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Doom Must Die!
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Some of the craziness works in favour of the story, as more and more ideas are piled on, but elsewhere you get the distinct impression that Larry Leiber was making things up as he went along. There's several occasions, for instance, where Doom suddenly uses a new, previously unmentioned power, to get himself out of a fix, often a power which would have solved other problems earlier on in the story with ease.
The splash page shows the last issue's revolution against Doom in full swing, with rocket-powered rebels zooming into the castle where Doom and The Faceless One are still facing off against each other with the Doomsman in the middle. Both Doom and The Faceless One instruct the android to attack the other, and these two equally forceful but opposite commands cancel each other out, leaving him free to exercise his own free will. Because that, apparently, is how voice-recognition software works in Latveria,
Both villains back away from the robot, but then Doom decides to try Mind Fusion, a simple process whereby he can take control of the Doomsman's mind because it is based on his own. I don't recall this ever being mentioned as one of his abilities before, and does lead one to wonder why he didn't try it sooner. ,Still, it works, and the Doomsman turns on The Faceless One, grabbing him an unescapable grip.
It's at this point that we get the best twist in the whole story: It turns out that The Faceless One is not a humanoid in a round helmet after all, but a weird space ball on robot spider legs! He skitters off, blowing up his body and managing to fool Doom into thinking he's left the castle by sending his spaceship away without him. Doom then turns to the other matter on his to-do list - quelling the rebellion. He does this easily by using unspecified "energy" which is "generated by forces far beyond your comprehension", another example of a new super power that could have come in handy on plenty of previous occasions. He's acting like a Silver Age Superman here, seemingly unstoppable with a new power for every occasion.
Doom immediately finds himself under attack from "Anti-Particles", one of his own inventions that, again, have not been mentioned before. The Faceless One has got into Doom's control room and, rather wonderfully, is also using his favourite method of communication against him. Doom is chased out of the castle by a range of his own weapons, until an astonished group of rebels watch him disappear from existence altogether. Thinking their rebellion has accidentally succeeded, Rudolpho is proclaimed their new ruler and the crowd start doing that slightly dodgy "Hailing" that they're so worryingly keen on. Their happiness does not last long, as the castle starts to vibrate and, up in the sky, a massive image of Doom appears, informing them that he cannot be beaten and, even now, his earthquake generator is destroying the building. What on earth is going on here? How did he escape whatever weapon the Faceless One turned on him? How did he do the big Sky Face? Why is his castle built on a fault line, and how come there's such a thing in the Bavarian mountains? The only thing that does ring true here is Doom's actions - an earthquake machine is exactly the sort of precautionary device he'd install, and destroying his home to stop somebody else getting hold of it is precisely the reaction you'd expect. Part of the reason this story gets away with as much as it does it that Leiber writes a great Doom, if not a sensible plot, and Wally Wood makes him look very exciting. One does have to wonder though, where are all the robots and soldiers that he usually has access to? Doom may be in character, but Latveria is not.
The rebels flee, with a much more heroic than usual Rudolpho leading them away, carrying a wounded Ramona in his arms, swearing to try again. Meanwhile the Doomsman is called to The Cave Of Sorrows, another freshly mentioned area, where he finds Doom sitting on a throne. There's no explanation of how he got there.
Doom decides to test the android, freeing him of mind control so he can fight a couple of handy robots (where were they when he needed them earlier?) before attacking Doom himself. Doom takes back control, admits that his plan to create an army of super-powered androids might have been flawed, and then... falls asleep? This, of course, was another trap. The android finds it has been freed and goes to attack Doom who reveals that he was just pretending, so teleports the Doomsman into another dimension. Doom does at least have some history of transporting people to other dimensions, but even so, why did he need to test the Doomsman at all, and again, why didn't he use this power earlier on The Faceless One? Actually, that's a point, isn't he still in the control room? Is it me, or does this feel like Lieber and Wood completely forgot about The Faceless One, and had to stick this bit of dialogue in at the last minute to explain it away?
And that's the rather rushed end to the story, which finishes with Doom ranting about how he's undefeatable, and the "next time" box offering a challenge. What indeed? Astonishing Tales came out bi-monthly, so it would be a while before regular readers found out... and it'll be quite a while for us too, as there's several other stories between now and then!
link to information about this issue
posted 5/10/2018 by Mark Hibbett
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