Thursday, June 23, 2022

Your Power Is Mine!


Name This Marvel Villain??

By name, we're looking here at Prof. Ahmet Abdol, an Egyptian archaeologist who, as we'll learn, has an unusual interest in and connection with the recently revealed brother of the X-Man, Cyclops--Alex Summers, whose college graduation is marked by pleasantries as well as his own kidnapping by Abdol, a man obsessed with Alex's death.

Yes, our villain's handle is the Living Pharaoh, something of a crackpot who has formed his own little cult here and not only come to believe himself to be an actual, ancient pharaoh but also claims that all pharaohs were mutants. Fortunately for Alex, the X-Men track him down and rout the Pharaoh and his hirelings, after which Alex learns of the life his brother has been leading.

But the Pharaoh and his men get the drop on the X-Men when they return again for Alex--and we see that the Pharaoh's power stems from his ability to absorb cosmic rays, a power that is being somehow drained by Alex. And when Alex manages to secure the Pharaoh, he finally learns the truth about himself, if not yet the Pharaoh's motives in this drama.

The revelation helps to explain Scott's desire to keep his brother's existence a secret, wishing him to lead a normal life free of any association with the X-Men or any knowledge of Scott's "double life." Thanks to the Pharaoh, however, Alex's life has likely changed from this point forward.

It's quite a jumbled set of circumstances handed off to returning writer Roy Thomas, having taken a break from the book for nearly a year and who now joins with artist Neal Adams, a freelancer who turns in his first work for Marvel (and whose passing in late April sadly coincides with this post's writing). Even with the Pharaoh virtually powerless, the X-Men find they aren't out of the woods yet when his hirelings return and manage to wrest both Alex and the Pharaoh from the team and make their getaway. And when the Angel trails them to a lab established in other Egyptian ruins, the captive Alex finds he's still very much part of the Pharaoh's march to take for himself "the power."

And so now we (and the X-Men) have the Living Monolith to contend with, which appears to be the ultimate manifestation of Abdol's mutation. But what of Alex? Shackled and with his air running out, his options are few if any--except for his own, uncontrolled power, which his growing panic helps to release and, in the process, returns Abdol once again to a helpless state. When the dust settles, however, Alex is convinced that the real danger here--himself--still threatens them all.

Fallen debris and wreckage in the wake of collaring a villain generally work wonders for allowing a book to segue to a new adventure without much explanation--in this case, allowing Thomas and Adams to settle matters with the Pharaoh/Monolith and quickly move on from this topsy-turvy plot to a new threat from the Sentinels, who move swiftly to capture a number of mutants including Alex as well as some members of the X-Men. As for Abdol, who has taken advantage of his reputation as a respected archaeologist and managed to convince the authorities that it was the X-Men who were the source of all the trouble back in Egypt, he finds he's not exempt from the Sentinels' hunt, even when Alex's capture facilitates his transformation once more to the Monolith.

Time passes, as does the Sentinel threat, and soon enough we find our old friend the Pharaoh once more after Alex--only this time, Alex had grown into his role as Havok, who can nevertheless use a spider-sense to tell him when someone is sneaking up on him.

This time, the Pharaoh's priorities with Alex have changed. No longer interested in Alex's death, Abdol wants to keep him contained in a tube modified from its original purpose to heighten the Monolith's power. On that note, a hero who does have spider-sense steps in to prevent that from happening--and if it weren't for an unfortunate accident, he might have been successful.

Enter Thor, the God of Thunder, who challenges the Monolith's claim to godhood but discovers he has his work cut out for him. Nor does a second rescue attempt pan out for either Thor or Spider-Man, as this time the Monolith appears to have thought of everything.

And so our heroes take a two-pronged approach: While Thor strives to overcome the Monolith on a physical scale, Spider-Man decides to take another look at Havok's containment tube and let his spider-sense take the lead in defusing the threat of its explosive device. In this duel of gods, it turns out to be a mortal who is the key to the Monolith's downfall.

In spite of Thor's determination to take the Pharaoh into custody, the villain indeed manages to escape, back to his "cover" of Abdol. From there, the character receives a decent amount of attention in future stories, including his own graphic novel (Revenge of the Living Monolith) as well as new adaptations to his origin which revealed ties to both Mr. Sinister and Apocalypse.


Big Murr said...

For me, this is your least challenging "Name That Villain". Abdol hasn't had a ton of appearances, but when a couple of those appearances were illustrated by masterclass artists in their young prime, it helps the memory.

scott ruplin said...

I recall an interview with John Byrne (perhaps in the old Art of John Byrne book) wherein he mentioned that DeZuniga's inking over his pencils here was one of his all time favorites.

Anonymous said...

The Living Monolith was an intriguing villain. One a relatively few solo characters who could provide enough menace for an entire superhero team. And the two stories mentioned in this post are both very good. He had the potential to become one of the major Marvel villains in my opinion. He would need just a bit more personality and stronger backstory/motivation.

But the connection to Havok unfortunately sidelined him, as EVERY story first had to address that and depower Havok first. It meant that every potential Living Monolith story would fall into a creative rut. You'd need to eliminate that link first, and give Abdol more control or another thing limiting his use of his powers.

However, I have to say that Roy Thomas' introduction of Cyclops' brother in this story always bothered me. The secret and never before referenced close relative is a clunky narrative device. And since Scott is a well established ORPHAN, it makes it much harder. For the purposes of the story, it would have been to make Alex a cousin of Jean Grey for example. We know all the other X-Men have families, so them having a mutant relative would not be surprising. Making him a cousin of someone would not stretch things as while siblings are something that should be established early with characters, it really would not be surprising that a cousin was never mentioned before.

(Granted, I do not have a high opinion of Roy Thomas's writing. He certainly has done good work and written some classic stories, but he relies on too many clunky tricks and strained dialogue for his stories. He is someone obviously better suited to adapting the works of others into comics rather than writing his own material.)


Comicsfan said...

Ha ha--good to know for future reference, Murray!

Scott, I agree about DeZuniga's inking here. I was never a fan of his '77 inks on Thor, but he turned in good work on this MTU story.

Chris, I would say the Monolith's gimmick, if you will, was arguably Alex Summers and their tug-of-war link to "the Power." Barring that, all you really seem to have with the character is another colossal threat out to destroy and stomp his way through the city, his only distinctive feature being that outfit and headgear of his. (Someday the PPC might do a roundup of all the giant-sized villains who have tied up traffic and terrorized pedestrians and building residents as they vented their anger. Ego-Prime... the Ameridroid... maybe the Sentinels' Master Mold... I'll have to kick it around a bit.)

Anonymous said...

What about a roundup of villains with crazy headgear, Comicsfan?
Or even just crazy heads?


Comicsfan said...

I may have my work cut out for me, sean. =:O

Anonymous said...

I love this guy.

Anonymous said...

Above comment by lordjim6