Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Civil War is about to tear the Marvel Universe to pieces, but we have one quick stop to make first, in the Fantastic Four Special one-shot by Dwayne McDuffie and Casey Jones.
We begin with a flashback to Reed and Dr. Doom in college, and how they were rival scientists from the start. Young Reed tries to talk young Doom out of his otherworldly experiments, but Doom refuses to listen. His experiment blows up, horribly scarring his face. Reed wonders if he’s the one to blame.
Cut to the present, and Reed is telling all this to Sue while she adjusts his bowtie for a tuxedo he’s wearing. He’s preparing for dinner with Dr. Doom (!), and he admits to Sue that his guilt isn’t about Doom’s accident, but a small thrill he got from knowing he was right and Doom was wrong. Sue urges Reed not to accept Doom’s dinner invitation, but Reed says, “We’re all responsible for what happens to everybody.”
Reed flies the Fantasticar to the Latverian Embassy, musing about how Dr. Doom is the most dangerous man on Earth. Doom greets him at the door and says Reed’s safety is guaranteed for this day. Today is the “Rapprochement Festival,” a holiday of Doom’s invention in honor of his mother’s memory. Part of this new tradition, Doom says, is to reach out to someone you have wronged, so Doom is reaching out to Reed. They shake hands. Doom again assured Reed that no harm will come to him this day, and they toast to rapprochement.
Doom gives Reed a tour of the embassy. Reed deduces that one doorway they go through is a teleporter, and they’re now in Castle Doom in Latveria. Before Doom can answer, we cut to Stark Tower, current home of the Avengers, where Johnny is visiting Spider-Man and Captain America. After some banter about Spidey being an Avenger now, Johnny admits that Reed thinks Doom is plotting to steal something, and there are very few places in NYC that Doom can’t access. One is Stark Tower. We then cut to the second spot, Damage Control headquarters, where Sue warns them that their high-security basement vault is another target.
Back in the castle, Doom says that a Latverian holiday should be celebrated in Latveria. He and Reed then continue an unfinished chess game they once started in college. They’re both such geniuses that they remember the layout of the board from years earlier.
At Stark Tower, the Avengers get an emergency call. Spidey and Cap run off, leaving Johnny to hold down the fort. Johnny makes a phone call and says, “It’s just about showtime.” At the castle, Reed asks why Doom doesn’t use his genius for the benefit of mankind, and Doom says he and Reed have differing opinions as to what that is.
At the new Baxter Building, Ben spots Dr. Doom trying to get into the building. Sue has a Doom of her own attacking Damage Control, while Johnny fights one at Stark Tower. Reed gets an alert about what’s happening, and he quips that Doom knows it doo. They continue their polite evening and sit down to dinner. In New York, the fighting continues, with the other FF-ers deducing that their Dr. Dooms are mere Doombots.
Reed and Doom continue their dinner. Reed admits that after Doom’s failed experiment in college, Reed saved a piece of Doom’s machine that was considered irreplaceable. He also says that Dr. Strange warned him that the anniversary of Doom’s mother’s death is magically significant. Reed gets a signal on his watch saying the Doombots have been destroyed. Reed then finishes – and wins! – the chess game. Reed asks if he and Doom are to fight to the death now. Doom says he’s lost his appetite and asks to continue this another time.
But Reed isn’t done. He admits that he kept the piece of Doom’s machine because he was afraid. Doom was opening a portal to Hell, and Reed feared this meant unleashing extradimensional powers on the Earth. Then Reed says he later deduced the piece’s real intent, that it was a lodestone whose only purpose is to locate Doom’s mother’s sole. Reed pulls the lodestone from his pocket and returns it to Doom, agreeing that this is a day of rapprochement. Doom accepts the gift, but he says, “This changes nothing between us, Richards!” Reed says, “I think it does, just a little bit,” followed by, “Same time next year?”
Unstable molecule: Among all the politeness between Reed and Doom, Reed also praises Doom’s taste in art and classical music. This shows yet another aspect of Reed’s genius, that he knows all about this stuff.
Fade out: Sue deduces that her Doom is a Doombot and not the real thing after she tries to disorient it by turning the floor underneath it invisible.
Clobberin’ time: Ben is working out when the Doombot attacks. He says his weights are made of super-heavy osmium, and that his strength isn’t all genetic, but that he must work out to keep his strength up.
Flame on: Spider-Man asks Johnny whatever became of Dorrie Evans, and Johnny doesn’t answer. Those who read Marvels Snapshot: Fantastic Four know all about Dorrie.
Trivia time: Spider-Man’s wearing his classic uniform in this, instead of his new red and yellow Iron Spider armor. He was going back and forth between the two at this time.
It’s not mentioned in this issue, but remember that Dr. Doom succeeded in freeing his mother’s soul from Hell in Doctor Strange and Dr. Doom: Triumph and Torment.
How did the lodestone survive after all these years, including the destruction of the original Baxter Building. Remember that the Watcher saved a bunch of the FF’s personal items from the explosion, so we can conclude that the lodestone was one of them.
Fantastic or frightful? Dwayne McDuffie was one of the all-time great writers, and this is a nice little self-contained story. Its placement in chronology is curious, as the rest of Marvel Comics were overflowing with hype over Civil War at the time. Still, it’s a nice slice-of-life tale, or as slice-of-life as Fantastic Four gets.
Next: Not so civil.
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