Sunday, December 7, 2008

Crystal: The Marvel Universe Bicycle

For a guy who reads as many comics as I do and spends as much time dealing with comics as I do, you'd figure by the numbers alone there would be a fair amount of characters I don't like. However, while there are certainly plenty of comic book characters I find to be dull or irritating or whatever, I can't think of too many who when they show up I roll my eyes and audibly sigh in frustration.

There are a few though, and Crystal of the Inhumans is at the top of that list.

I first encountered the "pumpkin-haired bimbette" (as I vividly and fondly recall Diamondback referring to her as in an issue of Captain America--thank you for that, Mark Gruenwald) when she was a member of the Avengers back in the early 90's. Bob Harras' run on Avengers was largely characterized by a greater focus on the soap opera aspects of the team than perhaps ever before, with a love triangle between Crystal, the Black Knight and Sersi being at the center.

Not knowing any history about any of the characters, I assumed the Black Knight had always been the stubble-chinned Gambit lookalike and ladies man I encountered in these pages. He was kinda like a badass Archie, as he had the hot bitchy brunette Sersi looking to unsheathe his sword (BAM!) and the "sweet, innocent" semi-blond Crystal also making a play for him. So my initial "loathing at first sight" for Crystal was simply that she was the lame, uninteresting and sappy corner of this triangular romance, whereas the other two angles were edgy and rad. I also thought it kinda inappropriate for Crys to be pretty blatantly throwing herself at the team's resident bad boy when she was raising a young daughter, Luna, on the other end of the mansion, but that was secondary.

It wasn't until an issue of X-Factor around the same period where young Ben thought to ask himself, "Huh, I wonder where Luna's dad is?" That would of course be because in said issue Quicksilver asks Val Cooper for time off so he can go on vacation with his estranged wife--Crystal!

Whaaaaa?

I actually liked Quicksilver, so the fact that the lame elemental chick over in Avengers was his wife disappointed me greatly. However, what disappointed me even more was reading this X-Factor back-up story where Pietro is trying desparately to get Crystal to take him back and being a gentleman and everything and young Ben is yelling at the page, "Quicksilver, you fool! She totally made out with the Black Knight last month! She's NO GOOD!" and getting funny looks from his parents.

By the end of the story, some dude actually tries to blackmail Quicksilver by showing him pictures of his wife out dancing or something (really?) with ol' BK and Pietro beats the snot out of him but then heads back to the cabin he and essentially telling Crystal to hit the bricks.

That wouldn't be the end of the story, as Quicksilver would show up back in Avengers and make the love triangle into a sorta love square (honestly I just wanted him and Sersi to get together) and then Black Knight ended up in the Ultraverse and I stopped reading comics for awhile.

The lasting impression left on me from the whole ordeal though was that Crystal was a lousy, no good, two-timing skank who didn't even have the decency to act like one on the outside like the fine residents of Melrose Place, instead trying to seem all Pollyanna while she was lining up her next manwiche.

But that was only the tip of the iceberg, my friends. I got back into reading comics in college and actually took some time to learn the history of the Marvel Universe and in the process discovered that this was not the first time Crystal had pulled something like this--in fact, it was basically her secondary mutation to cheat on whatever dude she was with!

Let's go to the history books...

Crystal was originally introduced along with the rest of the Inhumans in the pages of Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back during their miracle run on that book. She was essentially the Juliet to Johnny Storm's Romeo; the one girl the smooth operating Human Torch could never attain because her people disapproved, she was trapped behind some impenetrable barrier in Attilan, etc. And this worked. It was neat idea and the sort of human quandary done on an epic scale that made Lee and Kirby's FF sing.

Eventually Johnny and Crys did find a way to be together, with her essentially moving in with him and them living happily ever after. But this is comics, so nobody can really live happily ever after unless you're writing them into limbo or they're Reed and Sue, so eventually, something suddenly came up (I confess to not knowing exactly what) and the happy couple split.

Here begin the problems.

