81. Enter – The Exquisite Elemental

Fantastic Four Issue Eighty-One 81

Issue Eighty-One, Dec 1968

At long last, The Fantastic Four is back at its most fun and original! After almost two years of pretty unashamed misogyny, we have a very positive female-oriented storyline. This story is all about Crystal, and in a nice turnaround, the title refers to her and not to the menace of the story (who once again is the Wizard). This is the first time that a regular member of the FF has been replaced by another character.

Crystal is completely proactive. She recognises a gap has been left in the team by Sue’s absence — she is still recovering in hospital after giving birth. She begins by making her own costume and announcing to the boys that she is taking Sue’s place. They react in surprise, but not hostility and allow her the chance to prove herself.

Fantastic Four Issue Eighty-One 81 Crystal

Of course, it’s possible that Reed wants her to get blown up.

Throughout the adventure, it is actually Reed who is most supportive of Crystal, which is odd because he has shown himself to be the most anti-feminist: the first always to tell Sue to stop acting emotionally, to keep information from her, and to exclude her from the team. But not so with Crystal, who Reed compliments as a strategist before telling Johnny that she doesn’t need his help. In fact, Johnny exposes both himself and Crystal to danger by being overly conscientious of her, staying to help her out of the Fantasticar and taking a hit from the Wizard for his troubles. It emphasises the point: Crystal doesn’t need to be looked after by the boys.

Which is often more than could be said for Sue, and although this is a great issue and a joy to see Crystal become assertive and self-empowered, a very reasonable question would be why didn’t this happen sooner? But that shouldn’t detract from the enjoyment of this issue. Doing the right thing is right whenever you do it.Fantastic Four Issue Eighty-One 81 Crystal

The Wizard is used as a foil for a standard supervillain attack — his motivation is to destroy the FF. It’s not very inspired, and this issue could have scored even higher if he had a genuine motivation that was thwarted.


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2 Responses to 81. Enter – The Exquisite Elemental

  1. John Halterman says:

    Some fans wondered years ago why Crystal did not replace Sue Storm permanently. Crystal defeated the Wizard in FF #81 and it tunrs out that Sue was not able to beat the Wizard until FF #301. Since FF #81 was dated 12/68 and FF #301 came out 04/87, that means that it took an extra 220 issues and 18 years and 4 months longer for Sue to accomplish what Crystal did in her stunning performance in issue #81.

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