Monday, January 12, 2009

Time is on No One's Side (Marvel)
Where: Mighty Avengers #10 When: May 2008
Why: Brian Bendis How: Mark Bagley

Strength: Iron Man 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Dr. Doom 6 (Genius)
Speed: Iron Man 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Iron Man 4 (Trained)
Energy: Dr. Doom 5 (Lasers)

Math: Iron Man
Ranking: Iron Man (#3)

Tearing the action away from Manhattan-Central to set heroes up on the West Coast, is a rare enough feat as it is. When it comes to maintaining any sense of global awareness, however, outside of the United States, the task is usually deferred to a short-lived B-list team-up, or one-panel disaster cameo.

Celebrations for the upcoming Super Bowl XLIII remind the world just how insular American culture and markets have the potential to be. Even in these times of harsh economic turmoil, promoters are still investing millions into the annual event, for both the sake of the spectacle, and the advertising spotlight attached during revered half-time commercial breaks.

Times may be changing, but this very American pursuit is a prime example of why US producers have been well within their right to completely forego the rest of the planet, relying exclusively on their immediate target. The Dark Knight might have broken records worldwide, but it's by the success within America's competitive home market that the film earnt the crux of recognition.

The critical among us might cast aspersions about the men controlling the four-colour world, to say nothing of the general ignorance of an American readership. A more fruitful option, however, might be the 'no-prize' route! While much less likely to abolish racial stereotypes in fiction, it does offer a slightly more positive spin on the narrow perspective of superheroes within their US foundation...

I can only imagine the sheer decadence of multi-million dollar Super Bowl commercials is exactly the kind of thing that riles Dr. Doom during foreign policy season. For a gypsy boy who fought his way to the throne of his tiny European nation; such frivilous exploits simply do not compute!

Dr. Doom represents a quintessential example of the comic book villain.
His story intertwines with his nemesis' to create a dark shadow of his heroic counterpart, in his case, Reed Richards. Adding that pop twist is the fact that he's two things Americans love to hate: devestatingly brilliant, and European.

Back in Stan and Jack's day there might've been a few vaguely legitimate tensions between Rogers and the boys that made Europeans convenient villains. In previous discussions we've referred to the continued honor of this tradition as iconographic detachment from modern reality -- a continuation of a language.
That "positive spin" I mentioned earlier?... Well, okay, strip away the soft racism, and there's another decent enough logic for European villains: geography!

With all the superheroes located in the US, setting up an evil headquarters in Europe dramatically increases the odds of evading reprive, particularly if you've fled the scene in order to live free to scheme another day!

Actually; in describing some of his original intentions for the character, Stan Lee discusses simple concepts that contribute to the complex nature of the villain in the modern era. He hoped to explore the prospect of a villain whose foreign diplomacy rendered him immune to enforcement of the laws he was breaking.
It's a premise that has since been buried beneath a multitude of motivations and identities shared between Victor Von Doom and his 'Doombot doppelgangers.'

As the Marvel Universe has developed and matured alongside real world politics, one assumes any political immunity Dr. Doom once possessed, was lost amidst the introduction of expansive anti-terror laws. Not that you'd really know.
Unfortunately, to clarify some of the criticisms levelled earlier in the post, the Marvel Universe exists as a fictional entity almost exclusively represented by events taking place on American soil. Despite being one of the most prolific figures in Marvel's army of characters, it has simply been unfeasible for every plausible moment of the Marvel saga to pass through the filter of Doom.

Compensating for this are the unelaborated mysterious liasons, and the rogue robots, who not only attempt to throw a canopy of fog over the specifics of Doom's operations, but also account for some of those unfortunately characterization issues that have dogged him.

All of the issues discussed here might be about to get a serious rethink, it seems, and that brings us to our long overdue quick fix entry!

Doom, a consumate planner, has devised a catalogue of strategies suited to dealing with his powerful American opposers. Amongst his arsenal, a "symbiote bomb" filled with the same species of alien creature that empowers Venom.

When the satellite carrying his contingency is detonated above New York City, it plunges the streets into chaos, forcing members of the Avengers to do battle with monstrous versions of their outlaw counterparts [New Avengers #36].
Fingered for his responsibility, Dr. Doom finds himself defending his castle stronghold from invasion by Iron Man and the Mighty Avengers!

During the battle, Doom's showdown with Iron Man (and the Sentry) accidentally triggers his time portal, shunting the trio sometime into the past. Enraged, Doom lashes out at his armored nemesis, calling upon his master of science and magic to unleash devestating energy blasts!

Iron Man's extremis defenses protect him from the initial assault, while both suits of armor mak attempts to gain a technological or intelligence-based advantage over the other. Both men find their silent war a stalemate as the advanced programming of their suits meets equally adequate firewall software. The exchange gives Stark, Director of SHIELD, the opportunity to exercise his politics, cooling Doom long enough to agree to a truce.

This truce leads the pair to seek out the aid of the Sentry in gaining access to technology withheld in this time by Mr. Fantastic and the Fantastic Four. The end result of that scenario can be explored further in a previous review.

These events coincided with that unfortunate "Secret Invasion" business, which revealed an army of super-powered Skrulls hiding on Earth. Though seemingly irrelevant, this shamble of an event led to Dark Reign, which allowed Norman Osborn to capitalize on Tony Stark's Skrull-disabled technologies to replace him as Director of SHIELD (retooled as HAMMER).

Like Secret Invasion's prospect of exploring Skrulls with the benefit of hindsight; Dark Reign positions a major villain in power, bringing with it varied implications for the Universe, including secret cabal members; Dr. Doom, Sub-Mariner, Emma Frost, Loki, and the Hood. These implications promise to enhance that world perspective that has so long been absent from the core of Marvel comics, and from Dr. Doom's representation as a guest-character.

Hold off on the celebrations!
While Marvel insists Dark Reign isn't an "event," the concept behind the branding appears to be fairly central to Secret Invasion front-man, Brian Bendis. With DR borrowing heavily from a previous concept, (Acts of Vengeance), one can't help but predict a third strike following on from his AoA/HR knock-off - House of M - and the Skrull event. Also a concern, the writer's ability to offer a satisfactory treatment of highly intelligence characters, and the fulfillment of the concept.

It's been very easy to be critical of both the writer, and Marvel, in recent years, but the devil deserves his due. The stars are lined up for something special in 2009 from Marvel, and if they've learnt what they seem to have from the non-event of Invasion, we might be in for one heckuva rollercoaster. One that puts to bed the kinds of criticisms that sponsored our slightly esoteric opening.

This post continues our recap of last year's top ten characters, spotlighting Iron Man, even if our discussion deviated to Dr. Doom. Iron Man is currently on the run and at the mercy of Norman Osborn (and Dr. Doom) in Dark Reign. Stay tuned!

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 5.5
Winner: Draw

Mighty Avengers #10 proved to be an extremely positive issue! For more on that, check out our previous review -- featuring a clash between the Sentry and Thing! Want to get the rest of the story, or draw your own conclusions? The "Venom Bomb" and it's aftermath appears collected in two seperate trades (pictured above). By using Amazon and the purchase links provided, you'll not only pick up a great deal, but also help sponsor future entries of the Infinite Wars. Collections featuring most previous issues reviewed are also available for your convenience in our very own Gift Shoppe! So do us a favour, by doing yourself a favour!

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