143. The Terrible Triumph of Doctor Doom

Fantastic Four 143 cover

Issue One Hundred and Forty-Three, Feb 1974

“That’s the primary reason you were summoned here… so that those men I have hated all my life could be present at the moment of my most magnificent triumph!

SUMMARY
Doctor Doom defeats Reed Richards, Medusa, and Samuel Thorne and imprisons them in his underground lair, where Ben is also being held prisoner. There he tells them of his plan to use a “Vibration Device”, or bomb, to realign the world population’s brain waves to be obedient only to him. Meanwhile, a brief personal spat leads to Johnny and Wyatt being imprisoned by a rural police officer. Doom prepares his weapon to be deployed when of a sudden, Darkoth escapes and starts to rampage. Doom commands him to stop, reminding him that he created him, and Darkoth, apparently placated, obeys. Then Doom leaves, finds where Johnny and Wyatt are incarcerated and breaks in to capture them. Back at his base however, Darkoth has come to the realization that he is not an actual demon, but one of Doom’s servants who has been empowered and brainwashed. He breaks the Fantastic Four out of prison in order to enlist their aid in bringing Doom down.

COMMENTARY
The developmental act of this storyline is proceeding along pretty conventional lines, what is generally accepted as the clichéd comic book/James Bond villain plot. Doctor Doom wants to rule the world, he has a weapon of a very scientifically dubious nature, and he has assembled and imprisoned his enemies (the good guys) in order to humiliate him. As far as this issue is concerned, the villains aims are ridiculously overplayed. For instance, what is the point of breaking Johnny Storm and Wyatt Wingfoot out of prison only to lock them up in another? And if it comes to that, why capture any of them at all? Doom is revealed to have created a secret base in New York City, as well as his vibration device, and a rocket to deliver it by, all without anyone catching wind of it. Why go to the needless lengths of luring Alicia to Europe so that she could lure Ben to Europe, so that he could be captured, brought back to New York where Doom has already set up a false college reunion in order to also capture Reed? He has spent, as the comic itself has shown, literally weeks scurrying around in an elaborate effort to gather all the disbanded FF into one place — an objective which it is eventually revealed that he had to transform one of his minions into a superpowered demon, so who knows how long that took? He could have just laid low, shot his rocket into the air and taken over the world while the FF were distracted with their personal business. Job done.

So there is that very flimsy element of this issue that it is very hard to get away from…

HOWEVER…

There are also some impressive turns in this issue. Most noticeable right off the bat is artist Rich Buckler who started last issue. He has filled this issue’s pages and panels with a fluid dynamism that delights the eye as much as it draws it along the story. With him in charge, even with such a spotty story, we are gripped and carried along by his craft. And Doctor Doom is represented with such manic glee — in every panel he appears in he is portrayed as both formidable and dangerously unhinged. His eyes have never been crazier, nor his gestures more powerful, even under Kirby/Lee. Buckler has also given the Fantastic Four its first two-page spread as Doom’s underground lair is revealed.143hidden

There is also a brief but very dark scene where Doom displays the efficacy of his vibration device, which goes a distance to making it seem far less laughable. Strapping two of his henchmen into chairs beneath it, he gives them both handguns and orders them to kill each other. And this, in the presence of the watching FF and the insanely delighted Doom, they actually do, the bullet paths streaking past the face of the laughing villain.143ha

And so really, it doesn’t matter much if Doom really has concocted an overly complicated plan for taking over the world — at the moment he’s doing it and the FF haven’t even found the slightest advantage that might lead to defeating him.

And the final reveal that Darkoth knows that Doom has been lying to and manipulating him, and that Darkoth is now doing the same, makes him a more than two dimensional character, and if he’s the only one in the story thus far — the only one who is able to have a thought in their head without expressing it out loud — then it doesn’t really matter because we really are fairly curious to see how the FF will get out of this mess.

EVALUATION: 7/10

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