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Blog Archive: December 2020

Merry Christmas, Dolts!
The Doom blog is going to be taking a break over the festive period - we'll be back in the New Year for the final run of stories, which will take us all the way through Secret Wars and beyond, but until then I leave it to Doctor Doom to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!
posted 21/12/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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This issue's cover shows Doom looming above everybody else, something we've seen many times before. Usually this is a metaphor, such as when he was seen taking up the whole sky back in Astonishing Tales #3 but, as we'll see, it's meant rather more literally here.

The story sees Ben Grimm wandering around on Battleworld after everybody else has gone home at the end of Secret Wars, a series which was only on its second issue at the time this comic came out. That means that the writer, John Byrne has to be fairly vague about what actually happens, which he manages to do here by massively overwriting the rest of the text so that we don't feel we're missing out on words! The writing might be a bit florid, but the arts looks gorgeous. I'm not usually a fan of Ron Wilson or John Sinnot, but the two of them together makes everything look super-slick and heroic. It's a lovely combination! We follow Ben Grimm as he meets up with a couple of viking-esque giants, first Hanrak and then his betrothed Tariaana, both of whom Ben has to fight. Hanrak faints when he sees Ben change into The Thing, then Tarianna gives in gracefully when he ... um... grabs her by the throat. Hanrak wakes up and instantly runs away, into a clearing where all three of them face the gigantic Doctor Doom we saw on the cover. The other characters refer to him as "The Wizard", and there's something off about him right from the start, notably the fact that he doesn't speak which, as we've seen recently in Secret Wars #2, isn't like Doctor Doom at all. There's also the small matter of Doctor Doom being dead. As The Thing says, we saw him die recently in Fantastic Four #260>Fantastic Four #260, and John Byrne very carefully puts this across without giving any clues as to what might happen in the rest of "Secret Wars" - probably because he doesn't know! The Thing, quite sensibly, decides that this must therefore be a robot - it usually is after all - and this seems to be borne out when the giant Doom falls to bits. However, it then starts to put itself back together in a very odd way indeed. This is my favourite panel in the whole comic! Sadly, Doom does not remain like this, and the various odds and sods transform into a bunch of normal-sized Dooms which gather round to give the Thing a right old kicking. Hanrak, who we have by now realised is a complete prat, refuses to help, but when Tarianna gets involved Doom finally speaks, telling her not to. The fact that when he finally does speak he does so in the first person is another clue that this is not the Doom we know, and when Tarianna lobs a spear at him he disappears into thin air. She and Ben then pick up Hanrak (who's passed out again) and head back to her village, where things get even more mysterious. What the?!? It's a great cliffhanger that made me want to go and read the next issue right away to find out what on earth is going on. However, before we can do that I'm afraid two things stand in the way firstly is the fact that this blog will be taking a break for Christmas, and secondly we've got to skip back to the main "Secret Wars" series next. Join me for the that in the futuristic year 2021AD!

posted 16/12/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Prisoners Of War!
For all that "Secret Wars" is a terrible load of old rubbish (and it really is a terrible load of old rubbish), I can't deny that there's some craft to it. Jim shooter gives the reader plenty of action, with lots of Big Fights and explosions, while also giving plenty of time to character interactions and moving the plot forward in very carefully explained stages. Maybe it would feel more interesting if it was drawn by a different artist - Mike Zeck was great on Captain America's solo adventures, but here the multiple crowd scenes take on a sort of puffiness, with all of the characters looking inflated and slightly cartoony. This issue starts with everybody enjoying a good old punch-up, while Doctor Doom gets down to business with the issue's main sub-plot. As he flies off to find Galactus he recalls the events of the first issue in extreme detail, arriving just in time to find him displaying his near god-like nature by ... um... being able to stand up without the indignity of using his hands. Impressive! Doom tries got get Galactus' attention, but is completely ignored, "as though I were a gnat, buzzing at his feet!" Some versions of Doom (e.g. the wheedling East European dictator of Lee and Kirby's later run) would have been absolutely infuriated by this and let off a few gauntlet blasts, but here he accepts this as only natural. Changing tack, Doom wanders over to a nearby fortress, explaining his actions out loud to himself as he goes, where he discovers the body of Ultron, dormant and ripe for reprogramming. There's then a break for some mroe fighting involving the main bunch of superheroes, and when we next see Doom he is welcoming a group of supervillains to "his" fortress, which he has renamed "Doombase". Calling it "Doombase" is a VERY Doctor Doom thing to do, but I'm not sure why Absorbing Man is calling him "Doctor Doomwimp". It's not a pun on anything I can think of, nor is it a commonly used phrase. Maybe Jim Shooter was just in a hurry and couldn't think of anything better?