Crystal ends up finding Quicksilver after he got the crap kicked out of him by a Sentinel and nursing him back to health. They fall in love and even get married. It's an interesting enough odd couple since Crystal actually lived up to her billing as chaste and kindly back then whereas Quicksilver was the consumate jerk he always was, is, and should remain. Maybe they didn't need to get married (and have a kid), but they were interesting.

However, to start with, from every summary I've read, it seems like the Crystal-Quicksilver relationship was always played as "She got bored of waiting for the Torch to want to be with her again, so she settled for the next warm body" (more or less). I'm sure this was done with the intention of playing up the starcrossed lovers thing to the next level, but from my point of view, it just makes Crystal seem like a shrew and Quicksilver of all people seem like the sympathetic party.

It gets worse.

Eventually, Crystal gets bored (happens a lot apparently) of hanging out in her hidden city playing wife/mom, so she visits her in-laws the Vision and the Scarlet Witch in the Jersey suburbs and starts an affair. Not with the Vision, or the Torch, or even the Witch, but just with some dude. In Jersey.

Ok, as a proud resident of a Jersey suburb, even I have to say it's incredibly sad that in a Universe populated with chiseled demigods running around in spadex, Crystal settled for some insurance salesman in Hackensack or whatever as her "other man." Adultery is bad enough, but have some standards, lady!

Because of the whole "his wife sleeping with a Jersey shore guido" thing, Quicksilver went nuts and became a villain for awhile. Rather than, oh, try to fix things, Crystal decided to join the Fantastic Four alongside her old flame (HA!) Johnny Storm (who was raising her daughter? I dunno, Triton or somebody...I'm sure she didn't care). Why is she suddenly interested in the Torch again? Because he's married now.

Oy.

After failing to convince her ex boytoy that cheating on your spouse was the hip new thing, Crystal remembered she had a kid and wandered back to the Inhumans. Quicksilver was getting sane again, so to avoid that potential deathtrap of domestic bliss and a stable home life for her child, she joined the Avengers and embarked upon the aforementioned floozying with the Black Knight. Crisis averted.

After that we had Onslaught, Heroes Reborn, Heroes Return...Crystal didn't show up a lot. I think she reconciled with Quicksilver for a speall, but (shockingly) it didn't last. Paul Jenkins did his awesome Inhumans mini and she was in it, but I've never been entirely sure if that story was in continuity or not (and Crystal doesn't get with anybody, so it's not really important for my purposes here).

Recent years have seen a modest resurgance of Crystal appearances and with them the requisite Crystal being a harlot. In the Son of M mini where Quicksilver goes nuts again and steals the Terrigen Mists from the Inhumans, Crystal can't be bothered to do much because she's busy tangling with a new plant-based Inhuman (and by "tangling with" I mean "having sex with").

Then, as if it couldn't get any better/worse, during a New Avengers tie-in issue to Civil War, the Sentry takes a trip to Attilan and we find out that apparently he and Crystal knocked boots back in the day when both of them were married. That's right: Crystal had a retcon affair!

Amazing.

I'm not the high-faluting "I've got the moral high ground 24/7" dude I was back in high school (I was Dan from Gossip Girl), but adultery still gives me the heebie jeebies (as I think it does most people). But with Crystal, cheating on her man of the moment isn't just a plot twist that got thrown in one day, it's what she does. And like I said, it's not that she's just a slut that bugs me, it's that for some reason she's never really called out on it. Every time she shows up, the male characters aren't all like, "Nice! Crystal! Somebody's getting lucky tonight!" She is still portrayed as Polly Pureheart.

For the record, I don't blame any writer or artist for my irrational hatred of Crystal. I honestly believe that Crystal somehow reaches through the page and forces creators to enable her in her ongoing sexcapades. And heck, I've read plenty of good Inhumans/Crystal stories, including the ones where she cuckolds her poor beaus. I've only seen snippets of those original Lee/Kirby issues, but I love the dynamic. The Jenkins mini is one of my favorites. I even dug that Harras stuff in a 90's sorta way.

