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The Power And The Pride!

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The previous issue began with a splash page of the Fantastic Four standing around explaining the plot to each other, and exactly the same thing happens at the start of this one. Everyone looks heroic, and I guess it gets the recap out of the way (rather than having it woven through the first few pages as was more usual), but it's a jarringly old-fashioned moment in what goes on to be a thrilling comic.

As the FF explain to each other, their powers are back but they're still trapped in Latveria, so they're making their way to the castle via the medium of chucking lumps of other buildings around as they go. Meanwhile, inside the castle, artist who Doom captured to paint his portrait suggests to the lackey Hauptmann that they should use all this confusion as an opportunity to escape. Hauptmann is having none of it and reveals that he is an ex-Nazi who transferred his allegiance to Doom when the Third Reich collapsed. This confirms what I've suspected in previous issues, and solidifies the connection between Doom (and by extension the Eastern Bloc regimes he represents) and Fascism. This link will be swiftly peddled back when Doom gets his own series, and it sticks out here as an uncomfortable oddity in his long-term character progression. Doom doesn't think one race is better than any other, he just thinks he's better than everyone!

Hauptmann takes the news to Doom who, quite understandably, points out that he's very much aware of his arch enemies lobbing chunks of churches at his home. He explains that he has (yet another) cunning plan to deal with them - Hyper Sound! Rather than finding out what this actually means we're instead shown the progress of the Fantastic Four as they make their way into the castle. What usually seems to happen at this point is that The Invisible Girl somehow gets kidnapped, but this time both her AND her maternity cover, Crystal, fall into a trap, leaving the men to fight some Doombots. At least, I think they're Doombots - they have purple skin and robotic clothing, and I'm pretty sure they behaved like Doombots in earlier issues, but now they seem to be human beings in electronic uniforms. I wonder if this was a bit of confusion between Lee and Kirby? Whatever they are, Sue and Crystal fight even more of them when they land in an underground bunker, fighting through until they burst in on... Doctor Doom and a slap-up feast! Doom plays the perfect host, indulging in small-talk about Sue's recently arrived baby. As usual, he's claiming to be a gentleman, treating the women as guests and providing them with food, drink, and also culture, in the form of a recital on the piano. We get the first inkling that there might be something more to this than meets the eye when we see that he has yet another viewing screening set into the piano, which he uses to keep an eye on the rest of the Fantastic Four. The men uncover a room full of priceless art, stolen by Doom. However, before they can browse the catalogue Hauptmann bursts in with a flame thrower, determined to win his master's approval by murdering his arch enemies. What he doesn't reckon with is Doom's apparently genuine love of Art - he cannot bear to see his collection destroyed, and so is forced to use his Hyper Sound piano to kill his aide before he can burn down the gallery. This is another example of Doom's strange code of honour. He claims to be a man of taste and education, who appreciates great art so much that he's not only prepared to kill his aide to preserve it, but also to ruin his own carefully laid plans to do so. By blasting the Hyper Sound Piano at Hauptmann he has, apparently, used it all up, so there is no way of killing the Fantastic Four any more. Thus he sets them free, in the pre-advertised "Possibly the most off-beat ending of the year!" So ends what would be Lee and Kirby's final Doctor Doom story - and what a way to go out, throwing all the excitement available into the mix but also developing one of their greatest characters even further. The Doctor Doom who was happy to work alone and then chuck himself out of a window when it all goes wrong is now long gone. This revised version of Doom is all-powerful, ensconced in his own world, and even more contradictory and deluded than ever. "The Master of Latveria does not lie", he says, which is a great big fib as well he knows! He's become one of Marvel's greatest, most complex characters, fully deserving of a series of his own - as we shall soon see!



link to information about this issue

posted 29/8/2018 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')

An examination of Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett