I’m a couple weeks late for the party, but here I am with the first of a series of posts honoring the blog’s anniversary by dipping into the long boxes for some fondly remembered anniversary issues. There was a rule in my childhood that one did not ignore those fat, double-sized special issues sitting in the spinner rack; even if it wasn’t a title one normally followed, the lure of those novel-length stories for only a couple dimes more could not be resisted, and they provided a pretty hefty chunk of reading back in the day.
Fantastic Four #200
“Double the size! Double the action!” reads the banner on the cover, which kind of makes it sound like something my spam filter would block. It also proclaims it to be the 17th anniversary of the series, which was published bi-monthly for its first few issues so this big round number actually did fall on the correct date instead of being an artificial milestone. This was one of the earliest books I bought myself, and it was the book wherein I learned the origin of Doctor Doom for the first time. I didn’t realize it then, but the fact that it has a Kirby-Sinnot cover is the icing on this particular birthday cake. Sinnot inks Keith Pollard inside the covers, Marv Wolfman writes.
I had to check the date on the book when I read it for review on the blog; the story opens with a despotic tyrant assailed by throngs of protesters in the streets demanding a new government, led by Zorba, heir to the Latverian ruler deposed by Victor Von Doom. Not exactly escapist reading in 2011, but maybe it wasn’t three decades ago either– I’ll confess I didn’t watch the news much when I was eight. Unfortunately for the citizens of Latveria, Doom has something the leaders of Egypt and Libya don’t– a tornado machine which easily breaks up crowds of protesters.
The FF have recently disbanded but been drawn back together by different threads of Doom’s latest plan for global domination, which in part involved kidnapping the Thing’s girlfriend for her statue-making skills. The group doesn’t have a chance to pause for an actual reunion until they have busted Alicia out of her dungeon cell. Once there, they pause in their mission to save the world in order to get reacquainted. Is it just me, or is Johnny Storm hitting on Zorba in the last panel in the scene below? FLAME ON!
Doom’s sinister plan is revealed in the second chapter: when the U.N. convenes to condemn his actions, he presents them with a gift in the form of a giant statue loaded with concealed mind-control rays. By turning the U.N. into zombie slaves, Doom will rule the world!!– or at least, those parts of it that believe the U.N. has any significant power. Ben, Sue and Johnny rush to New York to stop Doom’s goons but arrive too late, and are overwhelmed by a swarm of hostile foreign dignitaries who take out big time superhero Human Torch with a fire hose.
Meanwhile Reed parachutes into Doom’s secret fortress 007-style, and the stage is set for one of my favorite comic fight scenes ever as the two friends-turned-bitter-foes face off in their final confrontation (give me a break, I was eight years old…)! Reed must navigate Doom’s Murder Room, which is like the X-Men’s Danger Room but more murderous, before tackling Doom himself in what is actually a pretty brutal fight scene. The battle culminates with Reed ripping off Doom’s mask in the giant crystal science chamber (or some such), whose gazillion laser-powered reflections of his ravaged face drive the villain into a catatonic state.
With Doom a drooling vegetable, Reed is able to remotely disable the mind control machine, and Zorba takes the throne of Latveria. This issue does what I like to see in an anniversary issue– carries a sense of the history of the series while having an impact on the present. As a far less jaded reader, I was impressed by the shift in status quo in these pages regarding the Reed/Doom conflict, and was actually surprised and excited a couple years later when the subplots began emerging which showed Doom clawing his way back to power. In a time when a major character’s death is greeted with a dismissive shrug, it’s nice to remember those feelings.