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Blog Archive: April 2021Checkmate
It feels like ages since we last had a Doctor Doom story called "Checkmate" or "Endgame" or that tried to draw a comparison between super-villiany and a board game, but here we have it in the grand finale of a series that has managed to combine all of the weird attempts at "grittiness" from "Secret Wars" with all of the horrendously long slabs of dialogue from "Secret Wars" without any of the very occasional flashes of excitement from... er... "Secret Wars". What I'm saying is that this is even worse than "Secret Wars" was!
A major reason for this is that "Secret Wars" did at least have loads of Doctor Doom in it, whereas "Cloak and Dagger" has so far had about one page per issue, building up to this finale where Doom appears a lot but does absolutely nothing whatsoever. It's really weird - we've been teased his arrival since the cover of the very first issue, but when he turns up he just watches what's going on and, even more weirdly, seems to think this is "strategy". Thus, according to this comic, the way to win at chess is to basically watch while other people play it.
Doom is there right on the very first page, wandering around the nightclub/arena from last time, where he discovers the murdered body of the club's owner. It turns out though that this guy was a robot all along! We then get a classic Close Up On The Eyes shot of Doom, where he engages fully with the chess metaphor as he plans his "moves". As we will see, this will consist entirely of slinking around the building, observing other people do stuff. We next catch up with Dazzler and Beast, who since last time have been hung upside down by their feet, which gives them the opportunity to engage in huge slabs of horrible dialogue and uncomfortable kissing. Examples of the intensity of the romance here include The Beast explaining at length what happens when two cats are tied together over a washing line, and Dazzled saying she loves his "ribald sense of humour". So sexy!
Thankfully this is interrupted by Alex The Smoothie who reveals tha he is actually the son of Doctor Doom. His acceptance of his lineage (which he hadn't really mentioned before) is shown by his adoption of a vaguely Doom-ish outfit. As with so much to do with this series, the interior visuals are a huge disappoint after the Bill Sienkiewicz cover. Sienkiewicz draws Doom Jr in a shining gold costume, somewhat similar to the one worn by Doom Sr back in the inside pages of What If? #22, "What If Doom became a hero?" This is a lovely use of continuity, which is totally lost by Don Perlin's version where he's wearing something much more like a traditional villain's one-sie with a boring grey crown thing and Doom-like gauntlets.
After a brief look at Poltergeist and Link (two characters so annoying and boring that I'd forgotten all about them) we return to Doom Jr to find him throwing daggers at a map of Latveria. Two things strike me about this image. Firstly, how on earth has he missed Doom's face so many times when he's throwing the daggers from about twelve inches away? We see another shot of this later on in the page when it's abundantly clear that he's standing right there in front of it, with hardly enough room to swing his arm - does Don Perlin know nothing of the correct distance for a darts oche? The second, more exciting, point is that this is an Actual Map Of Latveria! Marvel Unlimited lets us zoom in for a better look: This version of Latveria not only has towns and villages but also a railway (which appears to go beyond the country's borders), county lines and possibly a river. Settlements named include "Doomsfalls", "Doomton", "Doomsburg" and "Doomsvale", alongside oddities like "Skidsville", "Otisburg" and, I think, "Canarsis". I have no idea where any of these names come from, but later on they are joined by "Doomshill" and... "Bronx"? Doom Jr is ranting away in a very Doom-like way in front of two of his lackeys, who start to worry that he is turning nuts. Unbeknownst to them as they wander off talking about it, and arguing over whether they should confront him, they are being watched by Doctor Doom himself. "The first piece is lost", says Doom like some kind of master strategist, despite having done nothing whatsoever except watch other people doing stuff. Shortly after this one of the disaffected lackeys frees Dazzler and the Beast, and Doom again takes credit for something which is absolutely nothing to do with him at all. I've re-read this just to check, but Doom is definitely not doing anything here, just observing. It's most perplexing - clearly Ann Nocenti has intended for Doom to appear right from the start of the series, but once he does arrive he doesn't do anything at all. The cover of the first issue showed him looming over everything, as he is wont to do, as if it was all a scheme, but it is nothing of the kind! Also, if Doom Jr is really Doom's son, doesn't that mean that Doom is calling himself a "snivelling cur" here?
Beast and Dazzler escape, but then run into Doom Jr and his circus of mutants. A big fight breaks out which goes on for ages, as everyone involved comments on how amazing it is that Dazzler (until very recently a singer) and Beast are able to fight off an entire army of trained professional killers. I guess it's supposed to be inspiring, but it's just daft. All of this is watched - just watched - by Doom, who yet again uses the chess metaphor to make it sound like this is the culmination of a devious plan. In case I have not made this clear yet, it really isn't! Link and Poltergeist, the two boring teenage mutants who were also staying at Heartbreak Hotel, turn up and join in and end up nearly killing Doom Jr, but then don't. I may have made this sound more exciting than it is. Once freed Doom Jr orders his army of mutants to kill Dazzler and Beast - something which they have manifestly failed to do over the preceding few pages - but they wisely decline. This is the last straw for Doom who finally makes his grand entrance to give his son a right good telling off. And then he just walks away! Doom has a history of doing this - notably in the classic Fantastic Four #87 when he just let the FF go in "the most offbeat ending ever". Here, however, it just seems that Doom is sick and tired of the whole silly thing and is sodding off back to Latveria to put it all behind him. Over the years of this project I have often found myself agreeing with Doctor Doom, but rarely more so than here. Is Latveria airlines taking bookings?
Dazzler and Beast follow suit and head back to the Heartbreak Hotel where they have another interminable conversation which attempts to make everything that's gone before somehow meaningful. They decide to end their relationship in the dullest, most emotionless way I think possible, and as they talk the camera continues to pull away from them until the very last panel showa a tiny earth millions of miles away, which goes some way to conveying how emotionally distant it all feels. And that's the end of what has been a truly dreadful mini-series, which doesn't even go to the trouble of telling us when it's set or how Doctor Doom is wandering around in it when he's supposed to be dead and/or on another planet. This series came out around the time that I was drifting away from mainstream comics for a while, first of all to fanzines and indies, but then on to bands and, vitally, BEER, and reading stuff like this reminds me of what a wise decision that was. We're getting closer to the end of the Marvel Age now, and there aren't many enjoyable comics left to look at, let alone any Actually Great ones, and this is illustrated very clearly by what comes next time: "Secret Wars II"!!!
posted 30/4/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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Crack Of Doom!
Before we get going on this issue, let's have a quick look at the front cover, particularly the image of Doom's eyes. When I ran the survey of Doom's characteristics several of the most mentioned aspects of his appearance were to do with his eyes - that they were visible through his mask, enclosed within square eye holes, and are brown. Also mentioned were his facial scarring and use of rivets on the armour, and the fact (later on) that he looms over other characters.
All of these are present in this image, indicating that we are very much supposed to think that the "real" Doctor Doom is featured within, but when we read the comic itself we find that in the new version of Doom's mask some of these aspects are missing, with no square blocks around the eyes and no scarring. It's a bit naughty of John Byrne to mislead the reader like this (although I suppose you could argue that that's a Doombot on the cover), but you have to admit he knows his Doom signifiers!
After the lengthy exploration of Doom's character and history last time, this issue mostly concentrates on The Fantastic Four, which I guess is fair enough as it's their series. The first three pages recap the final page of the previous issue, with the Baxter Building flying into space and exploding. This is followed by a couple more pages showing an apparently dead FF floating in space while as probe checks what's happened, before revealing that they were actually playing possum inside an air-filled invisible force field. Phew! They're alive, but they're still stuck up in space with only twenty minutes of oxygen left, so it's lucky that they have Mr Fantastic and his giant brain with them. He's got a plan which handily involves using everybody's special powers one by one. It's a fabulously efficient sequence where Reed forms his body into a spaceship shape, Sue uses this as a template for a force field and propels the "ship" heads towards earth by making a tiny air hole in the field, Johnny acts as a human heat barrier as Sue and Reed guide them towards Castle Doom, and finally She-Hulk comes to the fore as a human battering ram. It's so elegantly done that it doesn't matter that there's not really much in the way of jeopardy. This is a team working effectively together, shown by a writer/artist who knows how they all work. The efficiency continues as they smash into the castle and together fight their way through a bunch of guard robots. It all seems very easy, and it turns out that there's a reason for this - the new Doctor Doom is refusing to acknowledge that there's a problem at all. His plan cannot have failed, so he must have killed the Fantastic Four and everything his systems and robots are telling him must be a lie. This is spectacularly deranged, like a Latverian version of calling everything "Project Fear". Even the Doombots are worried, realising that they must have cocked up the brain-transfer process but unable to do much about it. The FF burst into the control room but, even though they're right there, Doom refuses to believe his own eyes! It's all a bit nuts and close-minded- even this early version of Doom would surely have had 17 back-up plans and a tonne of death traps ready - to the extent that this version of Doom could get work heading up UK government enquiries. His refusal to accept realty does however allow She-Hulk to rip apart Doom's armour and reveal that it's actually Kristoff inside. Reed quickly works out what's happened - the first time Doom sent the Baxter Building into space Sue had yet to develop her power to generate force fields, and so Kristoff's brain-washing must have stopped before getting to that bit. Again, we knew that already, so there's no big reveal here - all the fun for the reader comes through the way the team use their powers together so beautifully.
That's all for the Doom storyline in this issue - all that's left is for the FF to suddenly pause a moment and realise that their home has been destroyed, and then there's two pages of prelude to the Hate Monger storyline that will be taking place in the following issues. This features more Genuinely Racist Language, so to be honest I'm glad Doom won't be making an appearance! Instead of that we've got the final issue of "Beauty And The Beast", here next time!
posted 23/4/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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After trudging through so many issues of "Secret Wars" and "Beauty And The Beast" it's a huge relief today to get to a comic that is actually thoroughly enjoyable to read. It's yet another of John Byrne's attempts to stamp his mark on Doctor Doom, with a re-telling of his origin story that doesn't exactly change it, but is definitely a re-interpretation. There are also developments for his supporting cast that ask a question central to this whole blog - what makes Doctor Doom Doctor Doom?
It kicks off with a very John Byrne-ish splash page, featuring a great image of Doctor Doom and a high-faluting quote from Cicero - I wonder if Byrne had a collection of "A Quote A Day" calendars that he went through to find all these? Hang on, isn't Doom supposed to be dead though? We won't have long to wait to find out what's going on, but first we follow Doom as he pops into the classroom to pick up Kristoff. When I analysed the Doctor Doom survey a while ago I found that Kristoff was the third most-mentioned member of Doom's supporting cast (excluding The Fantastic Four). This was a surprise to me as he really doesn't appear very often, at least in this era, and certainly doesn't turn up as often as Boris or Valeria, both of whom also show up in this issue.
The idea that Doom's scarring wasn't actually hugely disfiguring originally came from Jack Kirby, but Byrne is now making it officially canon. He then gives it a twist of his own explaining why people have always been so horrified whenever they've seen his face, by showing Doom at the Himalayan monastary demanding that the monks put the mask on his face when it's still hot. It wasn't the accident that made Doom a monster, it was his own vanity and haste to become Doctor Doom! I am, as you may have noticed, a big fan of Byrne's run on "Fantastic Four" and especially the way he writes Doctor Doom, so I am fully on board with this re-interpretation. COR!
As we've seen before, Byrne is a stickler for Continuity As It Happened, and so when we next see Doom going through his first encounter with the FF (oddly skipping over the whole "conquering Latveria" part of his backstory) he does so in the same costume that he wore then, rather than having it retrospectively revised as has happened elsewhere. Just as it looks as if we might be getting all of Doom's old adventures re-told, Kristoff/Doom presses pauses on the remote control. Disappointingly, he isn't just doing it some he can get some snacks and pop to the loo, but because he reckons he's seen enough for now and has come up with a Genius Plan. Aside from wishing he'd carried on for a bit longer (I'd have liked to see Byrne explain The Lizard Men Of Tok!) this makes perfect sense - if he really is being imbued with Essence Of Doom then the extreme arrogance of that earlier version of the character would also come through. Of course he'd think he has all the answers - he's Doctor Doom! We then catch up with the FF and some various sub-plots. Johnny and Alicia (now a couple) are wandering around New York, where they find a chipper young lad joyfully putting up some Extremely Racist posters. These are not the usual Marvel metaphors, they contain genuine actual racist language which I'll not repeat here - it gets the point across, that this is something evil, but it doesn't sit well to a modern eye.
Less problematically we then drop in on Sue and Reed carrying out yet more tests on Franklin, before seeing She Hulk and Wyatt Wingfoot out on a date, having a bit of an old snog in a lift. I always liked this relationship during Byrne's run, as they seem like a jolly pair. It's not without its own problems - in the original comics, Wyatt's skin tone was always a bright red to reflect his indigenous American heritage - but I loved the fact that a male character always portrayed as big and strong was happily unthreatened in a relationship with a woman who was much bigger and much much stronger.
The pleasantries are broken up, however, when the Baxter Building suddenly takes off into space after someone lobs a Super Science Building-Floating BRICK into the lobby. "Not again" thinks Johnny Storm, because this happened before way back in Doctor Doom's second appearance, and it soon becomes clear that Doom is behind it again. Or is he? Reed Richards has doubts, partly based on the change of armour but also because the real Doom would never repeat something that failed the first time around. This is a really interesting question for all of Transmedia - how differently can a character look and act before they stop being that character? Here Doctor Doom is definitely not Victor von Doom, but he does have the same back story, supporting characters, and status as ruler of Latveria. He's also using TV screens to communicate! We might also expect this version of Doom to have the usual costjme too, if he's supposed to be exactly the same as the original, but I think this is Byrne signalling the Not Quite Rightness of this Doom. Removing most of his main signifiers, like the cloak, hood and disk clasps, means that his overall Doom-i-ness (technical term) is significantly weakened. The final pages sees the Baxter Building being destroyed, leading to a rather cheeky next time box: Well yes, it's clearly going to be continued next time, where we;kk get some more musing on The Nature Of Doom-i-ness, along with some rather fabulous FF action. See you for that next time!
posted 16/4/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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The Swingin' Sound Of Sixties Marvel
This is a quick note to say that on Saturday I gave a presentation about Marvel theme tunes at the Transitions Conference. You can read a lengthy description of what happened over on my non-comics blog, but the short version is that I had a lovely time alongside my Rock Colleague Mr FA Machine and a brilliant panel of other researchers. You can currently see my presentation on Vimeo, although I'm not sure how long it'll be there for.
As part of the presentation we recorded our own versions of six of the sixties Marvel theme tunes, along with "Mighty Mouse" and "Batman", and we've released them as an EP over on Bandcamp. You can listen there, or stream it below:
This is, I believe, Practice Led Research! It was a lot of fun to put together, and we had a great time at the conference too. Back to complaining about terrible 80s comics next time!
posted 12/4/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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I know I slagged "Secret Wars" off (a lot), but at least it had its interesting moments, and there was sufficient weird stuff to keep it interesting. However, that's over now and we must turn our attention back to "Beauty And The Beast", which was honestly so bad that it was difficult to read.
Doctor Doom doesn't appear until the very last page where, just as last time, he's standing on his battlements receiving news from a lackey about his alleged son. This is news he definitely doesn't want to hear. He's so uninterested that he orders his plane to be readied so he can fly directly to Hollywood to find out what's going on. "Doom, who cares for no man, suddenly seems to care about someone very very much" the wounded lackey muses to himself - how someone with that sort of attitude has lasted so long in Doom's employ is beyond me. Maybe Doom just likes a snappy dresser?
