Synopsis: Fantastic Four 258 was written and drawn by John Byrne and opens with Doctor Victor Von Doom surveying his subjects rebuilding the capital city of Doomstadt after he has returned to power in his native Latveria.
There is peace and prosperity and the people smile and go about their days happy with their leader’s reign (if they know what’s good for them) and as he is lost in his own thoughts, he is interrupted by a visitor. Doom is approached by a gypsy mystic, who informs him that Doctor Stephen Strange is without a disciple. Doom considers this, grateful to the gypsy woman for this information, but ultimately decides to remain in Latveria.
He visits ward of the state Kristoff, who Doom is helping raise after the death of Kristoff’s mother, when she was under Doom’s protection. As fully absorbed as he is by his ego, Doom is genuinely caring and affectionate, even loving with Kristoff. He takes him out of his schooling and shows Kristoff around, to his army of Doombots and even a morning of court, where he settles small local disputes. He doesn’t say why, but it’s easy to see that Doom is grooming Kristoff as his heir and successor.
Weeks pass, Doom wakes and is dressed by his robots, who can look at him without reacting to the horror of his face. Afterwards he has breakfast and takes the time to compliment the chef. As he eats, he is contacted by Hauptman ( a sort of pet scientist he hired after killing the previous scientist called Hauptman) who informs him that the machine is ready. Doom visits Hauptman to see the device that can be used to pull in and channel the Power Cosmic, used by both Galactus and his heralds. Hauptman tells Doom to try the machine, Doom refuses and makes Hauptman do it, this kills Hauptman quickly, but by no means painlessly. Doom was sure that this was Hauptman’s attempt to avenge his brother. The machine works, but what Doom needs is a stronger test subject.
When Doom is researching candidates, Kristoff visits to say goodnight and suggests Magneto (smart choice really, he channels tons of power all the time) Kristoff points out how his power rivals Dooms. You can imagine how a guy who calls himself Doom reacts to that, he throws a massive tantrum and banishes Kristoff, till further notice. This however leads him to consider someone else.
He sends his Robots to New York to retrieve someone from a local hospital in a funny little bit with three robots trying to steal a patient from under the noses of Captain America and Iron Man. When they succeed and get back to Latveria we find out who Doom wanted, Tyros the terrible, formerly the herald of Galactus known as Terrax the tamer. Doom convinces Tyros to go through the Hauptman process and provides him with a containment suit and flying sled to get him back into the air, which is where he swears vengeance on the Fantastic Four and flies off to go get it. Doom lets him go without telling him that he has but 5 hours before he too dies like Hauptman.
Notes: There is little action, no real adventure to speak of and no Fantastic Four, but this is a great FF comic. This interlude issue is great for one reason, John Byrne has a great handle on Doom. Yes we have the bombastic delivery, the tantrums and the megalomania that we come to expect, but Byrne digs in and finds more.
One description of Doctor Doom is that he genuinely believes that the world would be better off if he was in charge, that’s his primary motivation. He cares for his people (like pets, but cares nonetheless) he wants them safe and happy, he always wants no dissent and isn’t too fussed on their rights and freedoms, but he cares. He is kind to the gypsy, complimentary to his chef, loving and affectionate to Kristoff and openly so. Doom sees himself as a good man, the hero of his own story, but a good man who is above all those around him. The plot with Doom using a repowered Tyros as a hand grenade against the FF is a classic Doom strategy and Byrne executes this perfectly. Another in a great line of FF issues even though the FF were nowhere to be seen.
As always when I write about the FF, I mention the Fantasticast, and it’s excellent hosts Stephen Lacey and Andrew Leyland. They talk about the FF far more eloquently and certainly more comedically than I.
Next Time: It’s Spider-Man vs a Goblin…. again?