“Amazing! That Horace Grayson should be alive on another world — and requesting a loan–!“
After last issue’s attack on a private citizen, who turns out to be the president of Franklin Pierce/Grover Cleveland National Bank, Reed finds out that Crusader has something to do with a man called Horace Grayson. In the following weeks, Crusader makes more attacks, all on the same bank. The FF almost always keep missing Crusader, who attacks quickly and leaves abruptly. But they arrive in time to interfere in an attack at a bank in the Bronx. We find that Crusader is waging a vendetta against the bank because it refused his father a loan and thereby indirectly caused the civilisation on Uranus, where he was then living, to be destroyed. Crusader tries to lure the FF outside but Reed, surmising that Crusader’s powers are solar-based, manufactures cloud cover to deprive him of these. This is then raised when Crusader turns the power intake of his solar gauntlets up. The resulting overload apparently destroys Crusader, leaving just the power gauntlets behind.
Rather an odd issue. The Crusader promises quite a lot as a character, but there’s definitely something to be said for not overusing a character, and for creating a story that’s fast and rather ruthless, plot-wise. Despite what is said in the dialogue of the first few pages, Calvin McClary certainly died. And reading on it is alluded to that Crusader is killing others — he definitely isn’t one to be satisfied with just hurting people.
The reason for why he’s killing all these people is a little ropey. The back-story of a father taking his infant son to Uranus to flee the rise of the Nazis, while certainly an over-reaction, was already established, but what is continued here is the revelation that, at one point, the oddly humanoid society on Uranus became jeopordised to the point where they needed medicine from Earth. And for some reason, Marvel Boy (as Crusader was then known) did not apply for aid from any government, as he might, but went the route of a personal bank loan. When Marvel Boy got back to Uranus, he found that society had collapsed, a war had broken out, and the protective dome was damaged enough to wipe everyone out. Clearly, the bank that had refused to lend another planet money was to blame, and Marvel Boy began his crusade as Crusader.
It’s an odd little tale. It has so much energy, and it’s such a different thing to do with a character, to make a former hero a villain is not exceptionally rare, but to make him a villain and to keep him in the same uniform that he was a hero it… that is exceptionally rare, and effective. And the unfeasible bank vengeance angle could easily have been made good if it was just widened in scope to encompass absolutely anyone that had anything to do with Marvel Boy’s frustrations.
It’s a very different story for the Fantastic Four, and I think there is another reason for that. Marvel was a company that would quite shamefacedly use a character just for an issue or two in order to keep the copyright renewed on them, and I would lay odds (despite the very final tone of Crusader’s denouement) that this is what has happened in this case — but to good effect. Crusader was a character who was destined to burn brightly, and to burn fast.