Although, hang on a minute, how is Doom in this story at all? With all the Secret War shenanigans going on at the same time as the first two issues I forgot that he's meant to be dead in the current timeline of the Marvel universe. I guess we can excuse it here as this is a limited series and so not necessarily set at precisely the same time as the ongoing ones, but it does seem weird that he keeps popping up without explanation or even a footnote telling us this takes place before "Secret Wars".
The rest of the issue is, as I say, pretty terrible from start to finish. It's another one with a really odd mix of schmaltzy romance, very old-fashioned art, and a stumbling attempt to join in with the current mode for "realism". For instance, once Dazzler and the Beast have spent a couple of pages being hopelessly in love on the beach they run into a bunch of disgusted passers-by as they wander home. Relevant! Dazzler goes to work in the weird circus - a workplace that she was forced into against her will last time, and where there was totally a murder - and has a lovely time. After a hint that Doom's son is trying to take over the organisation, we see Dazzler relaxing with some pals, comparing scars in what appears to be the front end of a spaceship. Beast has been moping around Heartbreak Hotel all afternoon, until the landlady tells him to get off his bum and go and see his girlfriend. He arrives to find her in her dressing room, looking "so... decadent!" The phrase we would use nowadays of course is "massively culturally inappropriate", but either way Beast is simultaneously repelled and massively turned on, until he sees the new jagged scar on her neck which "disgusts" him. He uses lipstick to draw "war paint" all over her face, and the whole thing is just awful. Are we meant to think that Beast is the good guy here? Or that Dazzler's self-pity, when she's a beautiful, blonde, white woman in a troupe where almost everybody else is disfigured and either green or purple, is somehow touching?
Beast discovers that Dazzler is being drugged - there's got to be some drugs in this somewhere because it's Adult and Relevant - and then is grabbed and drugged himself by the circus owner, who's trying to stop Doom's son from taking over and thinks this is a good way to go about it. Beast is driven mad and attacks Dazzler on stage, where she's handily dressed as a Princess to drive home a) the title of the series b) the way she stands out from all of the other cast members, and they have a Big Fight. Beast snaps out of his drug-state just at the right moment to say "Daz!" (that's what he calls her throughout, rather than her actual name) "Remember... our ... love!" "What?" she replies, not unreasonably as their love has not been particularly memorable. Luckily for the Beast she stops the fight, which enrages the bloodthirsty crowd. In order to sate their bloodlust Doom's son orders the circus members to murder their old boss, which they do happily, proclaiming Doom Jr as their new chief. And that's the point at which we head over to Latveria for the final page, and this who awful story grinds to a halt. There's one more issue to come, which we can only pray features a bit more Doctor Doom, but before then we've got a couple of issues of "Fantastic Four" to enjoy, featuring a whole new version of Doom. I can't wait!
posted 9/4/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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... Nothing To Fear!
At last, after what feels like YEARS of slogging through it, we've finally reached the final issue of "Secret Wars", and it feels like a grand summary of everything that's gone before. There's talking! Excessive recapping! Some BIG FIGHTS! A queasy mixture of domesticity and grim'n'gritty! And, of course plenty of Doctor Doom - look, there he is on the cover again!
We're used to seeing these sort of covers, with the villain apparently victorious over a mountain of dead heroes, but when we turn the page we find that this is not a dream, nor a hoax, imaginary story or even over-enthusiastic cover image, but the actual truth: the heroes are all dead. Jim Shooter goes to great lengths to make this clear, listing them all one by one over scenes of devastation, presumably to counteract any smart-arse reader going "Aha! you missed out Spider-Woman!" It's like a "What If?" but real, they're definitely dead, or "carrion" as Jim Shooter puts it. As has happened so many times with this series, there's a weird mis-match of tone as Shooter tries to get in on the new mood of "gritty" comics, using a phrase like "blood oozing from the mangled remains of their flesh" in a series which, when it comes down to it, is designed to sell a range of action figures.
Thankfully we move away from all the death to find Doctor Doom back in his new base, having just zapped all of the superheroes. For some reason using his powers makes him increase in size, and we catch him just as he's shrinking down to normal again. Doom is quoting Robert Oppenheimer quoting the Bhagavad-Gita (yes, I googled it) in an attempt to convey the magnitude of his problems - he has ultimate power, so has to be really careful not to obliterate a solar system by accident. If I had that sort of power I am pretty sure I would "accidentally" obliterate Klaw, who is still doing the incredibly annoying end of words thing-ing-ing, but instead Doom goes for a bit of a sit down in his batchelor pad/Doomcave. Next comes a lengthy segment dealing with the super-villains, still flying through space on a big chunk of Denver. A lot of this section is taken up with The Enchantress summoning up a Water Spirit in the bath for a recap and, it turns out, a complete explanation of how The Beyonder got started. It's VERY in keeping with the tone of this series that we get this cosmic information from an Asgardian water elemental sitting in a bathtub next to a bottle of shampoo. Mixing the cosmic with the down to earth was one of the key aspects of early Marvel, especially when it's (respectably) Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, but in Shooter's hands it just feels a bit naff!
After telling the Enchantress a whole lot of stuff she already knows (Shooter is still doing these recaps - who does he think is buying the final issue of a 12 issue series as their first one?) the water spirit gets boiled alive and then sent down the plughole, all while The Absorbing Man is waiting to get in to use the loo. We stay in Denver for several more pages during which the villains bicker a lot more and fight each other for various sensible and also not at all sensible reasons. Doctor Octopus,for instance, decides to fight Molecule Man - who, let's not forget, has put the whole suburb in a space bubble and sent it flying through the galaxy - for claiming to be able to get them home, when surely a) that's a good thing and b) he can pretty clearly do it. It all goes on for ages, and ends with The Lizard getting killed, the Enchantress going back to Asgard, and the other villains... er... actually, we don't ever find out what happens to them. It's one huge plotline running throughout the series that just seems to get dropped and forgotten.
Instead we go back to Doctor Doom, getting woken up from a nap by Klaw, who has been busy working on his Secret Wars fanfic. He tells Doom a whole made-up story about how the superheroes could have escaped being dead. Zsaji could have turned up and used all of her powers to bring Colossus back to life. He could then have found Mr Fantastic's body and put it into an alien healing machine, and if that somehow worked Mr Fantastic could then have worked out a way to make all the other superheroes be alive again. Doctor Doom is quite right, this is clearly nonsense and nowhere near as good as Klaw's Harry Potter/Battlestar Galactica mash-ups. However, Klaw continues to taunt him with the possibility that it might be true and/or that he might accidentally revive them himself, at which point Thor's hammer flies through the door and Doom FLIPS OUT. I'm not entirely clear what's going on there - is this Battleworld exploding (a bit)? If so, where is that sun, and how come there's stars all of a sudden? The Beyonder extinguished all the stars in the nearby sky, as we were reminded only a few pages ago. Maybe it's just due to the multitude of inkers being used - John Beatty is the only one actually credited, but as we get into the second half of this story it becomes clear that a lot more artists have been drafted in, presumably to get it all finished in time. They change every couple of pages, with very differing results. For instance, as the somehow-revived superheroes (we don't get a proper explanation for how they really came back to life) approach his base Doom gives a tiny sliver of Power Cosmic to Klaw, so that he can do the fighting while Doom goes and has a bit of a lie down. Klaw uses this power to generate an army of monsters in a good old-fashioned two page splash. I think the lack of dialogue and sound effects is meant to show how awesome this image is, but to be honest it looks a bit knocked-off in a hurry. I do like Mike Zeck's art, especially on Captain America, but here it looks really plain. I never thought I'd say it, but I really miss a bit of 90s super-detailed "scratchy lines" art here. Luckily, we get exactly that with the change of inker on the next page! After several pages of fighting Captain America makes his way into Doom's batchelor pad, where he gets killed again. And again. And again! I've no idea what's going on, but the upshot is that Doctor Doom is sufficiently weakened for The Beyonder to finally make his move. Yes, The Beyonder! It turns out that he's been hiding inside Klaw for ages, having been passed there by Spider-Woman via Hulk in previous issues. So that's what was going on! The Beyonder takes back his power and vanishes, pausing only to revert Doctor Doom to his previous costume and disappearing him too. And that's kind of it, for Doom and The Beyonder anyway. The superheroes go back to Doombase, where Mr Fantastic pops off to find a way to send them all home. Hang on, "find a way to get us home"? Didn't he say, just last issue, that he could definitely do this, and that there was no need for anyone to ask Doctor Doom to do it? Was Mr Fantastic just making this up then? What a git!
