Fantastic Four #196-200
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #196, Fantastic Four #197, Fantastic Four #198, Fantastic Four #199, Fantastic Four #200
Reed has been working for a company that has very clearly not been on the up-and-up, and here we find them using the Pycho-Man's technology to manipulate Reed.
Dressed as the Invincible Man, Reed is sent after the rest of the FF, who have recently gathered in Hollywood to visit Sue.
The mastermind behind this is a guy that looks like Victor Von Doom prior to his facial scarring.
While the rest of the FF are imprisoned, Reed is taken by this Doom clone to continue his work. The remaining members attempt to escape, but are stopped by the real Doom.
Meanwhile, the Doom clone has Reed sent up into space to re-create the accident that gave him his powers. That's a really lame way of giving his powers back that doesn't really explain why he lost them in the beginning. It initially seemed to have something to do with Annihilus, but was also used as a kind of metaphor for Reed being over-the-hill. This re-powering just makes it a technical thing, and kind of takes the uniqueness out of the FF's initial journey.
But i guess speaking of the lack of uniqueness of the journey that gave the FF their powers, the event also triggers the re-appearance of the Red Ghost (who first appeared in a successful attempt to recreate the FF's initial experience).
In fighting the Red Ghost, Reed demonstrates new abilities and increased power.
The new forms aren't entirely new, but it's something we haven't seen since the early days (see for example, his sledge-hammer hand in Fantastic Four #18) when Reed wasn't entirely distinguished from, say, Plastic Man.
The Red Ghost's powers have also increased. He has the ability to make other objects, like the floor of the space ship, intangible.
Ultimately, the Red Ghost isn't the main attraction in this arc, so he eventually escapes into space, and Mr. Fantastic survives his crash-landing and gets his Pogo Plane back from SHIELD so he can go after Doom (he somehow figures out that Doom is behind everything).
For esoteric reasons related to the placement of later issues, i'm noting that Reed lands the Pogo Plane in Latveria without incident and it's the last we see of it in this arc.
Reed hooks up with Zorba, the leader of the Latverian Freedom Fighters.
Meanwhile, Doom prepares to give his "son" the powers of the three members of the Fantastic Four that he has in captivity, and despite Zorba's help, Reed is captured as well. Their power is transferred, but while Doom is going through a lame coronation process for his son and dealing with unrest instigated by the "sticks-out-like-a-sore-thumb" Zorba...
...the FF escape...
...and begin fighting their way through Doom's robot army.
The clone almost immediately turns on Doom.
There's something not quite right about the way his rocky form is stretching.
Doom kills his clone. And cries about it.
You'd think that would be it, but Doom also had Alicia create a hollow statue of Doom that he loaded with hypnotic technology to try and take over the UN...
...but that plot is foiled as well. The arc ends with a big fight between Mr. Fantastic alone against Dr. Doom.
Reed continues to utilize his powers in ways we haven't seen since the early days, creating a spiked mace with his hand, something that is more the MO of Apocalypse.
The point really seems to be to emphasize Mr. Fantastic's fighting abilities, which are usually downplayed in favor of his intellect. But since Reed has just gotten his powers back, i guess it's only fair.
Unfortunately, these stories are quite bad. Doom is very poorly written. But luckily the nervous breakdown he has at the end of the arc lets us kind of write off his rantings (although i find it very unconvincing that Doom would go catatonic just because he saw lots of reflections of his face).
This story also has Doom taking off his mask and showing it to the FF as well as letting Alicia feel it so she can sculpt his statue (although the statue is supposed to be scar free).
They admit in a later lettercol that they didn't even realize that Doom had never shown his face to the FF before until alarmed readers started writing in. it's a bad idea - the nature of Doom's scars is supposed to be a mystery. At least the readers still don't get to see it. And in the Fantastic Four #241 lettercol, it's stated that the official policy is that the FF didn't actually see Doom's face, "whatever may have seemed to be happening in the pictures".
Even beyond the face reveal, Doom is used poorly. The idea that he'd create a clone of himself seems wrong and unnecessary. The idea that he'd feel like he'd need, or even acknowledge, Reed Richard's genius is flat out wrong. The whole scheme was unnecessarily drawn out and unfocused. And besides all that he's just used very generically...
...with a lame "take over the world" motivation. And by taking over the United Nations, which really overestimates the UN's significance; this is a point of complaint in later lettercols. I really find this to be the worst use of Doom i've read, and i'm counting his appearance in Dazzler and even Bendis' Avengers.
One thing i do like is that Reed is written like an arrogant ass like he used to be back in the Silver Age. When the Thing questions his decisions, Reed snaps "That cuts it, Ben -- if you think you can run this team of misfits better than me -- do it! If not, shut up and let me think!".
