Monday, October 08, 2007

Doom: Part 6 (Marvel comics)
Ultimate Fantastic Four #12 When: December 2005 Why: Warren Ellis How: Stuart Immonen

The story so far...
Selected for a government funded think-tank, child prodigy Reed Richards is united with some of the most brilliant young minds in the United States. Forming a friendship with project director Storm's children, Susan and Johnny, the underpinnings of the Fantastic Four are born.

Experimenting with his theories of teleportation, the young Reed Richards prepares an attempt to teleport an apple, not knowing of the unsolicited intervention of his stubborn Latverian rival, Victor Van Damme, who is under the belief Richards' calculations require slight correction.

The change results in an unexpected trip through the mysterious sub-dimension of the N-Zone, which leaves the quintet, including Richards' high-school buddy Ben Grimm, mutated in five individual ways.
Spiteful, Van Damme uses his new found powers to pursue a hidden agenda of world domination, purveyed by a secret European organization, and begins by leading his tiny home nation to prosperity as the villainous Dr. Doom.

Previous Form:
Fantastic Four [#2]: Nearly unbeatable as a team, their only recorded loss coming from a future without Mr. Fantastic, against a transformed Death's Head II.
Dr. Doom (#118): The subject of Mondays in October, he suffered a quick fix defeat in the Monthly Punch-Up, facing up against Thor, norse god of thunder.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Thing 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Genius)
Speed: Human Torch 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Dr. Doom 6 (Generator)
Agility: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Rubber)
Fighting Ability: Invisible Woman 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Human Torch 7 (Solar Power)

- The Fantastic Four possess much the same abilities in the Ultimate series as their standardized predecessors. Mr. Fantastic becomes an elasticated super-morph; Susan Storm gains the ability of pseudo-kinesis and invisibility; Johnny Storm becomes a man on fire as the Human Torch; and Ben Grimm's bulk is turned to stone, making him the man-mountain called the Thing.

- Their think-tank origins redefine the members of the Fantastic Four as all having particularly keen intellects, with the exception of Ben Grimm, who loses his career as a test pilot and completed college education.

- Dr. Doom undergoes the most dramatic transformation, his armored visage now organic in nature, and part of his body. Likewise, his physiology is initially altered to give him hooves instead of feet, spiney projectiles at his fists, and toxic organs, giving him the ability to breath noxious gas.

- As with the traditional Doom, Victor Van Damme eventually comes into possession of various magics through exploration into Atlantis, and also plunders advanced technologies, adding to his own considerable arsenal of invention.

The Math: Dr. Doom (Average) Fantastic Four (Total)
The Pick: Fantastic Four

What went down...
Having crash landed in Latveria and already faced Van Damme's wrath, Reed Richards stands alone amidst the rubble of Latverian squabble. Doom, arrogantly assuming Richards to be powerless, lordes his mutation as a gift from the cosmos that recognised his destiny for greatness.

Richards heckles Van Damme's notions of a warrior's upbringing, referring to his monarch father's distain. The quip finds a soft spot on the armored Doom, who charges at the young Richards with a berzerker snarl.

Mr. Fantastic reveals himself to his deranged rival, entangling him in the elastine contortion of his rubber body. Wrapped around Doom like a viper, Richards snags one of his goat-like legs and hurls him across the battlefield.

Doom screeches to a halt as his metallic body leaves a path of sparks along the stone of the Latverian cobble street. He lets loose a familiar growl of his rival's surname, bitterly denying demands for the faulty input that changed them each.

Continuing to flaunt his inflated ego, Doom verbally spits in Mr. Fantastic's face, declaring himself something magnificent, while Richards is but a rubber-bodied freak.

A focused burst of flame rains down upon the defiant Doom, heading his metallic body to smouldering.
Richards orders his fellow, the Human Torch, to keep his super-heated assault to a minimum.

The Invisible Woman looks to get a little bit for herself aswell, encasing Doom's head in an invisible force field as reprieve for his previous death-breath indescretions.

Doom brings his taloned fingers to the field, clawing desperately enough to send a reverberation back to Invisible Woman herself. Struggling under the strain, she calls upon the aid of the strongman of the Fantastic Four -- the Thing!

A hapless victim in the transformation process, it is Thing who perhaps has the most malice to bare against Doom, trapped in an unfeeling body of stone and rock.

Coming to Susan's aid, Thing snatches Doom in the palm of his giant rocky hand, and brings him crashing down with force, smooshed into the ground.

"I only met you like twice. And I hate you already."

Just then an alarm triggered by electromagnetic activity sounds on Mr. Fantastic's wrist gauntlet.
Set-up to detect wireless control of robots, Richards quickly realises the threat is much less disposable.

Rising from his crater in the street, Doom again professes his power as a king, revealing his 'loyal' subjects, each equipped with a nano-tech tattoo of a dragon on their necks, that bites deep to take control of them.

Doom rises to an endless echo of approval. Like a herd of zombies, the Latverian people all gladly pledge their love for Victor Van Damme, willing to kill the Fantastic Four for defying him.

Surrounded by innocent pawns in Doom's game, the Fantastic Four struggle to combat the rampaging hordes without causing them harm. Richards, knowledgable in Van Damme's techniques, asks his team to buy time to negate the mind-controlling influences of Doctor Doom's technology.

