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Bedlam At The Baxter Building
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The subject of this story is supposedly the wedding of Reed Richards and Sue Storm, and it does feel like a wedding. You're forever bumping into people you've not seen for a while, some of whom you like and some you don't, and all sorts of individuals from different parts of your life get thrown together. Also there's a lot of fighting.
More than that though, this is the culmination of the entire Marvel Universe so far. Almost every character who's appeared already gets a cameo, and those who don't get notes to explain why they're not there. It is, to be frank, one heck of a ride!
It all kicks with Doom reading about Reed and Sue's wedding, still fuming about his recent humiliation. He's so furious that he rips up his newspaper. Once he's had his tantrum Doom decides to use the situation to his advantage and ruin his enemies' big day. He reasons that, as the Fantastic Four are "the greatest fighting team the world has ever known" he needs an even greater team of foes to defeat them, and decides to use his handy High Frequency Emotion Charger to impel super-powered types from all over the world to converge on the Baxter Building, where the police who so recently had been evacuating crowds are now holding them back from celebrations. The presence of the cops outside is a callback to Doom's last appearance in the similarly titled Battle Of The Baxter Building, where the FF needed the help of Daredevil to defeat him. The Fantastic Four won by enlisting help that time, and both sides will do the same here.
After the quick prologue in Latveria we're thrown into a parade of supporting characters from all over the Marvel Universe and beyond. Tony Stark turns up first, but then in the crowd we see Patsy Walker and Hedy Wolfe, stars of Timely Comics romance comics which were pulished before and then alongside early Marvel stories. This is their first "official" appearance in the Marvel Universe, and is a statement of intent from Stan Lee - he's prepared to bring absolutely everything he writes into the Marvel storyworld! More and more characters appear from this point onward, including FF villains such as The Puppet Master, Mole Man and The Red Ghost, plus heroes such as The X-Men, Nick Fury and Doctor Strange. This gives the reader the opportunity to see new pairings of heroes and villians fighting each other, and generates a feeling of everything coming together in an exciting, coherent, very busy shared storyworld.
On page 9 of the story there's a cut back to Latveria, where we see Doctor Doom monitoring the situation - using a television, of course. We haven't seen much of him since the first couple of pages and, surprisingly, this is the last we'll see of him in the whole story. After this more and more villians turn up to fight more and more heroes, but that's it for Doom.
There's still an awful lot to enjoy about the rest of the story, as Lee and Kirby revel in the richness of this fictional world they've created. My personal favourite aspect is the story of The Hydra Bomb Lorry, which Daredevil spots heading towards the Baxter Building. It's a beautifully daft image of the Keystone Cops-like villains driving a super high tech bomb on the back of a pick-up truck, which Daredevil easily manages to steal from them. It's one short sequence in a succession of similar ones in which supervillains literally turn up round every corner. We catch up with Daredevil and The Bomb Bus a few pages later as it drives past a fight between The Black Knight and Angel of The X-Men, which escalates until pretty much everybody is fighting everybody else. It's a joyous celebration of the world that Marvel have created, which continues to escalate even after this, as a whole army of Atlantean soldiers appear in the harbour. Even here there's room for more interconnectivity. A text box explains that, though Attuma has turned up, it was the Sub-Mariner that Doom was hoping for, and if the reader wishes to find out why Namor couldn't make it... then they need to go and pic up "Tales To Astonish" #72! Before Attuma's armies can attack New York, Daredevil and the Bomb Bus appear again, with Daredevil leaping off just in time before the lorry careers into the harbour and explodes... sending the Atlantean army back into the depths from which they came before anybody even realised they were there! In order to wrap everything up The Watcher appears and does his usual immaculate job of not interfering by totally interfering, taking Reed to the moon to collect a sub-atronic time displacer which not only sends all the baddies back to where they came from but also makes them forget all about it - including Doctor Doom himself, apparently. This is a bit of a throwback to the early days of the Fantastic Four, when Stan and Jack would need to invent some sort of previously unmentioned device to get the story to a close, but it's a minor misstep in what has otherwise been a thrilling story, which just has room to fit the actual wedding in on the last page... and another slice of Jack Kirby's romance comics illustration style. I must admit I was a little bit disappointed with the group shot of the wedding, as I expected it to be a big splash page, but then realised that I was thinking of the (wonderful) version of this scene that appears in Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross's "Marvels" series. I do like the joke here about the whole thing going off without a hitch!
All that remains is one final gag about Stan Lee and Jack Kirby not being allowed entry, and that's the story done. It's not a big story for Doctor Doom, and he'll apparently have forgotten all about it by the next time we see him, but it's a HUGE story for the Marvel Universe as whole, bringing together almost every character seen so far in a celebration of what you can do with a shared storyworld.
link to information about this issue
posted 28/3/2018 by Mark Hibbett
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