…Crystal’s infidelity?

Crystal gets a lot of disrespect from Avengers fans for her occasional lapses in marital fidelity, but I feel her actions could be understood in a different light.

Crystal is the second-oldest “young” superheroine in the Marvel Universe. The Invisible Girl, the Wasp, and even the Scarlet Witch were all depicted as fully grown women from their first appearances (although Wanda was portrayed as younger when she joined the Avengers than she first appeared to be in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants). Only Marvel Girl of the X-Men predates Crystal in the role of superheroic ingénue.

In a sense, Crystal was created to be a romance interest. From her first appearance in Fantastic Four #45 it was clear that she was meant for Johnny Storm, and we never saw the human Torch more proactive or more motivated than when he was trying to get to Crystal. She in turn seems to have had a “love at first sight” experience (nicely portrayed from her perspective for the first time in the Fantastic Four: Fireworks limited series). This mutual passion led to Crystal being willing for the first time to defy her family and risk everything to be with Johnny, leading to the dry-run Romeo and Juliet plotline which avoided the rather permanently tragic ending.

Later, Crystal came to live at the Baxter building as a member of the Fantastic Four (although there was absolutely NO indication that there were ever any nocturnal wanderings on her or Johnny’s part – Crystal and Johnny seem to have had the sort of chaste love that wouldn’t have been out of place in a 1960’s My Love comic). She and Johnny seemed to be happily joined at the hip for a while until Crystal’s health deteriorated because of the pollutants of modern civilisation and she had to return to Attilan.

It was whilst returning to Attilan that Crystal became enmeshed in a plot of Diablo’s and eventually was taken by Lockjaw to the wounded Quicksilver who was trapped in the collapsing Australian Sentinel base. Despite a ruling that outsiders were not allowed in Attilan (which had kept Johnny away previously) Crystal brought Pietro home with her and nursed him to health. That they fell in love off-panel is one of the greatest failures in comics’ narration and goes a long way to explaining why this couple has never enjoyed the popularity of, say, Cyclops and Jean Grey or the Vision and the Scarlet Witch.

So Crystal breaks Johnny’s heart and marries Quicksilver. The Inhumans get over their prejudices about outsiders enough to allow this to happen, and apart from a guest appearance by Ultron at the wedding everything goes OK for a while. Quicksilver stays in Attilan, putting his Avengers training to good use as leader of the defence militia, and inexplicably failing to call his old comrades in when the city is attacked by a variety of menaces from Shatterstar to Maelstrom to the Enclave. Eventually Crystal has a baby, who is names Luna. Luna is extraordinarily human.

Now things get more complicated. In an excellent Byrne Thing story we see Crystal resisting her family’s efforts to expose Luna to the Terrigen Mists. Quicksilver is all for it. He doesn’t want to have a homo sapiens daughter. This is the first major schism between the young lovers, even though all appears to be restored to status quo afterwards. The story ends when Lockjaw speaks for the first time, claiming to be an Inhuman who was terribly changed by the Mists. Although this revelation has since been retconned as a joke on Ben, the actual story does not support this. Lockjaw’s speech is the pivotal point of a very dramatic and serious storyline. Nobody was going to be pulling jokes. It was this sudden interference by Lockjaw which convinces Pietro not to mutate Luna.

The next major development is of course Crystal’s adultery with the rather shallow real estate salesman (Norm somebody?) over in the Vision & Scarlet Witch Limited Series. Crystal’s motivations for this are depicted as being an increasing schism between her and Pietro. Later retcons have attributed it (and Quicksilver’s turning to the darkside of the force for a while) to Maximus’ mental manipulations. Suffice to say that this was the trigger for Crystal and Pietro to split up (though I was never that disappointed by it since I didn’t like them getting together in the first place).

The Inhumans do not appear to have been very sympathetic to Crystal about her troubles. When she decides to rejoin the FF there is a lot of resistance from her family and she is very closely monitored around Johnny Storm. Clearly there is much of the old attraction still intact on both sides, but Crystal overcomes temptation and eventually gets recalled to Attilan for a family-ordained reunion with the apparently repentant Pietro. The estranged couple remain together in a rather uncomfortable no-man’s land until the Avengers Collection Obsession storyline which leads to Crystal joining Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (bad idea). Quicksilver joins X-Factor shortly afterwards (worse idea).

