Tuesday, June 17, 2014

When Titans Clash!

We've come at last to the epic showdown between Doctor Doom and Reed Richards, taking place in the sensational 200th issue of Fantastic Four. In Part One, we saw the FF successfully dismantle key parts of Doom's master plan, including the transfer of his rule of Latveria to another (mandated by law)--where his successor turned out to be his own clone. Afterward, the team struggled to piece together the rest of Doom's intentions, even while Doom boarded a flight to New York with a statue representing his likeness and meant for delivery to the United Nations.

Now, the Fantastic Four have split their forces to attack Doom on two fronts: the Invisible Girl, the Human Torch, and the Thing intercepting Doom's men with the statue at the U.N., and Mister Fantastic confronting Doom at his upstate New York lab. With Doom's stated intent being to "rule the world," the stakes are high--and for Reed, who finally meets Doom face-to-face in battle, his very life is on the line.

So what are we waiting for??

Before Doom began firing on him, Reed was referring to the experiment Doom conducted at State University during their college days, which led to the disfigurement of his face--an outcome that he clearly blames on the man who stands before him. And with hostilities now breaking out in earnest between them, you may think that the time for words is past; yet, aside from taunts and braggadocio, these two men have a great deal to talk about, and it will all come out during this deadly battle.

Now that the preliminaries are over, Doom decides to forgo direct confrontation and let his "murder room" handle Reed from this point on, while sadistically monitoring as Reed attempts to evade one trap after another. You have to wonder about a man who designs, builds, and keeps a "murder room" prepped and at the ready in a residence that he may or may not visit during any given year. But as we see, Doom has named this room appropriately:

But Doom is on a tight schedule after all, with his statue now arriving at the U.N. It's all coming down to the wire for his plan, and so Reed finds he must endure a final indignity--fighting a murder room placed on "automatic," while Doom leaves to initiate matters at the U.N. You can certainly imagine the fun-filled hours Doom must have spent programming a "murder room":

While Reed takes some time to recover from his attempted "death by decor," the proceedings in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations are interrupted by the delivery of Doom's magnificent statue. With the rest of the Fantastic Four hot on its heels:

With a signal relayed to Doom's complex that the statue is in place, Doom enters a specially prepared crystalline room which will allow him to initiate the last stage of his plan--a room that, due to its power, warrants the wearing of special lenses to filter out its radiance. But Doom will discover that looking over his shoulder might have also been prudent:

With Doom's offensive capabilities in his armor successfully disabled, these men engage in battle once again--and on a more personal level, as Reed makes a last-ditch attempt to reach his adversary. But we'll find that Reed has seriously miscalculated in both underestimating Doom and in his understanding of his enemy's motivations.

Even with this kind of admission from Doom, it's difficult to draw any conclusions as far as what the driving force is behind his actions--misplaced vengeance, or an insane lust for power. From what we've seen here, perhaps we can attribute his nature to a mixture of the two. At the very least, it becomes a little easier to understand why he treats his subjects with disdain and even cruelty, possibly associating them with the same rabble who murdered his mother and hunted his father to his death. Doom may indeed be seeking vengeance, as Reed surmises--just not for the reasons he thinks.

In any event, with Doom now free to "activate" his statue, we now discover its true purpose:

It's of course an unworkable, even desperate, plan, just by virtue of the security cameras which must be recording the proceedings and would reveal everything that's occurred. And if that weren't enough, seeing the delegates turn into an insane mob and attack the Fantastic Four would probably raise a few eyebrows:

(Someone will have to kindly explain to me why the Torch is able to routinely evade missiles and ray bolts with blazing speed and skill, yet almost always finds a fire hose impossible to dodge.)

And suppose the FF hadn't shown up, and the delegates simply received silent instructions to go about their business while subtly carrying out Doom's agenda. An imminent vote on condemning Latveria for its human rights violations just "goes away," coinciding with the arrival of Doom's "present"? For that matter, wouldn't it be highly suspicious to discover that delegates had accepted a gift from a country that's about to be voted on? Or to receive any such gift from a soliciting nation? The Dr. Doom of later years would have anticipated and compensated for these kinds of details and done his work behind the scenes; but the Doom who's had to force his statue into the Assembly Hall and who's already been exposed as a schemer is seeing this plan through like a bull in a china shop.

Yet, astonishingly, insanely, Doom still believes he has won. But while he seems transfixed with watching three of the Fantastic Four on the verge of being killed, their fourth member once again proves both resourceful and relentless. And Doom simply--snaps.

