Thursday, June 25, 2020

"Havoc In The Hidden Land!"

Invaders from the 5th Dimension have taken control of the Great Refuge of the Inhumans! Holding the royal family captive is their conqueror, Xemu, who intends to employ his sonic amplifier, the "thunder horn," to sow the seeds of war with the nations of Earth, using the voice of Black Bolt as a weapon of mass destruction--and to ensure the former monarch's cooperation, Xemu has dispatched Quicksilver to New York City to retrieve Medusa, a member of the Fantastic Four but also Black Bolt's betrothed, as the means by which Black Bolt will have no choice but to concede to Xemu's demands.

But Xemu's patience wears thin, and time is running out! As the FF blast off and head for the hidden land of the Inhumans, will they be able to challenge a ruthless invader willing to shed the blood of his hostages?

In Part One of this story, we were able to see a number of similarities between this tale by Roy Thomas and Rich Bucker and another two-part story published in early 1969 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, enough to give the impression that the Thomas/Buckler effort might have recycled certain elements of that prior story's plot. In Part Two, we unfortunately see more of the same, as the Fantastic Four board their NASA missile and soon arrives at the Great Refuge, to find the silence of the city almost deafening...

...yet looking back a little over six years to Fantastic Four #82, the same holds true for the FF members on their own mission to rescue Crystal, taken from their side by force back to the Refuge--a mission which, like its future counterpart, also leaves the Invisible Girl behind and, on arrival, sees the city deserted and reeking of a suspected trap.

(It goes without saying that Buckler's penchant at the time for sampling Kirby's panels for his own scenes doesn't exactly help to put the matter to rest.)

Back in 1975, the FF don't get very far before being attacked by a bruiser who takes them by surprise--one of the Inhumans, whose attack allows Xemu and his forces to use their weaponry against the FF...

...while in '69, it's Maximus's construct named Zorr which surprises the team shortly after arrival and goes on to incapacitate them.

Those similarities aside for the moment, we return to '75, where we find that Xemu is also keeping others on ice--the same pair whom the Human Torch met when he was taken captive in the Fifth Dimension in late 1962, and who now join forces with the FF to hopefully find a way out of their mutual predicament.

The FF's efforts don't amount to much at first; but with the help of Triton, the only Inhuman who managed to evade Xemu's men and remain at large, they're able to break out of their confinement and head toward Xemu and his so-called "thunder horn" device.

Of course, the FF's current fourth member, Medusa, finds her path to Xemu fast-tracked, as she discovers the full extent of Xemu's plans for Black Bolt, and for dooming the Earth.

The Inhumans truly seem damned if they do and damned if they don't: If they hesitate to repel the attacking Chinese jets, they'll all be killed, but to act is to ensure nuclear conflagration. Notably, it's a part of the story which differs significantly from the Lee/Kirby tale in terms of the story's climax and the methods used to win the day. Then, it was the royal family escaping their captivity who intervened in time to stop Maximus and destroy his weapon which was on the verge of being fired; but here, there is an unknown quantity at work which gives the FF and the Inhumans the opportunity to wipe the floor with Xemu's forces and regain control. (And Xemu turning tail and deserting his men doesn't hurt their chances, either.)

Sue's appearance here is a welcome surprise, one that doesn't take place in Lee's story where she's spending her time trying to pick a name for her newborn (which is more than likely just what Lee and Kirby thought she should be occupied with, though that's not to imply they made the wrong choice). But how exactly did she save the day and foil Xemu's plan? Ironically, it was Xemu's own weapon that made this day's all's-well-that-ends-well ending possible.

As we'd see when artist George Perez would later be passed the reins from Buckler, Sue's temporary integration with Xemu's device had the effect of increasing her powers (which now extended to rendering other objects invisible without the restriction of staying visible herself). As for Phineas and Valeria, Thomas would be circling back to them (and the 5th Dimension) with his next story, where the FF step in to avert the fate of three worlds.

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