When the supervillains object to Doom taking over he unleashes Ultron on them and they very quickly decide to accept Doom as their new leader. He leads them inside where we get a lovely example of the green and purple pallete that is so often used for supervillains. There's just time for Doom to do some buttering up of Molecule Man and to show Doctor Octopus a Giant View Screen (he loves a Giant View Screen, does Doctor Doom!) and then that's it for him in this issue. The rest of the comic is taken up with another Big Fight, this time between the heroes and Magneto, during which the Thing suddenly turns back into Ben Grimm right in the middle of a big battle, and then the story ends with the heroes looking at their own Giant View Screen, which shows Galactus about to Do Something Galactus-y. We'll find out what that is soon enough, but before that we get to that next time we're going to find out some more about the Thing's new ability to transform at will, over in his own series!

posted 9/12/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Turning Point!
One of the actually properly interesting things about "Secret Wars" (as opposed to how terrible the actual comics were) is how the series was worked into the ongoing stories of the other series in the Marvel Universe. The month before it all began several series ended that month's issue by having their characters disappear after entering a mysterious building in New York's Central Park. The following month they returned, often drastically changed, having been through Some Sort Of Experience. The biggest changes included Spider-man getting a new costume and She-Hulk replacing The Thing in The Fantastic Four, and readers were left to wonder how this had all occurred. The regular Marvel Universe carried on from there, while the story of how it all happened was gently unravelled over the next twelve months in "Secret Wars" itself. As a way of intriguing readers and getting them to buy the main series this must have worked, as it's been used many times since, notably in DC's "52" series where all of the stories in their main series jumped forward a year with new costumes and changes to the status quo, leaving "52" to slowly reveal how everything had changed during the intervening time. Funnily enough, it had its own line of action figures too! This issue is post-Secret Wars, and so starts off with the Hulk emerging from that same building with... a mysterious limp! All right, it's maybe not quite as exciting as a new costume or a new team member, but it does at least show that something has been going on that we don't know much about. The text of the comic has to keep up the air of mystery too, only vaguely referring to events, partly to maintain the susspense but also, I imagine, because nobody knew what the ending was going to be yet! It's here that Doctor Doom makes his only appearance, standing in a group of characters as part of an image which seeks to summarise what we can expect to see in Secret Wars itself. This is Doom, yet again, standing in a group,representing Super-Villains and the Marvel Universe as a whole. He does that a lot!

The rest of the story sees a spectacularly grumpy Hulk stomping around on the trail of the lower-league supervillain Boomerang, who has something to do with another character called Max Hammer and some illegal experiments involving Gamma Rays. I found it all a bit disconcerting, as it's not any version of the Hulk that I remember. It's drawn by Sal Buscema, which is definitely how I remember the Hulk being drawn, but Danny Bulandi's inks give it a much smoother, glossier look that I'm used to. It's very nice, but it's not what I associate with our pal Sal! His personality is also miles away from the classic "Hulk find Betty!" characterisation that I remember from the pages of Marvel UK's "Hulk Weekly". I know that part of the Hulk's character is that it keeps changing, as has been shown in the completely brilliant "Immortal Hulk" recently, but it was still a surprise to come up against it at this point in time.

It does all get a bit "Immortal Hulk" towards the end actually, as they find a family pet that has been turned into a Gamma monster. It all ends with the scientist who has been running the experiments turning into a monster, which everyone seems to be surprised by despite this, as far as I'm aware, being what always happens to Scientists Dabbling In Forbidden Technology. Sadly we won't find out what happens next (my guess: he regains his humanity to save a loved one at the expense of his own life?) as we're back in the ongoing story of Secret Wars itself!

posted 2/12/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett