What does Doctor Doom do once he has taken the Silver Surfer’s power for himself? He pays a visit to his old roommate Reed Richards, of course. However, finding Reed out, he has to contend with Ben Grimm who he still bears a grudge against. The incident of their last meeting in issue 40 where The Thing nearly crushed his hands has not been forgotten, and it’s a really nice dimension that has been lost over the years, eclipsed by Doom’s tendency to slip into a more motivationally ambiguous character. Not that he is particularly nuanced in this issue, except for the thought that Doom might be cautious, or even a little afraid of Ben since that incident when he almost lost the use of his hands (the darkest fate an artist or a writer can imagine) and this actually gives him the smallest degree of sympathy to us since we nearly always feel sympathy for those who are afraid. This character trait, when rolled together with combined neuroses from a hundred different defeats by the FF could have, if considered as such, made Doom a very interesting character today, if generations of editors hadn’t found it necessary to keep hitting the character’s ‘reset’ button every five or ten years. The idea that Doom might be changed by his interactions with the FF is a rather alien one today.
But back to this issue. The battle of Doom runs along fairly familiar rails, not really offering surprises so much as oddities. Some of the plot decisions are rather strange. First, Johnny and Wyatt Wingfoot are transported by Lockjaw to New York City. A rather inauspicious return for a journey that began in Wakanda and passed through at least two or three previously unknown dimensions. Johnny’s only aim in going with the dog was to get behind the Inhuman’s dome, and yet he seems fairly complacent at returning to the very spot on earth the furthest from it.
The there’s Wyatt Wingfoot and his gizmos, or rather Reed’s gizmos. First he pops up to free Ben from the state Doom had left him in, and then he trots in with an anti-grav gun to shoot Doom with which only serves to throw some rocks weightlessly, and therefore utterly harmlessly, into the air. (NB: the gun actually LOOKS to be something of different intent, but Lee’s words over Kirby’s pictures are starting to become more at odds.) Then Reed surrenders, saying it was ‘our last hope’. Really? Was it really the last hope? The excuse Reed gives is that he bought them all some time as a gloating Doctor Doom surfs off into the horizon.
The issue is not completely without merit. There is a literally chilling moment in the story, and that is Doom’s near-defeat of The Human Torch, when he removes the fire from his body and hurls him, coated entirely in frost, on the floor. The Torch rallies, but it’s a near thing for what we are assured is the Fantastic Four’s most powerful member. Kirby is also ratcheting up the number of large panels in this issue — 4 and 3 panel pages are more frequent now.