The rest of the issue is a massive exercises in tidying up - it's easy to forget, reading it now, but a lot of the ending of this story was already set up a year previously when the heroes returned to Earth in their own series. The Hulk was shown returning with a broken leg, for instance, and so that has to be quickly established here. Once again, there's a distinct feeling that Jim Shooter is rushing around fixing things that he should have sorted out ages ago. The fact that Hulk has a broken leg is quite a big deal in his own series, and I'd imagine readers at the time would have spent a while wondering how this came to be. Turns out he broke his leg in a fight, and that's all. It's a bit disappointing, even though it's followed by a little scene between Hawkeye and Hulk that eerily predicts the ending of "Civil War II" several decades later. Similarly, lots of heroes came back with slightly different costumes, just like Spider-man did, and it turns out that the story behind this was: they just got some slightly different costumes made. Again, this must have been a bit of a let-down - apart from anything else, one would have hoped there was some reason behind Professor X getting the most horrible costume EVER. Yikes! Lockheed comes back at last, The Lizard turns human, and Mr Fantastic theorises that all this "wish fulfilment" is not just a plot contrivance, but actually "residual energy which seems to respond to strong desire, or force of will." That's handy isn't it? Captain America uses this to fix his shield, and I guess Mr Fantastic uses it as a way to get himself out of the hole he's dug himself, because on the next page he's developed a remote control teleporter device that will send everybody home. Handily, this will send everyone back to where they originally came from in Central Park, unless the creative team on that characters regular series twelve months ago originally had them returning somewhere else, in which case "it will project individuals to any destination they concentrate on". Handy!
Everyone gets sent back, including weepy creepy Colossus who, quite frankly, I have had more than enough of. He goes with the X-Men, whose transport is somehow effected by an "energy fluctuation." This has absolutely no effect on anybody else, so I can only assume that it's done to tie up with however the X-Men were shown returning a year before. That only leaves one last item of business to tie up, with She-Hulk joining the Fantastic Four to replace The Thing. I was reading The Fantastic Four at the time and I distinctly remember this new version of the FF returning to Earth and acting like She-Hulk had been in the team for ages. However, it turns out to have all just happened at the last minute. I'm not complaining (for a change!), I bloody loved that era of Fantastic Four, and though The Thing has always been my favourite superhero it was a great move bringing She-Hulk in. It just feels a bit of a let-down again to have the whole reason for her joining being "because The Thing fancied some time off". That's what happens though - Ben Grimm wants to stick around for a while to enjoy his ability to change back to human form, and so the whole series ends with the rest of the FF departing, leaving Ben behind, sitting on a rock like a superheroic Oor Wully. A very low-key, very "Secret Wars" ending! As I said at the start of this recap, the issue as a whole neatly encapsulates the series as a whole - massively half-arsed and rushed with far too much talking, odd endings, incomprehensible plots and slightlly disappointing artwork, written with a queasy mix of domestic sitcom and "dark" "adult" storytelling. If I've not been clear up to this point, let me spell it out: it really is terrible, and I'm very glad it's all over!
Next time we're back in the ongoing Marvel universe with... oh dear. It's "Beauty And The Beast" again!
posted 1/4/2021 by MJ Hibbett
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