Thursday, April 13, 2017

Doctor Doom - Fantastical Return!

Fantastic Four #10 is one of the most outlandish comics Marvel ever published. The Fab 4 were running smoothly, the bugs were being worked out and a real rhythm was being developed between the creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Dick Ayers was the ready inker by this time. They knew they had created something special with Doctor Doom in issues five and six, but they had largely written him out by sending him into outer space. How to get him back. Well they solved that problem.

The story opens with the Fantastic Four answering a summons from The Thing who is at the apartment of his new girlfriend, the blind sculptor Alicia Masters. She has fashioned replicas of the FF's greatest foes. Among those enemies is Doctor Doom and that causes the Fab 4 to muse whatever happened to their most dangerous enemy.

It turns that he is about to return. The scene shifts (weirdly) to the offices of Marvel Comics where Lee and Kirby are crafting the next Fantastic Four comic. Suddenly Doctor Doom appears and forces them to make a phone call to lure Mr.Fantastic to their office to consult on the next issue. The unsuspecting Reed richards falls victim and before you know it Doc Doom has used great powers he learned from aliens called Ovoids who had rescued him from his deadly space excursion. These new abilities allow him to switch bodies with Reed and before you know it Doom is Mr.Fantastic and vice versa. Doom reveals how he survived to Reed. As Reed Richards he confronts his new "allies" the Invisible Girl, the Human Torch, and the Thing and shows off that he's captured Doom. They are happy and imagine ways that they too could keep him captive. Then Doom/Reed imprisons Reed/Doom in a sealed glass cell with limited air supply.

As Doom plots ways to kill the others by shrinking them into nothingness. Reed/Doom escapes but it's some time before the team actually realize that the switch has been made. It takes a deadly threat of phantom dynamite arranged by the Human Torch using his heat to create a mirage. This test allows Reed/Doom to demonstrate his heroism while Doom/Reed tries to escape in a craven fashion. The others swiftly capture him and his spell is broken. But his weapon to kill the Fab 4 hits him instead and Doctor Doom then shrinks and shrinks completely out of sight, his menace ended again for the time being.

I thoroughly enjoyed this issue, as wacky as it was. The inclusion of Stan and Jack was strangely effective, and I can see how at the time it added to the fun of new Marvel fans as they flagship comic was developing some real velocity. The return of Doctor Doom cements his role as the FF's top villain, a spot held by Namor the Sub-Mariner to that point. But Subby was always an anti-hero and that limited the extent of his schemes. Doom was, as his name suggests, all about ending the Fantastic Four. At this point in the Doom saga there is no Latveria, he's just a mad scientist/magician who seems to grow stronger with each appearance.

On a somewhat related note, the comics produced within the Marvel Universe were finally showcased in 2000 when Marvel published a number of titles which might have appeared there. The FF was in many ways the most like its real world counterpart since as we see here, there was close coordination between "Marvel Comics" and the Fab 4. This tie comes up quite a bit in the series and is a nifty conceit.

More will definitely come as Doom strikes again from down below.

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  1. When Doom is explaining his new power to Reed, it's clear that the Ovoid is transferring his mind into a new body, so surely Doom should have been transferring his mind into Reed's body (and vice-versa) rather than actually 'changing' bodies. It amounts to the same thing at the end of the day of course, but the process is slightly different.

    1. I see your point on this but I'm staying with my phrase because in no way were their minds altered saved for their relative locations. But as you correctly point out, it all amounts to the same thing in the end.

      Rip Off

    2. It was their relative locations I was referring to, Rip, but my point was that Doom's method seemed to be the opposite of the Ovoids' way of doing it. Of course, it may not necessarily be the case that their minds were physically swapped (like a brain transplant), only that the 'essence' of each mind was exchanged. What I'm trying to suggest (in my clumsy way) is that it might have been a 'spiritual' (for want of a better word) swap (their minds I mean), not a physical one. But yes, it amounts to the same thing in the end. I just think it's not too clear exactly which way it's being done.


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