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Fantastic Four #81, written by Stan Lee, art by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott, lettering by Artie Simek

Crystal of the Inhumans and her sexual liberation

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May 1, 2020

The Inhumans are extremely weird, and we don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. This is a hidden society that from its onset thrived off of xenophobia, conformity, some ableism, and lots of classism — so we did not come here today to praise them as a whole. On the other hand, the royal family as we know it definitely inherited a politically volatile situation that they are forever unable to fully comprehend or control, so they aren’t completely unsympathetic. Isolated from the outside world and then forced by circumstance to join it, the Inhumans are always going to be one of Marvel’s strangest superteams.

After Medusa, Crystal is the second Inhuman to have interacted with said outside world. In typical teenage fashion, she immediately falls in love with pretty much the first human face she sees — Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four. This led to Marvel’s First Family coming head to head with the Inhumans, ultimately one of the most important meetings in superhero history. It also led to a little thing called a sexual awakening for Crystal of the Inhumans, but it was mostly written by men, so it's kind of a mixed bag. Buckle up!

 

Fantastic Four #45, written by Stan Lee, art by Jack Kirby and Joe Simmott, lettering by Artie Simek

Crystal’s first appearance in Fantastic Four #45 showed her sneaking around NYC with her beloved teleporting Inhuman pet, Lock. Johnny Storm had just gotten stood up by a potential date and was reeling from the tragedy and horror of the fact that a human woman just might not be that into him. Once he set eyes on our Inhuman explorer, he was over that heartache and fully on Team Crystal. Most of her early appearances are just Johnny yelling “FLAME ON” and attacking everyone standing anywhere near her, including her family members, strangers, his own teammates — anyone. They also kissed a lot. Way more than Reed and Sue.

It’s no secret that those first few ... several ... hundred ... Fantastic Four comics really struggled with their female characters, and Crystal’s characterization was in the slim-to-none range for a lot of her time with the team. Yet she might have had it a little better than Sue, because she was at least given credit for her level of power and her emotional intelligence. Crystal has control over the four elements, which is both extremely cool and not something that gets brought up that much because pretty much every writer chooses to focus on her boyfriend drama instead. Having it “better than Sue” does not mean having it “great.”

As mentioned, the Inhumans, in general, are about three tons of problems in a five-pound bag. Their early arcs mostly revolve around them attempting to exist in a society ruled by a despot, which unfortunately sometimes took precedence over teen love drama. Eventually, Crystal just kind of wanders off and vanishes for a while, during which time she saves Quicksilver from being crushed by a Sentinel, then saves him from being single by making him her new boyfriend. Naturally, this entails an entire issue in which Johnny and Pietro punch each other several times, a sure-fire way to impress empathetic pacifist Crystal. Bafflingly, she chooses one of them rather than none of them — and that one was Pietro. We repeat: Get it, girl.

 

Fantastic Four #131, written by Roy Thomas, art by Ross Andru, Joe Sinnott, and Petra Goldberg, lettering by John Costanza

Well, not to shock anyone, but that relationship did not go great. Pietro was a fun mixture of completely negligent and violently jealous, so Crystal hooked up with a guy named Norm while her husband was busy alternately ignoring or yelling at her. Norm was the neighbor of Vision and the Scarlet Witch, and Crystal did not have one single problem dragging them and the rest of the neighborhood into that drama. This was later to be revealed as a result of the Inhuman Maximus’ mind control — literally every problem the Inhumans have ever had is chalked up to this, including Crystal being horny on main — but shockingly that revelation did not end their terrible relationship problems. They split up and reunited several times, so it isn't exactly sure where they stand at any given time.

Yet her Facebook relationship status has never kept her from playing the field, and that is a thing we truly admire. Crystal joined the Avengers for a time, and you know what that means — new boyfriend! She pretty much just joined the Avengers to play the third corner of a triangle between teammates Sersi, Dane Whitman, and herself. She and Dane lust after each other while ostensibly trying to work it out with their partners, whom they both eventually return to, at least temporarily. None of her story arc in this series went anywhere, and she was off to limbo again for a time.

 

War of Kings #1, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, art by Paul Pelletier, Rick Magyar, and Wil Quintana, lettering by Joe Caramanga

Crystal’s control over her life gets smaller as time goes on. She and Quicksilver have a daughter named Luna, who he regularly kidnaps and uses as leverage against her. For Crystal, it must be Tuesday, because the number of kidnappings this lady has been subject to is not small. She appeared in the space adventure War of Kings, but that entailed her entering into an arranged marriage with Ronan the Accuser, of all people. One of her sparse female friends, Lorna Dane, mocked her tenderly and advised her against the marriage, but Crystal is a terrible listener and is even worse at advocating for her own best interests, so that warning got a big “return to sender” stamp. Though it's hard to tell where exactly Crystal went from there, we can only hope she was staying hydrated and remembering to self-care.

After that, it’s a little muggy. There are entire Inhumans series that Crystal didn’t even show up in, so her fans stay starved for content. Yet we like Crystal a lot because she is a character who tries to choose her own happiness, only to get shunted off into politically convenient arranged marriages off-planet at the drop of a hat by the people closest to her. Crystal is blessed with the ability to charm people and win them over, but it usually means that they project their own desires and needs onto her rather than listening to what she wants.

One thing about Crystal stays consistent, and that is her celebration of motherhood and protecting her daughter Luna at all costs. Crystal is an interesting, complex character who never quite gets her time to shine due to being surrounded by the most dramatic people alive, but when she’s given the choice of what she wants, it’s always a quiet life with her daughter. It’s not likely she’s ever going to get to enjoy her life without her family, her boyfriends, or the entire literal universe trying to exert control over her — which is why she’s a tragic figure. Still, her openness to new love and her willingness to find it with whoever suits her best in the moment makes her nothing short of iconic in the relatively prudish world of superhero love stories. For Crystal, the real love story is learning to love herself enough to say "no" to the demands of others.

 

Son of M #2, written by David Hine, art by Roy Allan Martinez and Pete Pantazis, lettering by Dave Lanphear

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.


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