Two things happen during Crystal’s time with the Avengers. First she has to cope with a growing mutual attraction to Dane Whitman, the Black Knight (another bad idea). Secondly she has to deal with attempts from Pietro to reconcile (even worse idea). And being Crystal she lets both of these things go too far. The story never makes clear whether Crystal and Dane consummate their affection (although there is an implication that they certainly did something down in the Mansion’s gardens, watched by Sersi and possibly the fake Vision – now that’s a couple I could get into), but they are certainly more than friends. And it is this last complicated triangle, or quadrilateral, or whatever, that has branded Crystal a slut in the eyes of many Avengers readers. When Tuc, Crystal’s alternate-future son, appeared in The Crossing, it was unclear as to whether Pietro or Dane was his father (I’d prefer Johnny as the one since I’m still convinced he is Luna’s pa too).

So much is history, and a simplified version at that. But the Inhumans limited series by Jae Lee introduced a new concept which could force us all to re-evaluate little Crystal’s behaviour.

Lee’s Inhumans are more than just a race of mutants or some other super-powered variant species of humanity. The storyline in the current series implies that the Inhumans are effectively a designer organism, each gaining powers from the Terrigen mist which enable them to fulfil some social function within the society as a whole. In other words, each Inhuman is born to a place within Inhuman culture, just as an ant has a fixed role within its live. What that role is becomes clear at the time of Terrigen metamorphosis for an Inhuman. Whether it is the destiny of that person to be a food-generator, a guard, a drone, or a king, it is all regulated in some way by the collective need of the race which we now know to be truly Inhuman.

Yet even amongst the Inhumans this is understood only by Maximus the Mad, and perhaps Black Bolt.

This function is not just about power. An Inhumans’ special ability is only a reflection of the core of their nature. Hence the mutation of the mists only manifests the role which they have been genetically engineered to play from birth.

So what does this say about Crystal’s function in Inhuman society? Is it only the whimsy of a silly girl that led her to Johnny Storm and later to Pietro Maximoff and Dane Whitman? Or does Crystal have some sort of cultural imperative which makes her seek out the unknown and embrace it? Of all the Inhumans’ royal family Crystal is the only one who has willingly sought out adventure beyond Attilan.

There is something almost mystical about the way the Mists manifest skills within the Inhumans in anticipation of what they will need. Just at the time that contact with other cultures was going to be critical to the survival of the Inhumans, Crystal came along to seek out liaison with the Human Torch, and through him others who had power to achieve what the current Inhumans could not. Her instinct seemed to be to bond, physically, emotionally, totally, with some gifted male from outside her own culture. Denied access to Johnny Storm she was taken (by Lockjaw!) to Pietro Maximoff.

Lockjaw remains an enigma (although I hear that Inhumans series addresses him but I don’t know how). Although his sentience has been portrayed as a joke by Inhumans such as Karnak and Gorgon ever since Byrne left the FF, I don’t entirely trust the Inhuman royal family to always speak the truth to outsiders. Certainly a culture which has created and enslaved the Alpha Primitives would have few qualms in mutating one of its own and making them a dumb beast. But whether dumb beast or not, his pivotal role at two vital moments of Crystal’s life cannot be ignored. Perhaps Lockjaw’s function was to do whatever was necessary to bring about the conception and preservation of Luna?

As to the estate agent, I can only plead that Crystal’s instincts are clearly very strong.

Still, the Inhuman collective imperative does seem to require “fresh blood” for the future. There has been more interaction between Inhumans and the outside world in the few years since the FF first met Medusa than in all the centuries before that. And Crystal’s urge to join with a non-Inhuman man do not seem to have diminished. Even her very personality – nurturing, gentle, loving, and kind – seems to suit her for the role placed upon her.

So what do you think? Is there more to Crystal’s actions than meets the eye? Is there an explanation for how a loving and caring woman could break first Johnny’s then Pietro’s hearts? Is Crystal as much victim as perpetrator? Has she any way to avoid her genetically-impelled destiny?

The “victim/perpetrator” concept reminds one of the viewpoint on Lucrezia Borgia. Used as a lovely tool for political alliances, which were often destroyed by her family when they were no longer necessary (including her one true love, who was stabbed and later murdered on her own brother’s command). It sparks the imagination, but I would be concerned that any of the Inhumans (except Maximus) would consciously have such cold-hearted intentions. What are your thoughts on this?

There are a number of dark shadows at the edge of the Inhumans stories. Apart from the Alpha Primitives, and the later depicted genetic snobbery based upon the Terrigen Mist mutations, there is also the mystery of Lockjaw, the only mutated apparent animal we have ever seen in Attilan, and also the questions around Medusa’s child.

