, along with Black Bolt, excavated a pit in the spot where the Inhumans' new city would be built.

And so, when Black Bolt returns with his news, the plan to relocate is initiated.

But leave it to a single child to derail an entire operation, eh?

With a new plan in place, the arks are refitted to include special gravimetric generators which could lift and suspend the city and its foundation--and when all preparations are made, the great migration begins!

As you might have already noted, a floating city traveling across the skies would surely make it more likely for knowledge of the Great Refuge's existence to be spread across the world, particularly when air defense craft would approach and begin making detailed reports. But the Eternals appear to have that eventuality covered--and soon enough, Attilan is lowered to rest in its new environment.

But when the need arises when Attilan must be moved again, yet there is nowhere on Earth to relocate where the Inhumans can survive--what then?

Taking place in a Fantastic Four issue from 1982, the story by writer/artist John Byrne must first dispense with a bit of baggage involving the Inhumans and the Enclave, a mysterious group which had abducted Medusa in a dangling plot that was never followed up on. And so we find Quicksilver (residing in Attilan as Crystal's husband) racing to secure the FF's help in stopping the Enclave's all-out attack against the Inhumans--but the situation would open the door to another, more serious problem, one which Reed Richards had already encountered some time ago.

*Can you name the television episode where Reed--er, Mr. Byrne likely got the idea for that bit of dialog? (Hint: Star Trek, 1966, Season One.)

So, what to do now? Karnak is a little slow on the uptake as to the magnitude of Reed's analysis that basically makes clear that there is no longer any safe haven for the Inhumans on the planet in regard to their health--but with the information Medusa provides of their city's previous migration, and with the inspiration Reed receives from the Thing, the solution is as close as... well, 238,900 miles.

Preparations are understandably different this time around, with perhaps one or two discrepancies which the story doesn't account for. The arks are replaced by refitting the city's power plants with anti-grav motors--yet where the arks were equipped with propulsion as well, the city doesn't appear to even have thrusters for use in space. And if the metal that Gorgon severed was binding the city to its foundation, how is it that a sizable chunk of that foundation is making the trip with the city? (Neither of which I'm willing to give too much thought to--after all, the Inhumans have a truckload more experience at this sort of thing than an armchair engineer. :) )

On a lighter note, the scene with the Alpha Primitives was a nice touch--and I loved the fact that Ben was chosen to pilot what amounts to an asteroid all the way to Earth's moon. Even the Watcher seems to be impressed.

(I didn't read anything about the blue area of the moon having heated air, even though everyone coming out into the open seems completely comfortable. We'll have to assume the Kree designed their atmospheric technology to last, even when an entire city is dropped on it.)

Lastly, Crystal's pregnancy provides the story with a scene that underscores such a momentous undertaking with the dash of hope and well-being that any reader of Fantastic Four can appreciate.

(In hindsight we know that fatherhood didn't do a lot to change Pietro's character for the better--can anyone bring us up to speed on how he's doing these days?)


Anonymous said...

"Bring us up to speed" Comicsfan?

Ok, putting my serious hat on now, lets consider FF #240 -
"Once, not long ago, the Inhumans freed their mindless drones. It was a noble experiment.
And a failure.
... the Alphas had paid the price for misguided altruism."

The misguided altruism of freeing slaves? Really?
The only previous story I've read about the Alphas was the Roy Thomas one from FF#s 131 & 132, so I don't know whether Byrne came up with that angle himself or was simply continuing with an idea already established in the continuity.
Either way, it strikes me as very dubious.


Big Murr said...

I've never seen the Blue Area depicted as anything but a shirt-sleeve environment. What astounds me is that after all the battle damage the ancient ruins have suffered, topped by a flying city mashing everything flat, that whatever mechanism that produces the shirt-sleeve environment still works!

("Welcome to your new home Black Bolt! Oh...uh...everyone hold your breath while I go find the machines and fix them!")

Anonymous said...

When I first read this comic all those years ago, I thought it was odd the conflict between the Inhumans and the Enclave and Maximus' role in it was only described briefly in flashbacks. Maybe that was a story Byrne just didn't feel like telling in detail, and he was impatient to tell the story here.
That said, it's a great comic. Byrne may have a reputation for being a real piece of work and temperamental as a Canadian badger with a bramble stuck to his rear end, but he did put the magic back in the F.F. I gotta give him that.


Comicsfan said...

M.P., I felt Byrne weaving the dangling Enclave/Medusa-as-hostage plot into the main story wasn't a bad way to handle it; in fact, I give him props for picking it up at all, since until then no one really seemed to be interested in taking the tidbits we'd been given on it and building an actual story around it. (Frankly, I wasn't all that interested in just the flashbacks!)

sean, you raise a good point, particularly when Thomas had made the effort to establish the Alphas as an oppressed people created by those who wanted a race of inferior worker-slaves. But I was actually wondering about Pietro's current-day character, and whether the effort was made to give him more solid footing, as it were.

Anonymous said...

"More solid footing"?
*more groans* (;

Yes, I realized you wanted a Quicksilver update Comicsfan, I was just switching to a different subject as the Alpha thing always bugged me.
Which is a shame, as generally I agree with M.P. that Byrne made the FF great again and mostly thought #240 was pretty good (fwiw, I don't think the story needed more detail - the energetic done-in-one was one of Byrne's strong points).


Colin Jones said...

"Look! It's air! The crater is filled with atmosphere!"

Apparently the air is visible which is how the blue area of the moon is blue...?!?!

Comicsfan said...

Colin, I think Reed made it clear in the original FF tale that the area photographed blue because of the coloring of the ruins of the city there. Or he could have just been listening to the Marcels at the time. :)