Friday, June 13, 2014

The Son of Doom!

In this third installment of our look at the issues leading up to the two-hundredth issue of Fantastic Four, things are looking pretty bad for the FF. On the other hand, things look great for Doctor Doom, as he initiates the transfer of their powers to the individual he's referring to as his son. And we should give him his moment, since, let's face it, there are few villain moments to match that of Dr. Doom relishing the culmination of an evil plan:

Though we should really clarify that there are several parts to Doom's master plan this time around, and his triumph over the FF represents only the second stage--the first being the restoration of Reed Richards' stretching powers. Still, I doubt any of us are brave enough to stop Doom from relishing when he feels like it--and a victory over the FF is nothing to sneeze at. But Doom's hold on victory may prove to be tenuous, with this issue's cover indicating that even his son will move against him.

And with Father's Day just around the corner, too.

Will this father and son end their line in mutual destruction?

You may recall at the end of the last issue that writer Marv Wolfman had us thinking that this procedure involving the FF and Doom's son was a done deal within a few seconds of flipping the switch. Yet as we continue to turn the pages to this story, it becomes clear that Wolfman is a card-carrying Dramatic License member in good standing, since it looks like we have plenty of time for other diversions while the procedure continues. For instance, Doom is able to take time out to do a little composing:

We also have time to catch up with Zorba, brother to the late King Rudolfo and organizer of the Latverian underground, who had accompanied Reed on his raid of Doom's castle and who's now gathered a large group of angry villagers outside to demand that Doom relinquish his throne in accordance with Latverian law. Doom grudgingly decides to deal with this annoyance, and at first attempts to maintain the pretense of being the benevolent monarch--but as Zorba provokes him, that pretense swiftly dissipates, to be replaced by pure rage:

Yet Doom can't afford to divert his attention now, with his plans coming to fruition. And so he puts on his best diplomatic face once again and stalls for time while he continues to see that all is in place.  And man, can this guy lay it on thick:

We see again that Alicia Masters is continuing her work on Doom's statue--a crucial part of Doom's overall plan, though it seems to be merely a product of his vanity. But consider: he abducted Alicia and compelled her cooperation, rather than commissioning her time through professional channels, which might well be normal behavior when it comes to Doom but would otherwise indicate an ulterior motive.  But while Doom maintains that he plans to use the statue in an official capacity to coincide with the coronation of the new Latverian ruler, we (like Alicia) sense that Doom hasn't been completely forthcoming about the project:

By the way, did I mention that the transfer procedure between the FF and Doom's son is still going on? Fortunately, it's just about over--though not in the way Doom expects, thanks to Reed's tendency to think ahead when he's about to infiltrate an evil lair:

It's too bad there isn't sufficient space in the issue to allow the FF their own moments of character interaction which are often so rewarding to read. They're certainly due for a few. The team has been effectively disbanded for eight months (our time), and they're finally reunited--and with Mister Fantastic back to fighting form. Also, Ben, Sue, and Johnny had recently seen Reed apparently perish in the flaming re-entry of his spacecraft, and are no doubt grateful to see him alive and well. And so, now free of Doom's deadly trap for them, they've every reason to pause for a few moments to reconnect. Instead, we'll have to settle for a rousing call to rally from Ben, and a long-awaited group action shot:

And since it has been awhile since this team cut loose, let's just sit back and enjoy watching them take a few panels to fight their way to confront Doom:

By the way--with the FF acting like a virtual unstoppable juggernaut and bursting with excess adrenalin, this would be a good time to take a reading on where the count stands on Reed's periodic declarations to end Doom's threat today/this time for sure/forever//no ifs ands or buts/I MEAN IT, I'M NOT KIDDING:

Reed's Veiled Threat count now stands at: 4

The Fantastic Four are definitely not in the frame of mind to be stopped (Reed sure isn't)--but, stopped they are, and with a tactic I frankly never expected of Doom:

Victor Von Doom, of all people--yanking an innocent in front of him for cover? Doom?? It seems a desperate act completely out of character for him. In addition, what's Sue busy doing--gasping? Why isn't she slapping a quick force field around Alicia? The entire scene happens too abruptly. This is all it takes to shut the FF down? Why should Doom ever fight them again, when he can simply grab anyone within reach to use for cover and force them to stand down?

While the FF are cooling their heels in a dungeon somewhere, Doom is ready to proceed with the coronation of his son. Though judging by the mood of the crowds, those two are likely the only ones ready for it:

Zorba is indeed successful in freeing the FF. Yet when they return to the scene, Zorba makes a shocking announcement, which is followed by an equally shocking transformation that wasn't part of Doom's plan for his successor:

Even captured and held unconscious in a globe, Reed manages to throw a wrench into Doom's plans. What do you get a guy like that for Father's Day?

The entire ceremony has played out before cameras broadcasting it to the United Nations delegates and officials, who now realize that Doom's relinquishment of power was merely a sham, an elaborate deception. I half expected Wolfman to factor in Doom's ability to transfer his mind to another body, so that he would actually take control of the clone at the proper time and thus regain his rule--only this time with his facial features as they were before being so horribly scarred.

There are other aspects to Doom's plan we've yet to see--but Doom must first get some measure of control over this development. However, when the clone violently turns against Doom, it becomes practically impossible to salvage the situation. For the clone is Doom as he was before his accident drove him mad--and these two dual but opposite natures find themselves battling for supremacy.

It doesn't take a psychiatrist to see how deeply the clone's words have struck home during this struggle. But, whatever their impact on Doom, it's clear that they've driven him over the edge. It's one thing to hear Reed Richards or any other foe malign you with stinging words that bore to the very center of who you are--but to hear such words from, in essence, yourself? From the person you've specifically created to be you? It must be like seeing your last chance disintegrate in front of you. Doom has basically heard the truth from the one source that cannot be denied. But it can be extinguished:

And so another part of Doom's master plan falls apart, and not just any part--one that strikes to the core of him. And it's happened within sight of his own subjects, presumably the U.N. delegates, as well as his deadliest enemies. His current state of mind should be obvious--but just in case it isn't, suffice to say that, as Doom struggles to continue what's left of his plan, everyone might want to just keep out of this man's way.

But with Reed's Veiled Threat count on the rise, it doesn't look like the Fantastic Four are going to just walk away this time. And that sets us up for one heck of a confrontation in the next issue:

(I wish that caption had read "Mister Fantastic" instead of "Reed Richards.")

Fantastic Four #199

Script: Marv Wolfman
Pencils: Keith Pollard
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: John Costanza


Anonymous said...

If I'd been reading that issue my heart would have sunk at the line "next month a double size chiller" because double-sized issues were impossible to find for me as a British reader - like I couldn't find Thor #300 or X-Men #137 after following those stories for months. Thankfully things improved around 1981.

Anonymous said...

Colin, are you referring to Thatcher's domestic programs finally gaining some traction and the slow lifting of the economic burden on the average British citizen or are we talking an increase in double sized Marvel comics abroad?

The Prowler (gets bombed for breakfast in the morning and gets bombed for dinner time and tea).

Anonymous said...
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