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The Victims!

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This issue starts right where the last one ended, with the Fantastic Four trapped in a Village in Latveria without their powers, waiting for some Killer Robots to attack. If you didn't already know this you'd be quickly brought up to speed by the team explaining it to each other in the opening splash page - in the modern age of Recap Pages it feels a bit clunky, but once that's out of the way we're into the action, with Reed Richards telling the villagers to go and hide in their homes while the FF try to protect them. At this point another of Doctor Doom's mobile TV screens arrive, with him expressing his regrets for any inconvenience caused by the accidental unleashing of a horde of killer robots. When Reed Richards questions the sincerity of this non-apology Doctor Doom is utterly horrified that anybody could be so ungrateful in what are trying circumstances for everyone. This is all very much in keeping with the new developments in Doom's character, where his delusion has reached such heights that he seems genuinely surprised that anybody would not be grateful for his benevolent, if fatal, leadership. It's also pretty funny!

Next we see him musing on the fact that his plan has not been entirely flawless. The Killer Robots really have escaped, but cunningly he has installed a secret weakness within them that means that, if they ever turn upon their creator, he will be able to stop them. Ooh, I wonder what it could be? Something very clever, no doubt!

The Robots smash their way through walls and arrive at the village, where the Fantastic Four discover that their powers are gradually returning. The villagers help them fight back, but, as Doctor Doom watches the mayhem from a balcony on his castle, it seems that it will not be enough to save them. His aide Hauptmann warns Doom not to underestimate the Fantastic Four. Given his employer's track record in dealing with staff suggestions this is a spectacularly brave/foolish move, but luckily for him Doom agrees, and hopes that the team are destroyed before Reed Richards discover the secret flaw in the robots. It's worth noting that the name "Hauptmann" is German for "Captain", a fact that would be familiar to many readers from years of reading war comics. It seems that Stan Lee is once again nudging Doom towards Nazi territory, inferring that Doom's men, if not Doom himsefl, are relics of fascism.

While the battle goes on in the village Doom decides to show Hauptmann his back-up plan, in case the otherwise almost entirely flawless main plan hits any problems. He shows his aide a model of the target village, which they have looked upon many times before. However, with the click of a switch Doom reveals that there is more to the village than meets the eye! "Why?" says Hauptmann, though "What the HECK is THAT?" might have been more to the point. It appears that the village is built on two GIGANTIC sticks of TNT with skyscraper sized fuses, poised delicately close to similarly gargantuan sparks. In a series full of fantastically ludicrous ideas, this is one of the most fantastically ludicrous, and you've got to admire Kirby's chutzpah in not only thinking he can get away with something as utterly daft as this, but then actually getting away with it!

Back in the village the FF and the villagers prepare to meet the robots. The only thing they have to defend them is a very vaguely defined "control unit" that can open pits in the ground and throws people into the air. It was hidden in one of the turrets of a bridge... for some reason? Anyway, this sequence is VERY exciting, as we watch the robots getting closer and closer before finally arriving with Mr Fantastic immediately clicking a switch to do... something! I very rarely talk about the lettering in these comics, but crikey, look at the "Krrash!" and "Klak!" in these two panels - amazing work by Sam Rosen!

This time the device triggers a "hidden turbulence pressure engine", which rather handily throws all the robots up into the air and into the river. Hang on, the major flaw in the robots was that they were too heavy to swim? That was IT? This sounds very much like Doom trying to make out that a major design flaw is in fact a FEATURE. I wonder if that was Jack Kirby's intent all along, or whether Stan Lee added it in to explain how chucking the robots in a river is enough to defeat them?

Doom is utterly incensed, and presses the button to detonate the gigantic sticks of TNT. Hauptmann begs him not to do it - "Think of the people!" "I... forgot!" says Doom. This is another instance where I wonder if Stan Lee added a line of dialogue to excuse Doom flat out murdering a whole bunch of his subjects. He'd already condemned them to death with his Killer Robots, but maybe he's able to excuse that as an "accident", whereas this is killing them more directly. It's the only time in the whole issue where he does genuinely give a thought to his people - when Latveria was first introduced he seemed to genuinely care about them, but this reminder of such previous behaviour tends to highlight the fact that he's now a heartless, self-fixated dictator.

The whole town is destroyed, but luckily one small section - the bit where the FF and the townspeople had all gathered - is protected by what appears to be a force field. It was The Invisible Girl! She was so worried that she made Nick Fury tell her where the rest of the team had gone, sorted out a babysitter, and then ... somehow made her way to Latveria, secretly entered the country, discovered where they were, and then snuck over to save them all.

That sounds fair enough.

With the whole team back together at last it's time to go and "tackle Doom", as The Thing says. "Next: The Wrap-up!" says the final panel, but before that we've got another visit to Latveria to fit in, in a very different story indeed!

link to information about this issue

posted 17/8/2018 by Mark Hibbett

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DOOMBOT FILTER: an animal that says 'to-whit to-whoo' (3)

(e.g. for an animal that says 'cluck' type 'hen')

A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett