10. The Return of Doctor Doom

Fantastic Four Issue Ten (10)

Issue Ten, Jan 1963

“I’ve done it! I’ve put my brain in the body of Reed Richards!”

Reed is running tests on Sue’s invisibility. At the same time, Doctor Doom walks into the Marvel Comics offices and coerces “Stand and Jack” to arrange for Reed to come and discuss storylines with them. Reed does so and is ambushed by Doctor Doom, who switches minds with him. Just then, the rest of the Fantastic Four break in and imprison Reed (in Doom’s body). Doom (in Reed’s body) invents a shrinking ray which he intends to use on the FF to get rid of them permanently. Reed (in Doom’s body) escapes his prison and is able to at least put enough doubt in the minds of the rest of the FF to prevent them from imprisoning him again. Under the stress, Doom relaxes his mental grip, and their minds are exchanged again. He uses his shrinking ray in desperation but it misfires on him and shrinks him down to a sub-molecular size.

This issue does indeed deliver what it boasts — the return of Doctor Doom (last seen piggy-backing on asteroids through space). Conveniently, an advanced alien race happens upon him and he manages to pick up the power of mind-transference. Returning to earth, he uses the power on his nemesis — Reed Richards.

It’s actually a good plot, and well carried out, leading to several genuinely tense situations. The idea of being, as Doom puts it, doubly imprisoned — first in an airtight prison, and second in the body of your enemy — is a very compelling idea. It’s probably the most danger that any one of the FF has been in, as not only is Reed cut off from the help of his teammates, but they are now a threat to him. Especially The Thing who, without Reed to hold him back, nearly murders him. It is only with a VERY SLIGHT CONTRIVANCE that The Thing does not kill him — mysterious ‘instincts’ prevent him from the final punch, allowing Reed, in Doom’s body, to confront Doom, in Reed’s body.

Doom will use this trick more than once (well, wouldn’t you?), but in this first time, it is used to good effect. Although Doom’s plot to do away with the FF lacks obvious heart (tricking them into allowing him to reduce them into oblivion seems a needlessly lengthy plan), moments like Reed going to Alicia Masters for help strike as intelligent and necessarily desperate for someone in his position. His teammates would just imprison him again, whereas Alicia, not knowing Doom, may give him the benefit of the doubt long enough to convince herself of the reality of the situation. And the fact that it didn’t work, is another great and believable plot-decision. This issue shows Reed never fully in control of the situation, or his own fate, and he is ultimately saved through no act of his own. There’s a bit of jiggery with heat waves at the end, but that is senseless to the point of inconsequence. The issue is run almost exclusively by Doctor Doom. This is also the first time that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby appear, diagetically, in an FF story. Doom uses them as a way to lure Reed and the FF into his trap. It’s actually fairly well done and although indulgent, is carried off with a charming amount of self-deprecating humor.

Another noticeable element, of interest only as a side note, is the reappearance of some of the FF’s previous enemies, in the form of Alicia’s statues. It’s not a huge thing, but it’s a sign that a cast of antagonists are consciously and being assembled. The brand is being built and reinforced.

It’s a fun tale, and shows the offbeat-played-for-straight SF concept that has become the unique selling point of the FF. The creators are finding their footing with the right mix of imaginative absurdism, realism, fantasy, and science fiction in this tale, as in Issue 8‘s Puppet Master tale. For historical importance, and mind-bending wackiness, this issue scores highly.


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