“Doom: Part 4”
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artists: Stuart Immonen (p), Wade von Grawbadger (i)
This issue brings us a step closer to the Ultimate Fantastic Four’s first real throwdown with Dr. Doom, and Ellis and Immonen’s groundwork has so far been somewhat uneven. Whilst I enjoyed the writer’s characterisation of the team and his willingness to play around with the origins of their nemesis, a lot of this arc has been unnecessarily slowed-down, delaying the inevitable conflict in favour of some admittedly entertaining and interesting exploration of the FF’s new powers. However, I’ve been eager to see the group really coming together as a team and having to face some real threats, and the latest issue certainly improves on the last – both in terms of moving the plot along and developing a real team-feel to the book. If last issue was about the Four’s first real mini-skirmish together, then this issue is the perfect bridge towards the first real fight of their lives against arch-nemesis in waiting Dr. Doom.
Immonen and Ellis’ Doom is a curious beast, a gaunt metal-skinned cloven-hooved demonic presence, whose lithe, ragged body and acrobatic fighting style lacks both the imposing bulk or the regal grandeur of his regular Marvel Universe counterpart. His behaviour is far less grandstanding than the Dr. Doom of old (his first attack sent a group of metallic flies to attack the FF – not exactly super-villain material) and with the conceit of Latveria watered down to become some kind of Danish hippie commune, it’s hard to see him as the master of anything, let alone a self-appointed monarch tyrant. There are some neat touches about his character underlined here to be further explored – his supreme arrogance, his bizarre gothic upbringing, and his mystical recruitment of youths into his strange sect – but at the moment, the character is stalling. Ultimately (no pun intended), we’re left with a pale imitation of what Doom should be – instead of a bitter, twisted, booming-voiced domineering technical genius, we get a crackpot shrieking technical whiz whose metallic visage inspires more recollections of Brian Sewell (noxiously pompus English art critic) than it does any palpable menace. As a result, Ellis’ Doom comes off as fairly toothless in comparison to Lee and Kirby’s original creation – and it’s going to take a lot to convince us of his status as the FF’s arch-enemy at this rate.
It’s a shame that the central character of this arc should be such a letdown, because pretty much everything else about this issue hits the right spot: Reed’s obsessive passive-aggressive behaviour, Sue’s subtle maternal dominance of the group, and Ben and Johnny’s bickering and teasing (“You fantasti-suck, dude”) all capture the group dynamic effortlessly. We also get to see more familiar regular MU concepts introduced, a better sense of the Baxter building as a base for the group, and hey, we even get to hear our first “It’s clobberin’ time!”. Sue and Johnny’s father continues to be an interesting influence, conflicting with the youngsters more spontaneous heroic impulses, but providing a guiding hand to what is still an inexperienced bunch of science whiz-kids launching themselves into fantastical situations. Immonen’s art is on the upswing too, with more subtlety and detail packed into this issue, and emphasized by the improved colouring and less heavy inking used this time around. Let’s just hope that the creative team can make the most of an as-yet uninspiring threat and make what is currently only a good comic book into a great one.
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