Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. We’re still in Latveria in issue #505, dealing with international intrigue, political unrest, and… Dr. Doom’s mother?!?
After defeating Dr. Doom in the epic issue #500, the FF have set up shop as the new leaders of Latveria. This is to keep Doom’s tech from falling into the wrong hands, to offer a better life for the Latverian people, to ensure that Doom has no more resources at his disposal when he no doubt returns from the dead. This has stirred things up internationally, with Hungary making a move for the Latverian border, and Nick Fury monitoring the situation from the U.N.
We begin with Reed, whose face was irreparably scarred in the with Dr. Doom, addressing the Latverians on television. He flat-out states that the world will be a better place without Doom. He officially declares himself sovereign of Latveria, and he assures the locals that the FF are not the enemy. He says the FF are at work planting new crops and dismantling Doom’s weapons.
As a show of good faith, Reed opens the gates to Castle Doom and invites the Latverians inside to, as he puts it, “help exorcise its demons.” As the people roam the castle, Reed encourages to take whatever they want, or destroy whatever they want. When one Latverian wants to save a painting of Dr. Doom’s mother, Reed destroys the portrait saying it’s only a painting, and he questions whether there’s any point in honoring the woman who brought a monster like Doom into the world.
Then a man with a bomb vest threatens to blow everyone up, only for Sue and Ben to stop him easily. Reed asks Johnny to investigate the resistance movement. Ben then gets in Reed’s face, saying this was a message. The people saw the FF defeat an enemy humanely, as opposed to what the Doombots would have done. He then asks Reed if Reed is certain they found and destroyed all the Doombots, and Reed doesn’t answer.
At the U.N., there’s a heated debate, until one official gives Nick Fury an ultimatum. He has 48 hours to get the FF out of Latveria. If he fails, then a coalition of 39 nations, including China and Russia, will declare war on both Latveria and the U.S. At Castle Doom, Franklin doesn’t like being there and won’t look Reed in the eye. He and baby Valeria return through a “teleportal” to the moon, where Crystal is taking care of them. Ben then takes Reed to task about how Reed has been handling things, arguing that he’s doing the right thing in the wrong way, and that being in Latveria is messing with Reed’s head.
Ben later teams up with Johnny as they locate a hideout for the resistance in the back room of a pub. The resistance members surrender in fear of the two of them, and then a bunch Doombots attack. Ben and Johnny can’t fight them at full strength for fear of injuring the Latverians. They try to call their teammates for backup, but their communicators short out. As Ben is knocked to the ground by the Doombots, he looks up to see Reed controlling them with a remote.
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Reed recognizes the bomber’s vest as black market Wakandan technology, complete with Vibranium. I tried to search if this is a reference to another Marvel storyline happening at this time, but nothing came up.
Fade out/Clobberin’ time: Sue tries to take Reed’s side in the argument with Ben, but then she crosses a line when she says Reed’s doing this for Franklin and Valeria as well, and if Ben had kids of his own, he’d understand. This upsets Ben, who storms off, commenting that he’s not blood kin to the rest of the FF. This is something that doesn’t come up often, as Ben is normally considered one of the family.
Flame on: Johnny flirts with some Latverian girls at the pub, but this is revealed to be a ruse to find the hidden location of the resistance.
Fantastic fourth wheel: Crystal is seen on one panel, offering her aid if the FF needs, anytime of day or night.
Four and a half: Fraklin is clearly still dealing with the trauma he experienced during the big Dr. Doom fight, as he’s awfully gloomy during his visit.
Our gal Val: Baby Valeria is in one panel, and it appears they’re aging up from baby to toddler. Or maybe Crystal just dressed her in unusually baggy clothes.
Commercial break: This ad/contest for the kids’ version of Trading Spaces goes on for three pages.
Trivia time: Who was Dr. Doom’s mother? Cynthia Von Doom was a powerful sorceress, who once lost control of power and accidentally destroyed a Latverian village. Vladimir Fortunov, the former monarch of Latveria had her sentenced to death. Fortunov was then overthrown by Dr. Doom, who has (mostly) been ruler of Latveria ever since. Rescuing Cynthia’s soul from Hell has long been a motivation for Doom, including the experiment that destroyed his face. This has long been a part of Marvel lore, but a lot of fans don’t know is that Doom succeeded in freeing his mother in the 1989 graphic novel Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment. Cynthia wasn’t brought back to life, but her soul ascended from Hell to live a better afterlife.
Fantastic or frightful? Readers often criticize Reed Richards as being an unlikable character. It’s easy to see that in issues like this, where Reed goes to such extremes that he alienates his own family. I believe the creators’ intent is to show how Reed is flawed, but we will see. I did some reading ahead, and the FF’s relationships are going to get more strained before they get better.
Next: The fury of Fury.
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