Fantastic Friday: Hammer and eggs

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #537 brings us one step closer to Marvel’s Civil War mega-event.

Recap: Thor died heroically in the big Ragnarok story that ended his comic. Now, his hammer has come crashing down to Earth (Oklahoma, to be exact). The Army set up a dome around the hammer, only for a small army of Doombots to attack it. The Fantastic Four arrived on scene to battle the Doombots, only to find a back-from-the-dead Dr. Doom also at the scene.

This issue begins with a caption telling us that no one has tried to lift the hammer yet. Then Reed speaks on behalf of the audience, asking how Doom is still alive. We flash back to Doom in Hell, where we last saw him. We see him weakened, yet still strong enough to fight off all the demons intent on tearing him apart. Then he has a vision of Ragnarok and the Asgardians dying. The battle is so great, Doom says, that rends the fabric of reality itself, causing a tear in Hell’s dimensional plane. He sees the hammer fly through the tear and he follows it back to Earth.

The flashback continues in Latveria, where the acting prime minister of the provisional government speculates that Doom will never return, and that he could make good use of all the leftover Doombots. Doom then returns, strangling the prime minister. He orders the other government goons to find where Thor’s hammer landed.

Cut back to the present. Instead of telling all this to Reed, Doom merely says, “It matters not.” He has the Doombots attack the FF while he strides toward the hammer, which is at the center of the crater left behind from last issue’s big explosion. Reed picks up Ben and throws him into the crater with orders to stop. Ben fights Doom, temporarily switching his catch phrase to, “It’s hammer time!”

Doom stops Ben by blinding him with a bright light. Doom reaches for the hammer, and an even more spectacular white light fills the entire sky. When it fades, we see that Doom has failed to lift the hammer. Doom says he felt the power of Asgard when he witnessed Ragnarok, and he thought that would be enough to give him control of the hammer. “I was wrong,” he says.

Doom summons a jet and flies off, telling the FF to let the hammer serve as Thor’s gravestone. Once he’s gone, Reed speculates that if Doom did have a piece of Asgard’s power in him, maybe that somehow woke up the hammer for a minute. He further speculates that the giant blast might have been a signal to someone, but he can’t say who. Then Ben tries and fails to lift the hammer. “Wouldn’t you give it a shot?” he says. “Just in case?”

Then we go to elsewhere in Oklahoma, where the hammer’s blast has knocked out the power. A man buys a ticket at a bus station. A news report says this was one of many incidents throughout the state, concluding that, “Something major is coming to Oklahoma.”

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed throwing Ben through the air seems to be a variation of all the times he’s stretched into a slingshot to do it. He wraps himself around Ben and then flings Ben a huge distance.

Fade out: Sue’s job is to keep the Doombots at bay while Ben and Reed deal with Dr. Doom. We never see what becomes of the Doombots, so I guess she succeeded.

Clobberin’ time: This isn’t the first time an enemy has slowed Ben down by blinding him. In The Thing #17 he spent an entire issue sightless after getting blasted in the eyes by a villain called the Reckoner. But this took place on Battleworld, meaning the Reckoner was therefore only one part of Ben’s fractured subconscious.

Flame on: Johnny says he’s too weak to pursue Doom’s jet because the blast from the hammer was so powerful it weakened his flame.

Trivia time: This issue and #536 were featured in a Road to Civil War trade paperback. The trade also featured the New Avengers: Illuminati one-shot in which the Illuminati launch the Hulk into space and then disband (or do they?) after debating superhero registration. The other issues in the trade are Amazing Spider-Man #529-530, in which Tony Stark hired Peter Parker as his assistant full-time, which Peter half-jokingly calls “a blood pact.” This was the first appearance of the red and gold Iron Spider armor, and Tony and Peter’s visit to Washington DC to argue in favor of superhero registration.

Yes, the man buying the bus ticket will turn out to be someone important. We’ll follow his story in issues to come, just as we’ll continue to follow the situation in Oklahoma.

Dr. Doom is back in his classic armor in this issue. What happened to his newfangled magic armor, that was grossly made from the remains of lost love Valeria? He states that it’s damaged, but he does show up in Latveria still wearing it. Therefore, he likely still has it in a closet somewhere.

Not long before this issue, Castle Doom was destroyed in the 2005 Secret Wars miniseries. The Marvel Wiki confirms that the one in this issue is a newly rebuilt Castle Doom.

Fantastic or frightful? This issue does a better job of justifying Doom’s return than the previous one. But really, both Dr. Doom and Thor’s hammer in this storyline are all about setting things up for the near future. I suppose that’s what the “Road to Civil War” branding was about, but it feels anticlimactic for Doom to fail to lift the hammer and then just leave.

Next: Just another family get together.

* * * *

Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a sprawling city full of far-out tech and secret magic. It’s a sci-fi/fantasy hybrid full of action, romance, mystery, and laughs. The first three chapters are FREE! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.

About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH.
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