The Thing barrels his way through the crowd, while Human Torch offers threats of flame. New to his powers, and perhaps underestimating of the crowd's mindless bloodlust, the Torch ignites some of the citizens by accident.

The Invisible Woman throws up a forcefield to protect the beseiged team, while Richards works on a solution to the problem. The strain eventually proves too great for the youngster and her new powers, the attacking mob pushing her to unconsciousness.

With Dr. Doom violently reciting the chain of Latverian royalty, the Fantastic Four find themselves overcome by the controlled mobs until -- shots fire from the sky and the sound of choppers washes over the small Latverian square.

The US military fires without the concern of the heroic FF, killing the controlled, much to Doom's distain. Troops emerge from the copters revealing orders to bring Van Damme into custody, but before the situation can escalate, Danish tanks roll into the square, ordering the US to pull out of their witch hunt.

Believing he has had the last laugh, Doom is shocked when he belt explodes, signifying the success of Richards' intentions to end his radio control over the human shield of Latverian peasants. Finding solace in the control of the data that could reverse the FF's mutations, Doom provokes a final assault.

Spotting one of Doom's own spikey projectiles in the sand, Richards snatches it up and whips his elastic arm to Doom. The metal of Doom's own make-up proves capable of slicing his face in a way that prevents it immediately healing.

Doom is left alone with his curse, defeated but free to fight another day.

The hammer...
With a little help from the murderous US military, the Fantastic Four walk away with the win on points, if not decisive result!

As with any capialist business venture, you're always going to have much better odds of introducing new elements of change to a system if you've got some previous success. The contemporary comics industry couldn't be truer, with submissions at the major two comics companies all but shut off. In that respect, the Image concept closed one door while opening another.

Those not familiar with the second Ultimate Fantastic Four storyarc might recognise the team of Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen from their geek-chic revamp maxi-series that followed; Nextwave: Agents of HATE.

Even big name writers and artists have roadblocks like editorial and marketing to contend with, and given the departure of Nextwave, I'd like to hazard a guess that UFF comes out of Ellis and Immonen earning a little bit of credibility (and cash) at Marvel Comics, because it certainly reads like that.

When you talk about the contemporary sci-fi setting of UFF and put Warren Ellis' name next to it, the imagination can go wild. One starts to imagine all manner of tech-savvy science fiction, and far-out distortions of what's become expected in a Fantastic Four comic. Alas; this portion of Ellis' Ultimate work tends to read much more like a mean-spirited Adventures title, putting very little into the single issue in favour of a very light superhero read. Immonen's pencils, fantastic as they are, add to this quality that far better serves a stylistic, tongue-in-cheek superhero romp like Nextwave, than what you'd expect from FF.

Not that Ellis and Immonen didn't have some obstacles working against them.
The Ultimate revamp saw to distance itself admirably from the original Four, but at the cost of many of the things considered great about the Fantastic Four.

Included in the origin to the point of being responsible for their creation, the goat-legged transformed Dr. Doom bares only superficial resemblance to what many regard as the greatest villain in comics history. His visage aside, this Doom possesses much less of the redeeming qualities of the familiar character, making him a much simpler, overtly evil opponent.

Likewise, as Dr. Doom loses a degree of pathos, so too do the Fantastic Four.
Doom's intervention in the experiment that resulted in their creation strips Reed Richards of the responsibility that made him the target of Ben Grimm's aggressions many times through history. Depression over his condition remains in the Grimm character, but without the justified internal conflict of both he, and his dear friend Richards, who constantly fails to turn his super science to reversing the effects of the cosmic radiation.

Likely due to the chagrin of many fans, Doom has since taken on a much more familiar appearance, and Mark Millar's return to the title included a story dedicated to preventing the accident to save Ben Grimm mental anguish, delivered without concern for the stripped weight of the story's drama in this world.

Which brings us to a much needed positive. It certainly isn't all bad!
Though not quite as mature and considered as Ultimate X-Men and The Ultimates, UFF found a solid run with Millar's solo return. A steady contrast to his creating collaboration with Brian "Convert for the gags*" Bendis, who wrote trademark meandering scripts based on Millar's conceptuals.

Millar not only redefined the UFF on terms more familiar to what made the original so legendary, but he also managed to expand on the mythos of the Ultimate Skrulls, and left an undying legacy of the Marvel Zombies.
Granted, that last part might actually be a negative, given the nauseating over exposure of the Marvel Zombies brand since expanding out of the UFF storyarc.
Look for a slew of irrelevant zombie variant covers on major Marvel titles through October. Oh, to turn against hallowe'en.

That's probably all the hating we have time for today, but join us next week as we continue a full month of DOOM in the name of the Marvel Ultimate Alliance Mondays initiative. We promise not to excede the agreed designation of this theme, which will last only for the duration of October.

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 4.5

[Adding to the absurdly named Victor Van Damme's backstory, Ellis includes direct lineage from Vlad Tepes, the Wallachian king known for his love of impaling. Tepes is widely regarded as the inspiration for Bram Stoker's famous literary account of the vampire, Count Dracula.]

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