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Blog Archive: July 2019

... And Be A Villain!
This issue is the start of one of the regular "new directions" that this series go in for, as shown by the somewhat excitable text at the start, calling it a "re-affirmation of comics' most awesome legends". SPOILERS: don't get too excited, it isn't really.

One things that does get re-affirmed is Namor's classic costume (or "swimming trunks") but otherwise it's a somewhat unsatisfying mix of flashbacks, new characters, and Herb Trimpe's underwhelming pencils. One of the great things about doing this blog had been revisiting great artists like Jack Kirby and Gene Colan who I never liked when I originally read these comics aged 10, but love now. Sadly, however, I must say that my original opinion of Herb Trimpe has not changed.

The actual story sees Namor bursting through a window at the Baxter Building demanding help. He gets put in a big bucket of water to recover, and then he fills everyone in with what's happened since the last issue. Doom didn't believe Namor was dead for long, and that morning found him and shot him with a gun that disabled his costume so that he could no longer survive for long outside of water. Doom then took Namor to Atlantis, where he threatened to destroy the ancient city completely unless Namor agreed to be his servant.

Namor was forced to agree, but then Doom allowed him to escape, challenging him to go back to Reed Richards to get his air-breathing suit repaired. When Namor reaches this part of the recap a hologram of Doom appears to say that the whole exercise is designed to prove that he is cleverer than Reed Richards. This very much Classic Doctor Doom! Reed Richards duly accepts the challenge, swearing to fix Namor's suit. The rivalry between the two men is always set up as a defining factor for Victor von Doom in these stories, but reading them in order it's very noticeable that Mr Fantastic is also really into it. The writers often have him complaining and saying "Oh why can't we work together," but whenever there's a challenge he makes sure that he's the winner!

Elsewhere Doom turns away from his hologram projector, feeling pleased about how it's all going. A text box tells us that "he feels good, does Doctor Doom - better than he's felt in weeks, in fact!" I don't think Doctor Doom's mental health has ever been discussed like this before!

The next panel is something we definitely have seen before, it's Doctor Doom walking through the streets of Latveria. This is an image that pops up regularly, ever since Jack Kirby's original back in Fantastic Four Annual #2. The reaction of the people, however, is very different in this instance, demonstrating the way that Doom has changed over the course of the Cold War from a much respected saviour to a feared dictator. It seems like an odd choice by Steve Engleheart to make Doom MORE villainous here, as he's one of the two headline characters and so supposedly some kind of sympathetic lead, but as we'll see, there's another candidate for that role coming up soon.

Back at the Baxter Building, Namor has taken off his costume and reverted to his classic swimming trunks look, which is already attracting some admirers. Sadly for Torch/Sub-mariner shippers, Johnny Storm is distracted by movement outside the window, and when he goes to investigate he discovers a mysterious character called The Shroud. All we find out about him at this point is that he's been in training for a long time, may have a connection to Doctor Doom, and wears a cape lined with asbestos.

The Shroud gets away, and when Johnny returns to Reed's lab he finds that things aren't going well. Namor, as is his way, loses patience and breaks out of his water tube, determined to return to Doctor Doom and be his slave, in accordance with their agreement. He's still weakened though, and so when he jumps out of the window he's unable to fly and plummets to the ground. Luckily he's scooped up by Doctor Doom in some sort of ... force field? Or is it a teleporter? Whatever it is, Namor disappears, and the issue ends with both the Fantastic Four and The Shroud seperately shouting their determination to track him down and/or destroy Doom. The whole story so far has felt much more like an episode of The Fantastic Four, with Doom living up to the story's title "And Be A Villain" - let's see if he stays that way next time!

posted 25/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Death In The Year Before Yesterday!
This issue promises "Guest Stars Galore" and certainly delivers, with Moondragon joining Spider-man's previous guests Doctor Doom, The Scarlet Witch and The Vision. There's also a cameo from Iron Man in the first few pages, during which Moondragon discusses her weird dreams before being captured by a ball of light which transports her to historical Salem, where she disovers the superheroes unconscious and Doctor Doom trapped in some sort of force field by The Dark Rider. The Rider gives his lackey, Cotton Mather, a mystic blade which he's meant to use to drain power from The Scarlet Witch. Before he can do that, however, Moondragon strikes, leading to a fight which wakes up Spider-Man, Vision and The Scarlet Witch. Bill Mantlo manages to squeeze in a very quick explanation of how they all got here (Scarlet Witch summoned them... somehow, through time) and then Spider-man realises that the Rider is using the force field to drain Doom's powers. This leads to yet another fight, and a double page spread similar to the one we saw in the previous issue, this time showing the simultaneous physical and telepathic battles that are going on. They eventually manage to free Doctor Doom, whose first question on waking are about the enemy they all face. This, plus the classic heroic struggle to get back and fight show that Doom is being used here as a hero rather than a villain. Doom remains aloof and arrogant, but Bill Mantlo manages to balance his characteristics really well here. Sadly, there's not much Doom left in this issue, as once the heroes unite to beat The Dark Rider Doom leaves, using "the time-circuitry I have incorporated into my armour" (which he has never mentioned before and probably never will again). His last words are a great encapsulation of his character, stating that any alliance will only be temporary. There's just time for Spidey to make a callback to the first time he met Doom, way back in Amazing Spider-man #5 before the story finishes with a frankly weird final image, which sees Spider-man upset that he didn't get away in time to change history and save the villagers, who have all been hanged. As mentioned in other issues, this mixing in of actual historic events feels distinctly uneasy - these were, after all, real people who died. Apart from that though, "Fill In King" Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema tell a guest-packed story which really nails Doctor Doom's character as it is at this point in time, without actually telling us which point of time he comes from (time travel everybody!) and therefore not troubling the needs of continuity. We're right back in the thick of it for the next issue though, when The Fantastic Four return Doom's regular visits by showing up in is own series!

posted 17/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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A Past Gone Mad!
Doctor Doom's been co-starring in various versions of "Super-Villain Team-Up" for a while now, but this is his first appearance in the more popular "Team-Up" series. Spider-man's shared this title with various anti-heroes before, including Namor, Werefolf By Night and Son Of Satan, but Doom is the first outright supervillain to star. And is that a Jack Kirby Doom at the top right?* (sorry for the poor quality picture - this issue isn't on Marvel Unmlimited so I had to source it elsewhere!)

The previous issue ended with Doom saying he's come to make an alliance with Spider-man in order to save the world, but this one starts with him admitting that he's been drawn here by the power of The Dark Rider. The Dark Rider claims to have been expecting this, deliberately luring Doom here out of interest in the magic powers Doom inherited from his mother, and this leads into a rather natty double page spread by Sal Buscema which gives a pretty swift recap of Doom's origin (missing out the attempts to save his mother from hell) while, around them, Spider-man and The Vision are attacked by the Rider's familiar. This is all a distraction, as The Dark Rider is draining Doom's mystic powers for himself - another example of Doom's old plots being used against him, in this case the comfy chair which drained the power cosmic from the Silver Surfer - but Doom, as ever, refuses to be beaten, and fights back. The action cuts to a fairly straight re-telling of the historical story of the Salem Witch Trials, before we return to find Doom and the Rider still fighting. Spider-man and The Vision leap in to help, with the latter getting zapped. The Scarlet Witch revives herself enough to zap back, but then she too collapses, leaving Doom and Spidey alone. At which point the former makes a slightly less than truthful statement: Not "the first time", surely? Doom takes control of the situation, giving orders to Spider-man, but it's all for nothing and, when the issue ends, Doom's worries turn out to be true. It seems significant that Doom is the one the Rider is holding as the final trophy - the last one to fall, showing his heroism once again. It's all very exciting, and we don't even have to wait a month until we find out how it all ends!

*UPDATE - it looks like the picture of Doom was taken from an advert, spotted back in Captain Marvel #21!
posted 11/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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Visions Of Hate!
This is the second part of a four issue-long story in "Marvel Team-Up" which sees Spider-man and various pals travel back to the time of the Salem Witch Trials. Doctor Doom very nearly appeared in the previous issue, in which The Scarlet Witch was summoned by evil voices to a mysterious castle, where she stole a time machine. It's clearly Doom's time machine, although its less clear whether the castle is in Latveria or the original one near New York (which seems to be left completely unguarded - surely a health and safety incident waiting to happen?) but Doom himself is never mentioned, I guess in order to raise suspense for when he eventually does appear, in this issue.

Spider-man, Scarlet With and The Vision start the issue in Salem in 1692, with The Scarlet Witch casually mentioning that yes, it definitely was Doctor Doom's castle she was summoned to, which rather spoils my theory above. They're surrounded by Cotton Mather and various Salem citizens, who are extremely keen to see them burnt as witches. It's a bit of an uneasy situation for a reader - we know that the people of Salem murdered several women in a fit of mass delusion, but in this case all three characters are at least supernatural, and one really is a witch! A big fight breaks out, as it so often does, until Spider-man is knocked out and Wanda is shot. The Vision is about to embark on a killing spree, but then he gets struck down by Cotton Mather with what seems to be a laser powered crucifix. Spider-man wakes up in a dungeon, where a Historical Character gives him a brief history of the Salem Witch Trials. Again, it's a slightly uneasy read as these were real people who were killed, but then maybe it's no different to reading stories set in, say, World War Two.

Spidey breaks free, freeing the others along the way, and together they escape, with him and The Vision heading towards a "weird greenish glow away off in the woods". This turns out to be Cotton Mather's master, the distinctly demonic "Dark Rider". The Vision, who is rather enjoying This Human Emotion You Call "Hatred" leaps in to thump him. Another fight ensues, broken by a voice off panel who turns out to be... Doctor Doom! He's arrogant, demanding an alliance, and working for the common good - all excellent signifiers of Doom which, hopefully, we'll see more of in the next issue!

posted 5/7/2019 by MJ Hibbett
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A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett