Friday, June 2, 2017

The Power And The Pride!

Previously, we saw the Fantastic Four turn the corner in their desperate battle with the invincible robot army of Doctor Doom. And now, in Part 4 of this four-part story which would see the final Stan Lee/Jack Kirby collaboration on arguably their most memorable villain (Doom's android stand-in from the book's 100th issue notwithstanding), the FF close ranks along with the newly returned Invisible Girl to take on Doom himself. Doom finds himself out of options, on several levels--his new army neutralized, his plans to imprison the FF defeated, his capital village destroyed by his own hand, all have served to force him to marshal his forces within his castle in order to deal with the assault he expects to come. There's little doubt he feels he can yet prevail on this, his home ground; but the Fantastic Four, their powers no longer inhibited by Doom's hypnotic treatments, are resolute and determined to face their enemy and win their freedom.

And since the FF have been on the receiving end of Doom's cat-and-mouse games and outright aggression for most of this story, they're ready to begin serving up a little aggression of their own--spearheaded by their resident orange-skinned powerhouse who, to no one's surprise, comes on like gangbusters.

"He will have our lives!" No, he'll have your battery packs, pal--as robots, you don't have lives. At any rate, once the Thing gets through with your castle, your master may not have much of anything. Maybe the good doctor should consider waving the white flag while he can!

But despite the momentum that's now with the FF, a man of Doctor Doom's pride and temperament (and certainly ruthlessness) shouldn't, as Reed cautions, be underestimated. But if you're looking forward to Doom facing his attackers face-to-face, just as I was, we're all unfortunately going to be disappointed. Instead, Doom will take an approach that he's used before--divide and conquer, luring the FF members into traps while positioning himself to take advantage of their confusion. That's not to say that there won't be plenty of action in this issue--but Doom will be all but sitting it out, relying on Lee's characterization of him to hold the reader's interest.

Since Doom is at his best while posturing in front of an unfortunate toady, the perfect subordinate for that role is the former Nazi known as Hauptmann, Doom's personal assistant who at times oversteps his bounds with his master but serves as a backboard for Doom's berating dialog and the airing of the details of his plans. And for the Fantastic Four, Doom plans to kill them with culture.

And speaking of divide and conquer, it seems the best way to throw the Fantastic Four off-balance is to deprive them of their women.

Before the rest of the FF can make any progress in following their abducted members, they're hurled to the top of the castle where they're forced to face the other models of Doom's robot army--dangerous in and of themselves, but now directing the castle's formidable weaponry against the team. But Kirby has these three FF members give a good accounting of themselves, and eventually they're able to penetrate the castle and continue their search.

As for Sue and Crystal, they're on the move as well--but the reception they're met with is both potentially deadly and, of all things, gracious.

Pardon me, ladies, for interrupting such a cordial gathering, but--why aren't you attacking your foe? You remember--the one who turned his robot army on innocent, helpless people, held you and your teammates prisoner, and obliterated an entire village? Are you waiting for him to say something along the lines of "My bad..."--or are you going to put this dangerous lunatic out of commission? Would taking the precaution of at least holding him in place in a force field be too much to ask? If you feel he's toying with you, maybe that's because you're letting him.

Meanwhile, your teammates, who are racing to your side and worried they might have missed dinner about your safety because you could well be enjoying a piano concerto battling for your lives, make their way through Doom's impeccable art gallery--only to encounter Hauptmann, who has ferreted out a SHIELD spy and is eager to win further favor with Doom. No, I don't know why Hauptmann is walking around with a flame-thrower, instead of a pistol--but given Doom's preoccupation with fine art, he's definitely picked the wrong place to wave around a weapon which could incinerate it all.

*sigh*  Reed. "Big brain," as Ben calls you. No matter how much you stretch, elastic skin burns just as severely as normal skin.  Duck, you dunce!

And just like that, the plug is abruptly pulled on this story, as Doom loses interest in his foes and assures them that they're now free to head for the border without fear of reprisal. And the FF are likely willing to call it a draw, since they accomplished their mission while also retrieving Nick Fury's missing agent in the process.

As for Doom, his mood swings are as perplexing as ever.

"There has been no loss!" Your village lies in ruins, and your subjects have fled across the border, Doctor--take a closer look out that window, willya?

Fantastic Four #87

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Artie Simek


George Chambers said...

Fascinating story, this one, especially as it seems to show that Doom was not exactly sane at this point. His plan made little sense and his moods shifted abruptly from page to page. I'd have liked to have seen Doom's decaying sanity addressed further in future stories - but of course, this was near the end of Stan and Jack's run.

On a lighter note: the Thing has superbreath???

Comicsfan said...

George, I actually thought FF #200 proved to be a good follow-up as to Doom's increasingly slippery grasp on sanity; in fact, I was often reminded of it in writing this review of Lee's story, as it contains some of the same elements present here (e.g., Doom's manipulation of and disregard for his subjects, as well as his off-the-chart mood swings and his mad plans). Thankfully, in the latter story, the resolution is much more satisfying and doesn't settle for a stalemate.

And yes, you're not the only one who raised an eyebrow at Ben's astonishing lung power, something we'll be following up on here just as soon as we *ahem* catch our breath from this story!

Justin said...

I wasn't sure those panels were depicting super-breath. I just assumed he punched the gate.

Did super-breath appear in any other Thing stories?

Anonymous said...

In the first part of this story ("The Name Is Doom") we see that Latveria has a coast-line. Was it ever mentioned again that Latveria has a coast ? And shouldn't Latveria have a navy if it has a coast ? Surely an egomaniac like Dr. Doom would love a navy with himself as Supreme Admiral :D

Kid said...

Ben blowing the doors off was dismissed as a mistake in the Marvel No-Prize mag back in the early '80s. As for all those 'plot-holes', I think that's probably down to Jack not working things through properly, rather than because Doom is meant to be insane. He did that a lot - not work out the plots properly in advance I mean. But, hey - he had a deadline, he was drawing (and pacing) almost every mag in sight, and he was essentially making things up as he went along, so we can overlook a few 'loopy lapses in logic' as he pursued his goal to entertain us.

Comicsfan said...

Colin, that's a very good observation! My understanding is that Latveria is indeed landlocked, with its nearest neighbors being Romania and Transylvania (depending on which map you look at)--while the closest bodies of water are the Black Sea, the Adriatic Sea, and the Aegean Sea. Perhaps at the time, Lee and Kirby hadn't worked out its exact location in Europe--or maybe Doom's castle has a really big moat. :)

Iain said...

Why cant Ben have super breath, Superman's been doing that for years and the Hulk has put out fires with his massive puffs. Got to give those muscular lungs a workout sometime. ^^

Comicsfan said...

I'm glad to finally follow up on this, Iain--you can see that topic explored in a separate post. :)

Anonymous said...

Compare the scene of Doom offering dinner to Darth Vader doing the same in "The Empire Strikes Back." The Vader scene always reminded me of that FF story.

lordjim6 said...

Not to criticize fictional geography, but Transylvania is an area within Romania, not a separate country.