Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Invasion!


In these issues leading up to the landmark Fantastic Four #200, we started the ball rolling by first seeing Mr. Fantastic spring into action against the Red Ghost after finally regaining his stretching powers. And Reed Richards isn't finished dazzling us with the *ahem* flexibility of his fantastic abilities--because he's learned the identity of the villain who not only bankrolled the procedure which returned him to full fighting trim, but who also abducted his teammates in the FF, for reasons unknown. That's right, Reed's going after his deadliest enemy:



Yes, who else but Dr. Doom--whose metal mouthpiece that's able to gape on command continues to astonish.

Before we begin "Invasion!", though, we should at least reveal the catalyst for Doom's current master plan--the relinquishing of the throne of Latveria, which he's held until now with an iron fist. Yet Doom plans to only follow the letter of the law, rather than its spirit--passing power to a worthy successor whom he can easily influence and control. When Doom finally introduces him, it comes as shocking news to the Fantastic Four, as we finally learn the identity of Doom's "lieutenant":



This seems to be shaping up to be a day for masks falling away, doesn't it? But you haven't seen anything yet--and believe me, that's going to go double for Sue, Ben, and Johnny.





First, an enthusiastic tip of the hat to artist Keith Pollard, who's only been aboard Fantastic Four for a few issues at this point but who demonstrates a feel for and knowledge of the team right out of the starting gate. Credit should also be extended to writer Marv Wolfman, who seems quite enthusiastic about giving the book 100%, but whose style doesn't fit the FF quite as smoothly. By that I mean that there are occasionally bumps in Wolfman's road (though in all fairness, not potholes). For instance, take this scene, where Reed arrives in Latveria and again declares his intention to prevail against Doom:



It's a curious way of putting it, isn't it? Last issue, Reed declared that he would end Doom's threat "forever." Now he's adamant that only one of them will survive this meeting (which we can only take to mean that he's going to see that Doom won't.) But, exactly what are Reed's options when it comes to stopping Doom? What they've always been--exactly three: (1) Stop Doom's plan, but leave in a stalemate; (2) Take Doom into custody after stopping him; or (3) Kill him. Doom is still the sovereign ruler of a foreign country, and we haven't yet seen the likes of Brian Bendis in this book--so options 2 and 3 are off the table, leaving Reed with only option number 1. What's Wolfman playing at, implying otherwise? Unfortunately, he's not through prodding us about it--and you're going to be surprised at just how often we're going to see Reed's conviction on this point pop up.

For now, let's take a cool look at Pollard having some fun with Reed's approach to Doom's castle:






This would be an ideal time for Doom to capture Reed, since he still needs him for whatever fate he's planning for the rest of the FF. Instead, Wolfman introduces us to a new character who finds Reed first--Zorba, the leader of the Latverian underground:



Now that Reed knows a few more details about what Doom is planning, he and Zorba begin to plan a raid on Doom's castle. In the meantime, Doom is busy with his preparations for the coronation ceremony, as well as his preparations for the remaining members of the Fantastic Four:




As we saw last time, Alicia Masters has also been conscripted by Doom, her task being to sculpt the statue of Doom we've been hearing so much about--a statue he means to present to the United Nations assembly when the rule of Latveria passes from himself to his son. It's here that Wolfman gives us a powerful scene, or what should have been: the first time Doom reveals his disfigured face to the FF (three of them, anyway). But it's something of a missed opportunity by Wolfman, one which completely bypasses the drama of the revelation for the team and instead plays it almost casually:



No explanation as to why Doom would reveal something so personal and private in front of his greatest enemies like this, particularly when he's often struggled to bring himself to look at his face. No discussion (or even exclamations) among the FF concerning this new and shocking information on Doom. It's a moment that comes and goes before we know it.

Then, at last, we see what Doom had planned for the full complement of the FF--a transference of their powers to his son, presumably to humiliate his old rival:




Yet, even now, that rival is adding his special talents to the underground, as they make their approach to Doom's castle:



** BING BING BING **
Reed's Veiled Threat count now stands at: 3


Anyway, Pollard is really taking us down memory lane with Reed's tactics. Have we seen the following moves before? If so, where? If you can identify the issue(s), you get a free comic book! (Not really!)




All isn't fun and games, though. Zorba's men are cut off and gassed into unconsciousness, leaving Zorba and Reed to fend for themselves. But they catch a break when Hauptmann, one of the scientists in Doom's service, stumbles into the wrong place at the wrong time. It's also apparently a stumble by Pollard, who it seems didn't realize that Hauptmann was killed by Doom in an earlier FF/Doom encounter. Wolfman here either saves the day with some quick thinking, or simply wanted to bring the character of Hauptmann back for whatever reason:



It turns out that "Hauptmann" is full of surprises where his master is concerned. But it's Reed who finds himself on the receiving end of this one:




And so the issue ends with Reed falling into the clutches of Doom, after all. And if we're to believe the final caption, the villain's plan comes off without a hitch:



IS it really "all over" in just a moment? Or has Wolfman's scripting hit another bump?

We'll find out the answer and much more as this story continues.
(And the dreaded Veiled Threat count rises.)

Fantastic Four #198

Script: Marv Wolfman
Pencils: Keith Pollard
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Rick Parker

3 comments:

Joe S. Walker said...

Doom unmasking in front of the heroes is one of those "big moments" that everyone wants to do - without asking why Lee and Kirby never did it.

david_b said...

I just started collecting FF again with this story arc after being away for a few years.., I was too used to Kirby and Big John Buscema to like anyone who came after (even Byrne and Perez..), but I came to like Pollard's art. It was functional and did well with Joe Sinnott's inks.

I basically grabbed FF 200 for it's 'anniversary' value and started collecting the back issues soon after. They seemed less dysfunctional and more as a team, like I remembered from the Kirby & Buscema days.

Murray said...

Maybe not Lee and Kirby, but Lee and Buscema did the unmasking scene, and did it with full & proper "Holy *#*$@" value in "Thor" #182.

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