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Emperor Doom

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Ever since "Secret Wars" finished we've had a long string of Doom in cameos, flashbacks, recaps, and occasional Massive Continuity Fixes, but we've not had much of him as the star of the show.

Until today!

Today we're looking at an actual graphic novel all about Doctor Doom! All right, technically it's called "Avengers: Emperor Doom" and is meant to be about how The Avengers, and specifically Wonder Man, stop him, but really it's all about what would happen if Doom took over the world. It turns out what would happen is that things would be great!

The story gets off to a baddy-based start, first with The Purple Man being kidnapped while being awful, then with Namor wandering the streets of New York before he arrives at a restaurant to meet Doctor Doom. I really like the art in this story, which is by Bob Hall (who's drawn some excellent Doom stories before) and inked by Keith Williams, making it all look very Bronze Age-y, even as we skirt uncomfortably close to The 90s. There's no reason on earth that this couldn't have been an Avengers Annual rather than a Graphic Novel, but seeing the art so big looks nice, and it gives the whole thing a big grandiose feel that the story is altogether too much fun to live up to.

Doom needs Namor's helps with a Cunning Plan. He's going to take over the entire world by strapping The Purple Man into a Psycho Prism and brainwashing everybody... or nearly everybody anyway. The prism only affects people who can breath, so he needs Namor to stick some Robot Controllers onto a few Robot Superheroes, and in exchange he promises him he can rule the sea while Doom rules the land. This sounds like a good deal, so Doom gives Namor a mini-Psycho Prism and the control discs, then the Submariner pops off to put them onto The Vision, Machine Man and Ultron. This he does with ease. While that's going on we take a trip to the HQ of the West Coast Avengers, most of whom are variously lolling about eating pizza and reading books. Wonder Man however is visiting Tony Stark, who is going to "perform a little science experiment" on him. They're going to find out how his pure energy body works, and so he needs to lie in a flotation tank for thirty days. This seems deeply weird - he's going to lie there for thirty whole days? And none of the other Avengers seem bothered enough to wish him good luck or anything? Anyway, I'm sure it's not important and will have no impact on the rest of the story, which goes on to feature some great Doom Action. We see him landing on Doom Island, which I don't think is a place we've seen in the comics before. This is a top secret facility, manned entirely by soldiers who are cos-playing as Doombots. I'm not sure what's going on here - those are definitely Doombots, and later on they are explicitly stated to be robots, so why they're soldiers here I don't know. They're guarding the Psycho Prism, which has a very annoyed Purple Man trapped inside it. He tells Doom that he doesn't deserve to rule, challenging him to face him man to man. Brilliantly, Doom does exactly that! I love this bit, and it's part of a theme throughout the story of Doom Being Excellent.

Meanwhile, Namor has made a bit of a botch job of putting the control discs on robots. They're all attached, but like certain former Health Secretaries we might know, he forgot about surveillance cameras, and now The Avengers have got wind that something's going on. They fly off to Doom Island, watched by Doom on his viewing screens as usual, and fight their way through the Doombots, here described as "Latverian citizens" and so humans still. They make their way inside, just as Doom activates the Psycho Prism and taking over everybody's minds, leading to the first of several great lines, as penned by David Micheline. The Avengers shuffle off, while Doom moves onto the next stage of his takeover. I said earlier that this all feels very Bronze Age-y, and this feeling is hugely reinforced by the fact that this next bit takes place at the United Nations building! Long-term readers of this blog will know that there was a period during the 1970s when Doom was hardly ever out of the UN, using it for takeovers in the Amazing Spider-man newspaper strip, the Spider-man cartoon, and in Spidey Super Stories. Spider-man isn't here to see him get voted in as world leader this time (as I've commented many, many times before, the UN works very differently on Earth 616), but Namor is, and he wants his dues. When Doom says no he gets most irate, until he discovers that he's been tricked. The mini-Psycho Prism is not a fun free gift, it's Doom's way of controlling Namor too! What a fiend! This is necessary because some people (including Namor) have extremely strong willpower, and so can fight against the Purple Man's power if they know what's going on, but I'm sure that won't come up again either.

Usually at this point something would go horribly wrong (usually involving Spider-man) and Doom would lose control, but not this time. Instead Doom immediately sets about changing things, and within days the Russians have withdrawn from Afghanistan, land is redistributed in Ethopia and farming is restored, apartheid is ended in South Africa, world economies all improve and nuclear disarmament begins. Everything, in fact, is going great, until Wonder Man gets out of his tank a few weeks later (nobody comes to help him out either, which seems a bit rude) and sees a news report saying that Doctor Doom is having a ticker tape parade to celebrate giving independence to Puerto Rico. Wonder Man isn't affected by the prism because he doesn't breath, but when he suggests stopping Doom his team-mates immediately turn him in. They force him to flee the mansion, only to fall foul of a crowd of angry shoppers who also love Doom. We're used to seeing ordinary people thinking Doom's great, but usually only in Latveria. Here it looks like the whole world is on his side, although only because of Mind Control. I wonder if this would change if everybody was released from this control and found themselves in a world free of hunger, war and poverty?

