Can anyone doubt that the early nineteen-seventies was truly the Mighty Age of Marvel Comics? The publisher surely didn’t, taking every opening as an opportunity to feed the faithful with profound praise for the titanic tales and colorful clashes wonderfully winging their way to national newsstands. Why, Stan Lee may have moved on from the flagship Fantastic Four, leaving it in the capable hands of rascally Roy Thomas (whose powerful prose blatantly benefited from the awesome art of John Buscema) but that didn’t mean the stories couldn’t soar. Issue #132 promised, “The uncanny Inhumans! The ominous behemoth called Omega! Plus–the most shock-laden epilogue ever! Miss it not!” Now that’s impressive. Most Marvel hyperbole dubs a treacherous twist as the biggest of the month, but here it’s going to be the wildest ever!
As for the other exclamatory statements in that happy hype, it’s doubtlessly definite that Omega is indeed an ominous behemoth. It also seems that he’s taken carefully chosen classes from the Victor Von Doom School of Dastardly Derision.
Omega is not some garden variety villain, swelled to staggering size by Gamma Rays or some other stray radiation in the Marvel Universe. Instead, he’s a gigantic android who is fighting on behalf of the Alpha Primitives, a slave labor force created by the Inhumans, a race of super-powered beings then living in hiding in the Himalayas. Angered by their centuries of servitude, the Alpha Primitives were in the process of rising up and demanding freedom, which didn’t sit all that well with the uncanny Inhumans.
The boisterous battle rattles the very walls of Attilan, the Inhumans home city, until the royal family of the ruling breed realizes the error of their ways and sets the Alpha Primitives free. It was only a natural extension, after all, of the swingin’ sixties civil rights celebration that Marvel stood for.
But it was the elegant epilogue set to shake with shocks. With the delayed enlightenment out of the way, it was time to get down to the business of wrapping up the sterling saga with as many crazy changes as one story could contain. To instigate it, the incidental introduction of an electro-weave device was required. Apparently, the Inhumans were evolved enough to dream up a device that could be pointing like a pistol and, with a laser blast, reassemble one’s clothing.
Project Runway contestants, eat your hearts out. Since bashful, blue-eyed Benjamin J. Grimm determined his humble trunks didn’t merit a makeover, the colossally coiffed Inhuman known by the moniker of Medusa stepped in front of the barrel to provide a demonstration of the machine’s magic.
The old order changeth! Much to everyone’s surprise–or shock, if you prefer–Medusa offers to help round out the group to a quartet, standing-in for the stray Sue Storm, still answering to the rather childish code name the Invisible Girl. Sue was a little peeved at her partner, the flexible Mr. Fantastic, for not taking her seriously since she became a mother, so she’d stepped away from the super-team.
As if that weren’t a significant enough swap for the electro-weaver to engineer, a tug of a trigger when it was aimed at the Human Torch produced a radically rearranged ensemble.
A reassembled roster and cockeyed coloring in clothing has already laden plenty of shocks into the epilogue, but maybe not enough to inspire superlatives of “most…ever.” Well, hold tight, true believer, because there’s one more seismic shift. Johnny Storm, the heroic Human Torch, had a long-time love for Crystal, the auburn-atopped elemental of the Inhuman clan. Matters were complicated during an extended separation when she fell for the mutant speedster known as Quicksilver. At the end of this adventure, she finally broke it off with Johnny for good, which he treated as no big thing, even professing some satisfaction with being suddenly single. Sometimes, though, heroes are just especially good at putting on a brave face.
Besides everything else, the last panel piles on a prodigious portion of pathos. Maybe it’s not a shock, but it’s surely strong storytelling. Exciting enough to exclaim “Excelsior!”
— Captain America #136
— Thor #186
— The Incredible Hulk #138
— The Amazing Spider-Man #91
— Fantastic Four #104
— Thor #183
— Avengers #44
— The Amazing Spider-Man #53
—Captain America #131
—Captain America #132