I guess the other thing worth acknowledging is that instead of a goofy anniversary issue where the characters fight robots or illusions of all their past villains, there's a run through of the FF's rogues gallery throughout the break-up period, from Diablo to Namor in the issues prior to this, to the symbolic use of Psycho-Man and the Invincible Man, and then the Red Ghost and Dr. Doom.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (14): show
A D? Really? Wow. I'll admit that they went a bit over the top in trying to make Doom seem more evil (not to mention he was at the piano too much), and it was certainly a gaffe that they let the FF see his face, but I thought that overall, this story was very well done. Lots of suspense and pretty good action. I'd give it a B+, taking the solid art into account as well.
By the way, in another letter column, they stated that there was a reason that the FF didn't look surprised when they saw Doom's face, but they didn't say, or even hint, as to what that reason was. I wonder if it's ever been revealed, though as you intimate, it's been retconned away, anyhow.
Posted by: Dave B | April 9, 2012 9:52 AM
Hi Dave, thanks for leaving your thoughts on these issues. If you haven't already, see the Q&A section which addresses the quality ratings. I'm a pretty harsh grader, i guess, and the characterization of both Doom and Reed seemed really poor to me in these issues, and idea of giving Dr. Doom a nervous breakdown at the end felt like a real cop-out. I also think Pollard at best does a standard Marvel House Style for the period and in these issues the art seemed sloppy and rushed. Still enjoyable to those of us who just like Marvel comics, but they weren't something i'd share with anyone not already hopelessly addicted to the genre.
Please continue to comment where you disagree. I normally won't respond; i don't want to have the "last word" on these issues and i'll let your comment stand as-is, but in this case i just thought i should clarify where i'm coming from.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 9, 2012 10:06 PM
One problem I had with this story- why didn't Reed think something was weird if his boss looked exactly like Doom before the accident? Ben doesn't seem to notice the resemblence either (although to be fair, some writers write Ben as just having met Doom once before the accident, others make it sound like Ben ran into Doom all the time before the accident.)
Posted by: Michael | June 17, 2013 11:43 PM
According to Jack Kirby in Amazing Heroes #47(5/84) Doom only had a small scratch on his face.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 14, 2013 3:48 PM
Well I enjoyed the arc even with it having quite a few faults...but darn was that a good end fight at least!
Posted by: David Banes | January 13, 2014 4:57 AM
When John Byrne finally showed us Doom's face early in his run, he only had a small scratch (as per Kirby's idea, above).
Posted by: haydn | June 7, 2014 5:37 PM
Yes, the way Doom is written is over the top, and his UN scheme is kind of dumb, but his fight with his clone is pretty awesome. The clone is Doom's attempt at a "do over" of everything he got wrong in his life, but of course it doesn't work out. And Reed and Doom's mano a mano is also cool. BTW, it's clearly established that it's the unfiltered radiation that drives Doom mad. The reflections of his face are just a dramatic flourish.
Posted by: Andrew | February 1, 2015 9:11 PM
As soon as you said the FF were broken up for several months, I absolutely knew they would re-unite for #200 and I said to myself, "please let this be better than what they did with Avengers #300." That said, it was, if for no other reason than that they didn't re-unite the FF with a ridiculous short-lived team. Not a great anniversary issue, but still better than some (and by that, I mean better than Avengers #300 - and for that matter, better than Avengers #200 given what happened to Carol Danvers in that issue).
Posted by: Erik Beck | April 7, 2015 5:41 PM
It becomes a great story. Very relevant with today's world/governments.
Save, of course, the great Dr. Doom losing because he saw too many images of his face.
Posted by: God-Leros | December 28, 2015 1:36 PM
@God-Leros: You can probably say the same thing about the Woody Allen movie "Bananas". But yeah, interesting point there considering how Zorba is part of "the revolution" here against Doom...and then things get so terrible that Doom is the only way to restore Latveria to a more "orderly" state.
Posted by: Ataru320 | December 28, 2015 4:47 PM
Re: Doom losing because he saw his face- it's stated earlier that looking into the reflections would drive any man mad- for reasons that only make sense to a scientifically illiterate writer.
Posted by: Michael | December 28, 2015 8:00 PM
I kind of like the use of the clone up until he turns into a third-rate Super-Skrull. Since he's Doom without the need to blame Reed for his scarring, he's capable of acknowledging Reed's intellect and even using him in a way the true Doom never would.
And it's this, arguably, that makes Doom so nutso by the end of the arc; his plan is to take over the world *and* have a version of himself free of Richards's "interference," but what he finds out is that even a version of himself acknowledges both that reed is the superior mind and that Doom himself is largely to blame for his own problems.
For an egotist like Doom, I could see that pushing him into the wild acting out that ruins his scheme here. By giving himself an "undamaged" version of himself to look upon, Doom sets up a sort of externalized self-rejecton. The insecure void at the heart of the narcissist swallows him whole when he has to really look at himself and the choices he's made, despite all his raging and efforts at projection.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | January 15, 2016 9:56 AM
#200 has a Jack Kirby & Joe Sinnott cover. https://www.comics.org/issue/32766/
Victor could have switched minds with his clone at any time, so maybe it wasn't really Victor at all, but rather, just another delusional doombot.:-)
Posted by: Holt | December 23, 2017 7:48 PM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|