Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Dr. Doom is of course always held up as the FF’s greatest villain, and stories like the one in vol. 3 #70, legacy #499 are why.
To recap, Dr. Doom leveled up to become a powerful sorcerer. He’s established a mystical connection with baby Valeria, naming her as his familiar. He’s also launched an attack on the new Baxter Building, sending neitherdemons to abduct Franklin. The FF battled Dr. Doom in Latveria, only for Doom to overpower them with magic. Last issue began with Reed desperately trying to think of a solution. This one begins with just that, as Reed deduces that magic is still energy, and must be drawn from a source. He grabs one of his weapons set to create an electromagnetic pulse.
Reed’s plan appears to work, until Sue points out that he’s only seeing what Doom wants him to see. Reed looks down to find that Doom transformed the EMP weapon into some weird-looking thing covered with eyes, bones, and fingers. Doom then zaps Reed, Sue, and Johnny, rendering them powerless, and making runes appear on their faces. Doom boasts that through magic, he can see a “harmonious symphony of interconnectivity.” During the fight, Ben tried getting baby Valeria to safety, but Doom goes ahead and teleports Valeria into his arms.
Ben tries to punch Doom, only for Doom to summon the Mindless Ones (magical henchmen who often fight Dr. Strange) to fight him. Doom then makes Reed and offer. He shows them an image of Franklin in the neitherdemon’s hell-world and says he will release the child if Reed surrenders the FF to him. Reed bows down and admits he can’t think his way out of this one, and he surrenders. Doom places Valeria on the ground, thus fulling his promise to “let the child go.” He then leaves Franklin in Hell and takes off with the FF.
Cut to Doom’s Stronghold, where he’s holding the FF hostage. The mindless ones are beating up Ben, knocking out his teeth (!). Doom has given Reed’s powers to Johnny, stretching him painfully around a bunch of poles. He’s gives Johnny’s fire powers to Sue, and he’s trapped her on top of a pentagram platform where she’s constantly burning. With baby Valeria still with him, Doom then goes to Reed, locked behind a door. Doom gives a big speech about how Reed is not as smart as he claims, and all the glamour and excitement of the Fantastic Four are merely a mask to hide Reed’s insecurities.
To further prove his point, Doom says that everything Reed needs to learn about magic are locked in that room with him. He challenges Reed to learn magic and defeat him, reminding him that Franklin is still in the hell-world. Turn the page and we see the interior of Reed’s room, which is a magical library with bookshelves fading off into the distance. After reading through some of the books and scrolls in the library, Reed breaks down, admitting he doesn’t understand any of it. Just when it looks like all is lost, a flaming message appears on the floor, telling Reed, “Knowledge isn’t everything.”
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Doom uses magic to take away Reed, Sue, and Johnny’s powers during the fight. Reed is still powerless in the library, which is why Reed isn’t stretching through or around the door to escape.
Fade out: Sue is able to see through Doom’s illusion when the others can’t. Could this be her rarely-used ability to make any invisible objects visible?
Clobberin’ time: Could the Mindless Ones successfully beat up Ben? The Marvel Wiki says the Mindless Ones’ strength levels are unknown, so I guess it’s possible.
Flame on: Johnny refers to Dr. Doom as “Judge Doom” at one point. This has got to be a Who Framed Roger Rabbit reference, right?
Four and a half: We don’t see much of what’s happening to Franklin in the hell-world. He’s surrounded by flames and he has a frightened look on his face, and that’s it.
Our gal Val: Valeria’s connection with Dr. Doom is as fascinating as it is gross, but we can really see it begin as Doom spends the entire issue carrying Val around as if she’s his own child.
Commercial break: This issue has not one, not two, but six ads related to the Ang Lee Hulk movie.
Trivia time: Who are the Mindless Ones? They were originally created by a creature named Plotka as his personal army, but then Dormammu took command of them when he expanded the dark dimension. Although the Mindless Ones have been controlled by others here and there throughout Marvel history, they’re always most associated with Dormammu. The Marvel Wiki insists that in this issue, Dr. Doom is merely controlling one group of Mindless Ones, and not all of them.
The FF are held prisoner not inside Castle Doom, but in Doom’s Stronghold. This is apparently a different location, but the Marvel Wiki has no entry on Doom’s Stronghold.
Fantastic or frightful? Not only does Mark Waid capture Dr. Doom’s pompous Doom-speak, but he takes it one step farther by making Doom really scary. Doom feels genuinely threatening and undefeatable. Then there’s Mike Wieringo’s famous two-page library drawing. In the hardcover collection, Wieringo is quoted as saying this was like drawing an issue of Sandman. Great stuff all around.
Next: The big five-oh-oh.
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