Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wedding Crashers

Frankly, I think every wedding should be both a social occasion and a knock-down drag-out.

Fortunately, Dr. Doom agrees with me.

Doom doesn't look too happy right now. He's about had it with the Fantastic Four at this point--and Reed Richards, in particular. So he thought: What better day than his enemy's wedding day to strike at him? And his reasoning was pretty logical, actually:
"Since the Fantastic Four are the greatest fighting team the world has ever known, only one thing will be sure to destroy them--an even greater team of super-powered foes! A veritable army of the most deadly villains alive!"
So Doom flipped on his emotion charger--which could "fan the flames of hatred in the heart of every evil menace in existence"--and out of the woodwork came just about every FF villain you've ever seen, and a few (like Hydra, Mr. Hyde, the Executioner, et al.) who showed up anyway.

The problem with Doom's plan is that none of these villains were operating as a team--they just showed up individually, gunning for the FF. So the FF took them on that way, in successive battles, rather than being piled on. And luckily, the FF had plenty of help--because just about every Marvel hero showed up to stem the tide. Inevitably, the individual fights spilled into one big brawl:

(I've tried like hell for years to figure out who the guy in the lower left corner is.  Anybody have a clue?)

Unfortunately, the mother of all reset buttons is pushed when the Watcher shows up, and all but hands Reed victory in the form of one of his devices--a "sub-atronic time displacer, capable of transporting living beings back to the immediate past." Reed flips a switch, and all the villains are sucked out of the present, returning to where they were before they attacked, with no memory of what happened since. In addition, Doom's memory was wiped, as well. The Watcher's machine vanishes, and the heroes escort Reed to his wedding.

This annual is a landmark issue in the FF series because of Reed and Sue's wedding, of course; and it's paced so that it's satisfying enough to the reader. But in countless event books since then, we've seen far greater mass hero/villain battles--and artist Jack Kirby isn't one to shy away from devoting one- or even two-page spreads to that sort of thing. So why cram the big battle scene into this one half-panel, yet devote and entire page to Reed's trip with the Watcher?

The only reason I can think of would be that, at this time in Marvel comics, the number of heroes is still finite; in fact, villains probably outnumber the heroes about 5 to 1. It wouldn't make good sales sense for writers to keep recycling the same villains in books--they have to constantly create new ones in order to give the impression that Marvel is bursting with new stories and new ideas. So it's understandable that a large battle scene on a full- or two-page spread would graphically show the heroes at a disadvantage.

And the Watcher. Sigh. What are we going to do with this guy? In a major conflict which may result in a power shift on Earth and maybe even a few fatalities, he takes a direct hand--whisking Reed away to his home, and letting him browse through his devices until he finds one to use to achieve victory. And just look how deftly the Watcher navigates around his oath:

Sport, that "not interfere" ship has sailed, don't you think?

(Jeez, look at Reed.  He's like a kid in a candy store.)

Nor did I understand why Doom himself didn't join this conflict. With everyone else busy with a virtual tidal wave of villains, surely he wouldn't have missed the chance to confront his old enemy and insist on delivering the killing blow himself. In all the confusion, Doom could have had a clear shot. In comics stories today, such a ruthless and deadly turn of events would have been almost a given. But in this period of the FF's history, and in Marvel books in general at that time, battles could be desperate but seldom with lasting consequences for the heroes. And in this issue in particular--where Marvel schedules Reed and Sue's wedding for a special annual book--we weren't about to see an ending anything other than happy.

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