We have seen the Inhumans drag Crystal home on a number of occasions when her behaviour has been considered inappropriate by Inhuman society. Conversely, we have seen Quicksilver treated with contempt by them even as he has been struggling for their lives. We have seen the very strict regimen under which Inhuman culture is operated, by never-fully-depicted codes as complex and impenetrable as many of the older cultures of our own world.

All of this seems to suggest that the Inhumans are not, as they often appear to be, merely the Addams Family of the Marvel Universe, or another lost tribe, but something very different… Inhuman in fact. It may even be that the Inhuman organism is, on one level, the culture, not the individual. And if so, judging any of the Inhumans’ interactions by human standards will always leave us somewhat puzzled.

On the other hand, the Inhuman Royal family and some others have been shown as noble, compassionate, and selfless. It may be that like many cultures the Inhumans maintain a “public face” for outsiders and have a rich, complicated sub-strata which is reserved for insiders only. Or there may be those things that all Inhumans know, but never speak about (think about the Victorian culture of our own history, and the taboos which it had, such as homosexuality; things still went on, but were never acknowledged).

That said, one’s impression is that even the Inhumans themselves do not understand how deep their genetic imperatives go. Perhaps that is why Maximus, who seems to comprehend them best, is mad, and why Black Bolt, who is the wisdom of his people, can shatter worlds with his voice.

So what about Crystal’s place as a specialised breeder to stimulate the otherwise inbred Inhuman community?

First, the Inhumans have been around for a very long time, and isolated for nearly all of their history. We have never heard anything about inbreeding problems in their community before, presumably because the mutative effects of the Terrigen Mist go far beyond simply giving people fins and wings and so on, and negate the sort of problematic cross-breeding that humans would have suffered in that time. So we need a different reason for Crystal’s (hypothesised) imperative.

However, the Inhuman Terrigen transformation is more than just a genetic change. Like the Gamma radiation which has created several super-powered beings, the Terrigen Mists seem to unlock what is already inside a person. Hence manipulative Maximus becomes a mind-bender, fierce bullish Gorgon gains hooves and a powerful stamp, and responsible, brooding Black Bolt gains electron control at the cost of his voice (the only Inhuman with two different powers, which is interesting).

And the transformation allows the young Inhuman to take their place in society, setting their social status and life-role. So the transformation is more than genetic, making this a far more complex system than the different instinctive roles of an insect hive.

As mentioned above, even Crystal would have to be a damn sight sluttier to make a significant difference to the Inhuman gene pool. So there is clearly some other reason why she might need to conceive a child by an outsider, and who turns out to be entirely human.

There is evidence to argue that the Inhumans bring forth the individuals that their society will need, somehow unconsciously anticipating what is to come. If rebellious, heart-led Crystal had not struck up her romance with Johnny Storm, the entire Inhuman population might have been destroyed, or at least subjugated by Maximus and later by the Kree. If Crystal had not birthed Luna then the Avengers would not have survived the Crossing. And who knows what need the Inhumans might have for Luna in the days to come?

Or perhaps it was just time for the Inhumans to stop hiding. It is perhaps significant that within weeks of the Inhumans being discovered the world was visited for the first time by Galactus. Within a few years of their “discovery” the Inhumans would be involved in all kinds of world-shattering events from invasions to Infernos. Was this all somehow anticipated, and Crystal spawned to prepare for it?

My other point is about the origins of the Inhumans. Remember that they were an early, forgotten, genetic experiment by the Kree. This takes on a new relevance in the light of the Supreme Intelligence’s sacrifice of the entire Kree galaxy in order to promote the genetic advancement of his race.

We have never seen anything like an Inhumans experiment on another planet, yet somehow this unique accomplishment, which has significant military value and which had both a Sentinel and Shatterstar set to watch over it was overlooked for millennia. Only the Supreme Intelligence himself could bury data that well. And the Inhumans started interacting with the outside world just as the Skrulls began their major campaign on Earth, and shortly before the Kree/Skrull War (in which they also played a role).

Is there still Kree programming somewhere in the genetic code of the Inhumans? Is the Supreme Intelligence saving this experiment for something special, perhaps something to do with his plans to revitalise the Kree genetic inheritance? Has the Supreme Intelligence got a purpose for Luna?