Wonder Man goes off on the run, leaving Doom to get on with the business of running the world. This, it turns out, involves an awful lot more admin than he was expecting. This is a brilliant double twist by David Micheline (or possibly Mark Gruenwald or Jim Shooter who are credited as coming up with the original concept with him) - the whole world is happy and at peace, which makes Doctor Doom bored! We've seen this before, of course, back in The Champions #16, where Doom took over the world and was beseiged in the White House by annoying politicians. That time he managed to take over by using a neuro-gas to mind control everyone in the world except for Ghost Rider, who was immune because he couldn't breath... hang on, isn't that exactly the same plot as this time? And if Ghost Rider was immune then why isn't he now? That story was also drawn by Bob Hall, funnily enough, although the script was by Bill Mantlo - perhaps Micheline, Gruenwald and Shooter should have shared the credits for their "concept"!

Wonder Man is wandering around (he does this a lot, maybe his name has just been spelt wrong all this time?) trying to find a way to put the world back to normal again. After a slightly boring chat with A Wise Blind Woman he goes back to Wet Coast Avengers HQ, fights Captain America, and forces him to watch video footage of Doom Being A Baddy. This is enough to restore Cap to normal, and then he chooses the most strong-willed Avengers he can think of (Hawkeye, Iron Man and The Wasp) to do the same to them. Hawkeye wants to restore his wife Mockingbird next, but Cap says it'll only work on super strong-willed people like them which, again, seems a bit rude. Hawkeye goes and gives it a go anyway but it doesn't work. She tells on them to Doom and so they have to go on the run again. Doom, however, is quietly pleased to have a bit of a challenge again. The Avengers fly off to fight him on Doom island, but their Quinjet is easily blown out of the sky by Doom's defences, leading to another brilliant quip which has since gone on to be one of those Internet Memes that the young people are so keen on. Again, this is a lovely bit of characterisation, and Doom is of course correct. The whole thing was a decoy, and the actual Avengers are now on the ground fighting the Doombot army, who are now definitely robots, honest. How Hawkeye knew they were robots is beyond me, but it's a flipping good job he was right! The Avengers fight their way inside, struggling against the power of The Purple Man as they get closer but, as Marvel superheroes always do, manging to prevail by Trying Really Hard. Still, even though they free Namor from the mind control by dousing him in water from a very handy nearby fish tank, Doom still has everything under control. All he has to do is press a big red button... I think we're all with Doom on this one - who among us hasn't wished we could get out of boring meetings and/or social engagements at some point? He decides to "let fate decide" which in this case means "do nothing" while Namor smashes up the Psycho Prism, and the whole world goes back to normal. Afghanistan goes back to war, racism is re-instated in South Africa, vandals take to the streets of Los Angeles and the armies of the world re-arm their nuclear warheads. Er... hooray for the Avengers? There's just time for one last Doom Trope, as he heads to an escape port and blasts off in a shuttle, and then all that remains is for The Avengers to fly home with more news of the world returning to normal on the radio. Hawkeye wonders whether they've done the right thing, and Captain America gives a speech which I guess is meant to be convinving and heroic... er... but isn't particularly. The final panel has Hawkeye wondering whether they've done humanity the greatest favour in history or the greatest damage. "Either way that's something we're going to have to live with for the rest of our lives," he says, but I wonder if this ever gets mentioned ever again? If I was the Avengers I'd probably keep it under my hat for a few years!

It's a daft end, but I suppose they couldn't do it any other way. Otherwise this has been a thoroughly enjoyable story to read through, packed with some great Doom insights and lovely art. Sadly, I think this might be the last properly great Doom story we get for a while, but there's still a few left issues left so let's see if I'm wrong next time, when we return to the pages of Cloak & Dagger!

link to information about this issue

posted 2/7/2021 by Mark Hibbett

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Wet Coast Avengers. Also I learned a new thing, I had not heard of Kilgrave before watching Jessica Jones TV show.
posted 3/7/2021 by Pauly

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DOOMBOT FILTER: an animal that says 'moo' (3)

(e.g. for an animal that says 'cluck' type 'hen')

A process blog about Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett