144. Attack!

Fantastic Four 144 cover

Issue One Hundred and Forty-Four, March 1974

“I think not, Thorne… I rather think you are the madman… for only a madman refuses to accept reality, and my genius is real… very real!”

The Fantastic Four are escaping Doctor Doom’s hidden base, aided by Darkoth, Doom’s creation. Along the way The Seeker, another of Doom’s cyborgs, catches up to them and they defeat it, bringing the body with them back to the Baxter Building. Meanwhile, Doom hears of their escape and continues to set his plan in motion, firing his rocket with its vibration device into space. Just then The Seeker breaks into the base, reprogrammed by Reed to attack Doom and set Johnny and Wyatt free. This it does and Darkoth and The Thing enter behind it. Darkoth pursuses Doom who escapes, launching the building into space. Ben is just in time to take Doom’s captives to safety. Finally, we see Doom in his building/lab/spaceship, intending to dock with his satellite, but find that Darkoth has made it inside before it took off. He attacks Doom and the ship veers into the vibration device, destroying it.

Scroom!This is a very swift end to our three-part tale, and it’s all the better for that because it’s really not worth thinking about this one too much. The plot holes that have dogged the previous issues are all still here, along with a couple others. For instance, why launch a satellite vibration device into space only to launch a whole other building after it in order to use it properly? Perhaps the destruction of Doom’s base necessitated him flying out to use it, but this is never fully explained. And still we wonder, why it was necessary for Doom to bring the very people who could stop him into the base where everything was set to happen… it doesn’t bare pushing too far, again the holes keep appearing.

And yet, there is a kind of inspiration that is creeping in at the edges. The art is just as wonderfully dynamic as the previous issue, but also there’s something more serious going on with Doom. For a start, his ability to rather casually deform human beings and implant them with weapons is an aspect present here that has since been lost from the canon. They appear when he has need for them, he has been shown to have at least two of them to hand in this tale, both of which he can ply to his will, to different degrees. It’s a compelling trait of his and — it seems accidental — it reinforces the overriding desire of his personality, which is to control something by deforming it. And if we question why he has this drive in the first place, we realize that he himself is deformed, and very possibly his actions are out of even his own control. This isn’t the first time he has created a grand scheme which he himself has been at least halfway instrumental in derailing. He constantly interrupts his own plans and schedules to commit some sadistic (or, as in the previous issue, murderous) act, and also to be seen to do them with as wide an audience of his pre-deformed life as he can feasibly gather in one place. If it weren’t for his evidenced ability to concentrate on complex tasks such as designing the vibration device, the case could be argued that Doom is suffering a decade-long emotional and mental breakdown from the results of his injury, which may still be causing him immense pain.

The comic book villain is certainly a stereotype, and Doom wasn’t the first, but he is absolutely one of the most compelling, and, it has to be said, successful. And if we can accept that many of his actions are, to a rational observer, meaningless, we can also accept that Doom’s actions are inwardly consistent, or at least cyclical. And the syllogism quoted at the top of this post displays very stark logic.

There is also an interesting duality in the resolution of this story, and again, so little is made of it that it seems accidental. Reed is able to gain an edge on Doom from a distance (he isn’t even present in the final assault) by wiping and re-imprinting the mind of one of Doom’s cyborg creations and sending it back at him. This is pretty near exactly what Doom aims to do to the rest of humanity. There is a very complex morality in Reed that causes him to allow one of Doom’s creatures to rebel while using the other one in exactly the same way that Doom does. Where is The Seeker’s rescue and rehabilitation? Why can he not be saved when Darkoth can? Or is Reed just as locked into the dance of fixation and destruction that Doom is?

The wrap up of having Doom’s creation, Darkoth, actually succeed in destroying Doom where his colleague failed is rather a satisfying end. It is not wholly original, but it is fitting and cathartic since this is the path that Doom was on from the beginning — almost complete self-sabotage, and destructive tendencies so total that they barely are constructed fully before they completely, and in this case literally, implode.



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