117. The Flame and the Quest

Fantastic Four 117 diablo buscema cover

Issue One Hundred and Seventeen, Dec 1971

“…I’ll have my own country, uniquely suited to my own needs — I’ll be on equal footing in the world with Doctor Doom!

Johnny is searching for Crystal, looking for her first at the Inhuman’s hidden lair near Tibet. Rebuffed by some guards claiming to serve Maximus the Mad. Interrogating him, Johnny finds that Crystal is not with the Inhumans anymore. He returns to America and Whisper Hill where Reed, Sue, and Ben are relaxing with Agatha Harkness and Franklin. He convinces Agatha to try to find Crystal by mystical means, at length he sees that she is somewhere in Central America and he takes off after her. Meanwhile Crystal is captured by Diablo, the master of alchemy who drugs her and uses her powers to impress the natives of the country of Terra Verde. That country’s military commander, General Robles, hears of him and sends fighter jets to attack him. This is when Johnny arrives.

117practicingThis issue is well-considered. It’s a smaller-scale story than the ones we’ve had previously and there is no over-stretching or faltering plot points. It does bounce around slightly — Johnny comes and goes fairly arbitrarily, clocking up thousands of air miles between Tibet and Central America. It’s a little unclear as to why he’s suddenly decided to go after Crystal — of course he would, who wouldn’t? — but it’s been some time since he’s made a fuss about her being gone.

The motivation of the villain is another well-judged aspect of this tale. He doesn’t want to humiliate or defeat, what he wants is to rule a country so that he can be on the same footing as Doctor Doom. To just rule a country for the sake of ruling one would be rather pointless, but to bring in a sort of rivalry between two characters that have a certain amount of overlap (both sharing arcane mastery) makes him more interesting. Supervillains are often often ambitious, but few of them seem to be as task-oriented as Diablo is being here. And it makes all the sense in the world to use Crystal in the way that he has, to impress the natives of the land of Terra Verde (who are not overly superstitious but can’t argue with what they’re seeing).117limitIt’s not an overly dramatic issue, but its little moments, such as Reed and Ben rescuing a faltering and nearly unconscious Johnny from the sky, are well-handled. John Buscema is well into his stride and very comfortable in drawing the central characters. His composition and angling is very balanced and his figurework is simple, loose, and dynamic.


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