Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. A lot of fans argue that writer-artist John Byrne was at his best during Dr. Doom storylines, and issue #247 makes a good case for it.
To recap, Doom has done the unthinkable and asked the FF for help in restoring him to Latveria’s throne, after its current leader Zorba has turned the country into a downtrodden landscape. Also, he’s zapped our heroes with an inhibitor ray, which prevents them from attacking him. In a town square that has been reduced to rubble, Doom says this never would have happened if he was still in charge, but the FF argue that at least the people are free of a dictator.
Then a little kid named Kristoff runs into Doom, chased by his sexy gypsy mom. She’s actually glad to see him, and says the people have been praying for his return. Under Zobra’s new freedom, she says, crime rate has risen to the point where there is rampant violence and folks are afraid to leave their homes. Making matters worse, Zorba employed Doom’s Guardian Robots (the big purple robots, not the ones that look just like Doom) as his secret police. On cue, the Guardian Robots appear and kill the mom. Doom swears revenge.
There’s a few pages of everyone fighting the robots before Doom shuts them down with an “electro-neumonic scrambler.” When asked why he didn’t do this earlier, Doom says, “Doom’s reasons are his own, do not question them.” More local townsfolk welcome Doom, and everyone gathers at a local tavern, the site of the former resistance against Doom. Doom continues to argue that Latveria was better off under his rule.
At the palace, Zorba has gone mad with power, torturing an old man for information. Going even more nuts, Zorba declares that if the people of Latveria don’t appreciate the freedoms he’s given them, then he’ll give them “a final everlasting peace.” He presses a button, which unleashes Dr. Doom’s Killer Robots (these are the green robots, bigger and meaner than the purple ones). There’s a lot more fighting, with the FF taking out the robots in creative ways. During the fight, Doom sneaks off and meets with the old man, who is Boris, Doom’s former servant. Doom further adds that Boris was once his father’s best friend.
Doom sneaks into the castle through the dungeons and confronts Zorba. They fight their way up to the roof. Zorba says the throne is by divine right, and that as long as he lives Doom has no right to it. Doom answers, “precisely.” We abruptly cut to later, when the FF have reunited with Doom. Doom doesn’t answer whether he killed Zorba, but certainly hints at it. Doom grants the FF their freedom, saying it would be petty of him to destroy them now. He then adds, though, that the next time they meet, his goal with still be the ultimate destruction of the Fantastic Four.
Unstable molecule: Reed insists that the FF are only allowing themselves to fight alongside Doom to save the lives of innocent Latverians. He insists that he’s leaving Latveria in the hands of Doom only if Doom can restore safety to the populace, but Doom retorts that Reed’s in no position to negotiate.
Fade out: Sue uses her powers in numerous creative ways when fighting the robots, such as expanding force fields from inside them, and throwing them high up into the air.
Clobberin’ time: Sue comments that Ben loved to get into fights even before he became the Thing.
Flame on: At the tavern, Johnny has to be reminded to turn off his flame in the old, wooden building. I thought we’d established that he has better control over powers by now.
Commercial break: Muscle man!
Trivia time: Kristoff, the little boy rescued by Dr. Doom, will go on to become a major character in Fantastic Four mythology, involved in some of the series’ most unloved stories.
This issue never comes out and says Zorba is dead, leaving a door open for him to return. The Marvel Wiki, however, confirms that this issue was his last appearance (to date).
Fantastic or frightful? Despite the robot fights, the real battle in this issue is one of ideology. Dr. Doom is an evil dictator, sure, but he actually cares about his subjects? And life was better before he was dethroned? These questions, and this story overall, help make Dr. Doom a deeper, more complex character than ever before.
Next week: Way big.
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