These what-if games can get very deep, can’t they? Perhaps it’s safer to assume that Crystal is a fallible, all-too human girl who has made good judgements and bad in her time. Not the culmination of an ancient plot by the Supreme Intelligence to exploit the genetic potential of humankind and spread his power across the stars.  But the latter sounds like much more fun!!!

To the earlier point, and I have seen similar behaviour in many real women who definitely weren’t sluts, I am interested by the later idea that the Inhumans are not really individuals but parts of one organism, with each playing its assigned social function (this raises some really big questions about Maximus, though, and whether he is a slipped cog or a vital part of the machine. In that concept, Crystal is either totally betraying the hive-society by her actions or else is performing some vital function.

On the question of Inhuman morals, they seem to place a massive emphasis on the sanctity of marriage. This is presumably because they have a society based upon genetic lines, so parentage is very important. The hint we have sometimes had about Maximus’ forbidden passion, and possibly affair, with Medusa raises some very dark questions over the Inhuman Royal Family.

On the question of Inhuman morals, they seem to place a massive emphasis on the sanctity of marriage. This is presumably because they have a society based upon genetic lines, so parentage is very important. The hint we have sometimes had about Maximus’ forbidden passion, and possibly affair, with Medusa raises some very dark questions over the Inhuman Royal Family.

Maybe Crystal is a “selective Xeno-breeder.”

Bear with me, I might lose even myself here.

The sentence above, “This is presumably because they have a society based upon genetic lines, so parentage is important” sets off bells in me noggin’.

The Inhumans keep careful watch of their breeding. They are a small society made up of genetic time-bombs (fused by the Terrigen Mists), so they must be very careful of inbreeding, more so than other small societies.

The smaller the society the harder it would be to keep relatives (especially distant ones) from breeding. This is why many states have blood testing before marriage.

Crystal could perhaps be meant to breed outside of her species to introduce new genetic material to the Inhumans bloodline.

When dog breeders breed their dogs they look for the best possible mate they could find. They do research and check all documents to make sure inbreeding won’t occur. In breeding is bad.

Ok, so assuming Crystal is a “selective Xeno-breeder”, what’s the “selective” part mean?

Look who she chose to breed with on Earth. Her first choice was a Homo Sapien that had been changed by cosmic ray bombardment, he was a public figure, a hero, and roughly her age.

Her second choice: a Homo Superior that had been severely injured while committing a heroic deed (Pietro’s bloodline is actually worshipped by some Mutants on Marvel Earth).

Her third? Well, let’s just say this is what makes Crystal’s function also risky to the Inhumans. A “selective breeder” with misguided judgement.

Or maybe she just was trying to gain back Pietro’s attention by hooking up with Norm the real estate agent. Maybe she had found love. Pietro’s a cold dude though, and he’s not innocent in their relationship problems.

Her fourth. A Homo Sapien that had been a hero in two centuries, an Avenger, a scientist, and a master sword-fighter to boot.

Crystal is also an elemental, which also raises questions on her connection to earthly type things.

My point: Maybe Crystal is MEANT to breed with exceptional males that are not Inhuman to bring in new genes to the gene pool. This would be a very hard position for her, because the Inhumans are very serious about marriage, and her genetic role would be to seek mates.

Crystal did however accomplish her “mission” (if this were actual continuity), she successfully had a child with a Homo Superior Pietro. Luna is like a breath of fresh air(no pun intended) for the Inhumans and their scrutinised gene pool. The Royal Family gets the gold.

Maybe.

Also, close society have a high percentage of endogamy. That comes with a lot of disease and sickness to them. The percentage between genome mutations is higher than in other more open/ mixed cultures. When that happens, a society like such can even vanish, dying all their members. Then the cross with another population can health that sick population, the hybrid vigour like its name, can save them. Then, if correct, Crystal’s role in her society is vital. They have to mix with human or some close species just to survive (but then you need more than one Luna to accomplish that).

Something entirely different. To have a baby is an honour between Inhumans. Their reproduction is politically controlled (Like we saw in Vision & SW LS II). They can´t have children if their government (Royal family?) don’t allow it. When a couple have a baby it is consider a gift and their prestige elevates (suggesting everything is programmed).

And we have never yet seen how they “know” that it is right to reproduce.

One interesting thought: we have some evidence that Inhumans are longer lived than homo sapiens. We also have evidence that they have very long courtships (Medusa and Black Bolt, for example). Is it because Inhumans have to be genetically and socially “right” for each other before they are allowed to breed?

About Crystal betraying the society, well Inhumans don’t like her behaviour but then perhaps they don´t even know Crystal part is crucial for them.

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