As the copy says in so many words, the fight between these two is now on a primal level, no holds barred. The level of Doom's resistance is difficult to believe, given that his armor is virtually without power; and if you've ever taken a rubber band and wrapped it over itself three or four times, you know how tightly and solidly something stretchable can be, giving you an idea of how formidable Reed's power remains. It's Reed who should be flinging Doom around. But in terms of the drama of the moment, there's no stopping the ferocity being played out in front of us, especially in light of the cumulative effect on Doom of Reed's stinging words.

Yet now we see a new element added, which has been broached before--the notion that's periodically nagged at Doom over the years that, of the two of them, Reed has proven to be the more brilliant. Between that and Doom's persistent belief that Reed was responsible for the accident which scarred his face, this fight is driven to its breaking point:

With his naked eye now seeing the intensified images of his own face, Doom is driven truly mad. But is it the ugliness of his face that causes him to collapse, or do the reflections instead have him finally facing the hideousness that his life has become? Regrettably, he's in no condition to tell us either way.

For Reed, though, there's one last task to take care of:

In the aftermath, we find that Zorba has assumed pro tem rule of Latveria, pending the outcome of upcoming elections--while Doom resides in a padded room under medical care. As for his statue, it's relocated to Latveria and presumably put in storage, but it serves to give this 200th issue a poignant ending--one which, if Doom's story truly ended here, would provide a fitting epilogue to the character of Dr. Doom as we've known him throughout his appearances in Fantastic Four:

Yet, as tempting as it might have been to write finis to Victor Von Doom with this excellent story, we know that Doom would indeed rise again. When we catch up with him next time, we'll fast-forward to see him regain his rule of Latveria--to the unexpected salvation of his former subjects, as well as to the fatal regret of the man he would depose.

Fantastic Four #200 (Part Two)

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


Murray said...

A solid review of a solid piece of comic book history.

A few comic fan picayune thoughts...

I guess it's been in the time since then that writers have put emphasis on Doom's sorcery roots. Most modern depictions seem to stress he's "2/3's Iron Man and 1/3 Dr. Strange". So, reading the excerpts here made me blink that shorting out Doom's armour left him powerless. No magical whammy bolts or nothin'.

I wish I could answer your question why fire hoses always nail the Torch. I also a bit surprised that head butts (!) from UN diplomats bring Sue's forcefield to the point of collapse as fast as an enraged Hulk.

Holy smokes! Examining that mob battle panel a little closer, I just noticed something besides Mr. Head Butter. A delegate is firing a gun! I'm pretty sure even in the late 70's that you couldn't pack heat into a UN Assembly. And he's wearing a burnoose kind of thing. Pollard grumpy with the Energy Crisis and the Middle East?

Anonymous said...

Marv Wolfman: ABROGATES!!!

Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

It was his own visage that did him in? Then truly it was beauty that slayed the beast.

This was a blast from start to finish. I don't think I ever got into the FF the way your review pulled me in. Perhaps what was always lacking in my reading of their mag was your enthusiasm. My list of what I want to pull out and read just keeps getting longer.

I would have loved to have seen Sue make a sphere surrounding the three of them and then Ben just running along and hamster balling them out of the General Assembly room and out into the open. That would have been COOL!!!!

The Prowler (where do we go from here? Iron Man? Thor? Back to Spider-Man?).

Anonymous said...
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david_b said...

As mentioned previous days, one of my later-day collecting favorites.

I liked how Reed's 'non-stretching' torso was drawn by Pollard/Sinnott. Not typically a team thought of when you look back at FF's long creative teams, I recall being pleased with how steadfast the art was, nothing too spectatular but just right.

Incredible story as well. Wish this was the final Doom story, would be hard to beat that ending.

Edo Bosnar said...

Nothing much too add to my comment from part 1: great issue and a thoroughly enjoyable review.
Also, you (and David) make a good point: perhaps this should have been the last Doom story, but man, I loved it when Byrne brought him back during his run.

Comicsfan said...

Edo, I agree, Byrne's version of Doom was very interesting. In fact, it's a good example of the shift in Doom's "tone" to a more rigid (though still dangerous) posture, as opposed to the maniacal Doom of Stan Lee and, later, Marv Wolfman.

Anonymous said...

I always assumed that Sue's forcefield was being exhausted by her efforts to "soften" it enough to keep from harming the mind-controlled delegates as they attacked.

I also always assumed that Johnny was so convinced that water was his bane that he sabotaged himself -- he also seemed to be vulnerable to being hit by magical bolts, which he claimed not to understand, yet did a good job of dodging anything with an engine, which the "grease jockey" in him understood all too easily.

What I never understood was how anyone, even Doctor Doom, could strangle an elastic superhero whose neck frequently shifted shape to all sorts of extremes.