Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The notorious Reed-pretending-to-be-Dr.-Doom storyline nears its climax in Vol. 3 #30.
Recap: Thanks to cosmic weirdness, Reed has been trapped inside Dr. Doom’s armor while Doom was exiled to another universe. In an attempt to prevent an international incident, Reed is pretending to be Dr. Doom. Only the FF are in on the secret, and Reed and Sue have married (remarried?) which makes her the new Baroness Von Doom. At the end of the previous issue, however, Sue spotted Reed hacking into the FF’s computers and able to take off Doom’s mask. This issue begins with the FF arriving in Latveria to meet cheering crowds celebrating Doom’s (really Reed’s) return. While the FF greet the Latverians, Sue continues to be suspicious of Reed. But Sue remembers that Reed’s hacking the FF’s computers includes the FF’s unstable molecule uniforms, so she can’t tell the others about her concerns.
We meet a guy named Dieter, Dr. Doom’s chief of staff, who has a schedule of events for Sue, while Ben and Johnny have time to themselves. Johnny also expresses concerns about Reed, saying Reed is starting to act more and more like Doom. Reed watches them in secret, saying they acting as he anticipated, allowing his plan to unfold.
Reed presses a button and then contacts Ben and Johnny, saying a group of Doombots have gone rogue and must be stopped. Johnny and Ben fight the ‘bots. The Doombots start to win the battle, but then Sue joins the fray. With her help, they defeat the robots. Sue contacts Reed, demanding an explanation. Reed says it’s under investigation and that the faulty Doombot A.I. has been corrected. Ben wonders if something is up with Sue, thinking she looks worried.
Sue goes about her day, being tended to by the Castle Doom staff. She’s told over and over that Reed-as-Doom is unavailable to meet with her. At night, she goes to bed alone, again fearing the man she loves has become the one she fears the most.
Sue wakes up back in New York, only to find the city flooded. She believes she’s in what was once called the Heroes Reborn universe, but now we’re supposed to call Planet Doom. The real Dr. Doom appears, saying that Sue is dreaming, and he has used sorcery to contact her across two universes through “dreamtime.” Doom has a new look with wizard robes and a Phantom of the Opera-like mask. He says he must have armor to bring order to the chaos that has befallen Planet Doom. Further, he says the armor was built for Doom only, and that is starting to possess Reed. Doom has activated a teleporter between the two worlds, and he wants Sue’s help. Sue says this means she must now betray her husband.
Sue wakes, wondering if it was all a dream. The next day, she helps Ben and Johnny setting up a new science lab, while Reed, alone, extrapolates a futuristic Earth under his high-tech rule. He plans to rebuild whole cities, and to transform the world’s deserts into fertile farmland. He also plans to defeat the worlds’ armies with a semi-sentient computer virus. Over the next few nights, Dr. Doom continues to appear in Sue’s dreams. He argues that despite Reed’s good intentions, he will ultimately become as unyielding to defiance as Doom is.
After an awkward family dinner, Sue goes to bed alone again, not sure whether to trust Reed or Dr. Doom. She has another dream, where Dr. Doom says the dreamscape reveals one’s true feelings, and that Sue knows something is amiss with Reed. She wakes up, knowing that Reed is still at dinner with Ben and Johnny. Sue jumps into action, breaking into the science lab and stealing the teleporter. She’s apprehended by Doombots as well as Ben and Johnny. They take her to Reed, who uses Doom’s tech to shatter Sue’s force field. Reed grabs the teleporter, but not before Sue can activate it with a tiny force field. It works, and Dr. Doom returns, demanding his armor back.
Unstable molecule: Dr. Doom says he and Reed have the same goal of a perfect future Earth, but Doom is labeled as tyrannical because he’s the head of state. His argument that if Reed remains trapped in the armor, he will become just as tyrannical.
Fade out: Sue goes through quite a few outfit changes in this one. She has her regular FF uniform and her baroness outfit in a semi-Doom style. Plus there are fancy gowns, and then a stealthy black jacket for her thieving and sneaking around at night.
Clobberin’ time: Ben keeps challenging Reed to a game of chess throughout this issue, making it sound like this is something they do often. Reed defeats Ben with “ruthless” gameplay, making a lot of big sacrifices.
Flame on: Johnny is able to converse with Sue and follow her around while she’s invisible, reminding us that the FF has become so accustomed to each other’s powers that they tell by intuition when Sue is around even when they can’t see her.
Commercial break: If this is an ad for snowboarding gear, why the heck is Kool-Aid Man there?
Trivia time: Why are the FF so busy cleaning up the castle? Castle Doom had been trashed in some recent superhero activity while Doom was off in the other universe. The mutant villain Stryfe tried taking over Latveria only to be defeated by Cable and X-Man in a crossover between their two series. Then Spider-Man stopped a Doombot from taking over in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #15. Also Gambit had an adventure in the castle in a confusing issue of Gambit.
Fantastic or frightful? A fun little suspense story, with Reed getting more and more evil, while Sue gets more and more conflicted. I also like the little glimpses we get of daily life inside Castle Doom.
Next: Doom fist.
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