Tuesday, August 28, 2012

An Apple A Day Keeps Mortality At Bay

There was a story in Thor when the Asgardians were "guests" in Latveria, and Dr. Doom was secretly dissecting some of them to learn the secret of their immortality. That, of course, led to Thor getting involved, and an interesting battle where Doom was able to mimic the armor of the Destroyer in order to meet Thor's wrath on more equal terms.

Yet in their very first battle, Doom relied on his own armor and built-in weaponry to face Thor. Not to mention some wreckage lying around, which comes in very handy for tripping even a Thunder God:

Thank goodness Thor didn't say that out loud. Sometimes it's really obvious when you trip and fall, y'know?

Anyway, say what you will about Stan Lee--he knew how to drag out anticipation in this original tale. Because even though this was a two-part story, the actual battle between Thor and Doom didn't take place until about mid-way through the second part. Yet what led up to it was pretty shocking--that is, in terms of behavior from Thor's alter-ego, Dr. Don Blake.

To make a long story short, Blake crossed paths with the daughter of a scientist whom Doom had imprisoned. She explained her story, and Blake promised to get help for her. (In the form of you-know-who, of course.) To draw Doom away from the diplomatic safety of his country, and making some leaps in logic regarding Doom's metal mask, Blake planted a newspaper story that announced he'd made a breakthrough in plastic surgery: "Any face, no matter how disfigured, can be made normal again." That was this story's first eyebrow-raiser--not only that Blake would plant such a story and apparently not take into account all of the other patients he'd be giving false hope to, but that he'd use his old newspaper buddy Harris Hobbs to perpetuate a fraud.

But the ruse works--Doom captures Blake in the hopes of having his disfigured face healed, but whisks him off to Latveria to do it. Which, by the way, totally foils Blake's plan--because Doom kidnaps Blake, not Thor, and the whole point of drawing Doom to America was to prevent Thor from having to attack Latveria, a sovereign nation. Ergo, if Thor pops up in Latveria, he has no alibi for how he came to be there.

Once in Latveria, Doom doesn't waste a minute, and soon secludes himself and Blake in a room for the unveiling. Once Blake sees Doom's face, though, he totally loses it--and, wide-eyed and screaming, he staggers back and declares that there's nothing medical science can do to help Doom. Another eyebrow-raiser--Blake, a seasoned surgeon, sees a disfigurement that overwhelms his professional composure? What kind of doctor is this guy? Med school alone should have prepared him for something like this.

Eventually, and after another silly segment designed to milk the anticipation (digging a hole to retrieve his hammer--I kid you not), Thor makes his appearance and crashes through a wall to confront Doom:

Doom, especially in those days, was supremely confident in his technology and scientific genius to meet any threat--so when he challenges Thor for the first time, the visual we get of him reaching for a lever while issuing arrogant boasts is entirely appropriate and classic Doom.

Yet, just as we're settling in for a good fight, the battle almost instantly grinds to a halt:

At this point I'm getting a little worried about Thor's edge here. In part one of this story, we spent a good deal of time with Thor trying to recover his hammer from a missile attack. So it's a little frustrating for the reader when it seems like we have to go through a variation of that again.

Yet it turns out that Doom plays right into Thor's hands (for a change!), and it's the distraction Thor needs to destroy Doom's missile control station:

To put it mildly, Doom is not a happy camper: he's got an arsenal of missiles, but no way to fire them. So who does he take that out on?

Of course, Thor is a brawler from way back, and Doom is no Ulik, so Thor tackles him. But Doom has never come up short in the hand weaponry department:

You're telling us, Thor. By now we've had all we can stand of your separation from Mjolnir leading to a 60-second countdown. But Thor's strength puts him back on top again:

And that's basically it. A typical ending to Marvel's much-hyped clashes of the time, where neither contestant is the loser. Thor feels that he's pretty much dealt with Doom--so he flies off to destroy the missiles themselves. Yet when he goes to rescue the scientist from imprisonment, Lee gives the story a nice twist when the scientist declares he doesn't want to be rescued--that from the beginning, he was in it for the money Doom was paying him.

In the more recent story, Doom didn't bother to mention their earlier meeting--but he knew quite a bit more about Asgardians than he did then, so Thor had more of a struggle on his hands. Even so, Doom's main scheme this time around--coveting the Asgardians' immortality--didn't take long to stumble. And when you think about it, all of that gruesome dissecting of the Asgardians could have been avoided if Loki had simply tossed Doom a few of the apples of Idunn to analyze.

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