Jonathan Maberry, writer
Scot Eaton, artist
Marvel, February 2010
34 story pages
This isn’t a review so much as a couple paragraphs about how rad I think Doctor Doom is:
Doctor Doom should be King Shit of Marvel’s Turd Mountain. Seriously, he should be the one bad guy that makes even all the other bad guys go, “Whoa.” He rules his own country, he rivals Doctor Strange on sorcery and Mister Fantastic on science (and ranks with both of ‘em on the awesome-name score), he’s up there with Iron Man on the super-armor scale, he’s got a great look, and he’s like crazy arrogant and angry all the time. He’s the ur-villain. What I’ve liked about his recent cameos in books like Captain America: Reborn and Siege: The Cabal is that the other big-deal villains like the Red Skull and Norman Osborn seem to realize all this but still attempt to use Doom for their own ends, because his skills make him too useful and their own megalomania blinds them to the downside of crossing him. That’s about right.
However, it always feels to me like he’s overused in terms of his interactions with heroes. I don’t mind him constantly in sotto voce contact with the other big schemers, that seems like something Marvel’s megalomaniacal mastermind-type villains would always be doing. But when he jumps ugly with the good guys, that to me is the kind of thing you save for an every-few-years jolt, not a constant string of tussles. He’s just too formidable a threat to frequently use without devaluing the brand. Every appearance should be for the ages, and his every interaction with a hero or team should alter their status quo for the long term. (I actually think that’s true of every A-list villain, but I understand the difficulties involved; Doom seems like the kind of character you ought to try really hard to do right regardless.)
Is Doomwar the kind of Doom-based throwdown I’m looking for? It’s too soon to say. Doom himself is just a puppetmaster in this early installment, though his master plan as it’s been described to us by Black Panther siblings T’Challa and Shuri, whom he has dethroned, is suitably pseudoscientifically apocalyptic. Seizing 10,000 tons of Vibranium from Wakanda and using it to unlock god knows what mystical mumbo-jumbo is the kind of thing you’d figure Doom would spend his afternoons planning. Being an ice-cold murderer in support of it, shooting a civilian every few minutes until Storm, the current Queen of Wakanda, acquiesces to his demands–yeah, that’s also something Doom would do in my book. What does he care? He’s a tyrant, let him be tyrannical. I understand that that’s the sort of thing lots of people will just read as “icky,” but villains have been killing people in genre material young people have read for decade upon decade. Saruman’s goons wased a bunch of hobbits for pete’s sake. I’ll live.
What’s interesting about Doomwar is that I didn’t expect it to be so…Brubakerian, I guess is the word for it. It’s “superheroes as black ops” in the Mighty Marvel Manner. Scot Eaton is drawing in that scratchy Marvel house style of the past several years; it’s much more of a piece with Steve Epting and Mike Perkins and Butch Guice than with the jazzy John Romita Jr. covers the book sports, although he shares with JRJR a real knack for drawing bruisers. Colossus, T’Challa, and Doom all look like dudes you wouldn’t want to mess with at all. Meanwhile, the concept could have come straight from one of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America storylines, too, and insofar as it’s about a sinister group that uses an appeal to patriotism to wrest control of a democracy over to a sinister outside force–the plot of Brubaker’s “The Man Who Bought America” arc, with Wakanda instead of America and Doom instead of the Red Skull–that’s basically what it did. It even shares with Brubaker Cap a knack for resonating with current events without referencing them outright: I can’t be the only person who thought of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality legislation when reading the coup leader’s diatribe against mutants and witchcraft and suchlike. In turn, the Black Panthers are presented less as superheroes than as exiled leaders plotting the violent overthrow of the regime that violently overthrew them first. Cyclops and Emma Frost quietly funneling various X-Men to them in hopes of freeing Storm reads like a mutantified version of Charlie Wilson’s War.
I suppose this could all come across as rather dreary and by-the-numbers. And it might be, if not for a few factors. One is the presence of Doom, so far latent rather than actualized, and my lingering hope that he’ll do something totally awesome. Two is Eaton’s literally muscular art–I find I just like looking at it a lot. Three, and most promisingly, is an out-of-left-field ending that short-circuited my every expectation of what the primary business of this series was going to be for the rest of its issues. The way it goes down actually gives me more faith in the future fortunes of the aforementioned Factors One and Two, in fact. Fingers crossed.