The latest Crystal portrayal courtesy of Joe Pokaski in Secret Invasion: Inhumans showed promise. Joe did a nice job playing up te family aspect of the Inhumans and casting Crystal in the jealous little sister role to Medusa worked. Going into War of Kings, I'm excited to see how two of my favorite writers, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, play with these characters. Crystal being put into a forced marriage with Ronan is an interesting twist (heads up to Ronan: she will cheat on you).

So here's looking to tomorrow, Crystal--best of luck in your future endeavors.

I will likely still hate you.

14 comments:

Rich said...

Nice rundown. Funny but I always liked Crystal, flaws and all - and yes, her flaws are many. It may have to do with the fact that I always thought Pietro was a complete ass.

The one thing I don't like is the Crystal-Sentry thing, but that's because I can't stand the Sentry - a complete waste of space.

I'd forgotten about that guy from Jersey though. Ha!

Ben Morse said...

There is absolutely no character in comics that I dislike more than Crystal. That I just wrote a friggin' essay on her is a testament both to that and likely to my own mental instability.

But it just goes to show you that everybody's least favorite is somebody else's favorite (or at least a character somebody else can tolerate).

Nick said...

I'm glad I finally got the backstory on that. I remember you slipping in an "I hate Crystal" comment once or twice at work.

KP said...

Ben, that is the filthiest headline I've ever seen you put on a story.

Ben Morse said...

Get used to it, we're going R-rated.

Anonymous said...

Did you notice the way she is "falling" for Ronin is the same way she "fell" for Quicksilver... also do you think now she's remarried Quicksilver may have the best shot he's had in years with her?

Anonymous said...

Well, I dont fully hate Crystal, because she has raise her daugther good enough. But Im fully agree whit the fact that her marriage was a garbage (Im so happy that finished) and it was in major part her fault. Cheated her husband twice and has many other attemps. Never do anything to the things works, She acts like a (m.f.)princess but as a wife she wasnt loyal,smart or supportive. What part of Pietro goes crazy ever time that he is on Atillan (stop to take him to live there) never realized, Your husband has fighting with his temper and try to encase with your super elitist and scholastic family (Who hates him) and you never say a word for he.
I think that Pietro get married because has a problem with the relationship of his sister(he was feeling alone and jelous) and Crystal because was bored to wait for Johnny.
Like a Heero she has grown but only recently, because originally she has the power but never do anythings with it, hey gril you can use the five elements the avatar saved the world the same things.

Anonymous said...

Thank God! Geez I´m so happy that I´m not the only one who can´t stand this all “poor Crystal… life has been so unfair to her for giving her a shitty husband” angle that everyone seems to take wherever she is around. Seriously! The woman is a bitch in every sense of the word. So Quicksilver was/is/will always be a jerk, big deal! As Wanda so wisely said when confronting Norm (the insurance salesman dude a.k.a Crystal´s first fling) Pietro has always been self-absorbed and Crystal knew that when she married him. Kuddos to Marvel for finishing that horrible marriage. Who knows? Maybe now that Crystal is remarried she will become interested in Pietro once again.

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Well, I do not actually believe it is likely to have success.

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It won't succeed as a matter of fact, that's what I believe.

Nathan Adler said...

I actually think Crystal's been given a bad wrap and have reinterpreted her infidelities in a more positive light here:
http://fanfix.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/crystals-infidelity/

Tyciol said...

Based on the essay I read here http://enterthestory.com/comics/Crystal.html and seeing how she used to be, I'm getting the impression that the Crystal everyone hates is this new one.

But is it even the real Crystal? Or is it just the psyche that Maximus built? Perhaps the real one is still hidden away somewhere.

Maybe someone has shared before in the rage we feel at Zatannah for editing Batman's brain? Perhaps crystal is just as much the tragic victim? Only because her altered personality is that of someone who sleeps around, we're less sympathetic than we are to the extra-paranoid Batman, someone we might be more closely able to relate to?

karl said...

Or alternately, we could just accept that Crystal is merely growing up. She was innocent when she was young, but since then shes been married and divorced, with a young child to look after. This sort of thing does make some people see like differently. She wasnt the naiive young girl who the torch fell in love with years ago anymore.