Thursday, October 20, 2016

Iron Doom Begins

Not long ago, I read the early issues of the Brian Michael Bendis/Alex Maleev International Iron Man book in the hope that the creative team behind one of the greatest Daredevil runs of all time could bring some of that same magic to that character. They didn't. The book was a dud. I gave up after 2 or 3 issues. They're together again for the new Infamous Iron Man book and this time, I'm pleased to report, they really are back.

Despite the title, this new book stars Dr. Doom. As I've written here in the past, Doom is one of my favorite comic characters but he's also one who has been in crisis. Some years ago, someone at Marvel had the spectacularly bad idea of putting the execrable Mark Waid in charge of writing the Fantastic Four and in the course of the predictably godawful run that followed, Waid so thoroughly raped this, one of Marvel's finest creations, as to entirely obliterate it. That isn't to say Marvel stopped publishing books of Doom but there was no coming back from what Waid had done. Though a character who bore the name theoretically lived on, Doom was, as long as Waid's garbage remained a part of his history, as dead as disco. In the intervening years, Marvel hasn't really seemed to know what to do with the character. I've checked in on him from time to time but I've fallen behind. No one seemed interested in fixing Waid's atrocity and I just haven't had the heart to read Doom in any sort of regular way.

Along come Bendis and Maleev. Their work on Daredevil was so strong, I guess I'd give just about anything they do a chance. The introductory page of Infamous Iron Man notes that "for reasons that remain his own," Doom, prior to the ongoing "Civil War II" storyline, "assisted Iron Man in averting several world-ending catastrophes." But the intervening events of Civil War II mean Doom's "mysterious mission" was left unfinished. And that's the premise of this book--Doom apparently looking to finish it.

My knowledge of Doom's story post-Waid is spotty. Here, he seems to have either repaired his disfigured face or is employing some technology to mask it. As if to reconnect the character to his past, Bendis jumps right into classic pre-Waid Doom, revisiting, in the space of only a single issue, three of the defining stories of the canon. "This Man... This Demon!" from Marvel Super-Heroes #20 told of Doom's encounter with the villain Diablo. Diablo wished an alliance with Doom but in order to secure it, he tampered with Valeria, the woman Doom once loved. It goes very badly for him. Here, Diablo returns, looking to commit some mischief with S.H.I.E.L.D. Doom is equally unimpressed. The other classic Doom tales, "Though Some Call It Magic" (from Astonishing Tales #8) and "Triumph & Torment" (graphic novel co-starring Dr. Strange), dealt with Doom's efforts to free his mother's soul from the clutches of the demon Mephisto but to learn how Bendis reapproaches those, you'll just have to read the book.

And read it you should, if you're a fan of either Doom or of the creators on this project. I don't want to hype it too strongly based on only a single issue but this is some really good work. When Bendis first appeared, he was a great creator and for years, he did a hell of a lot of incredible work. Since then, he's become much more spotty, often tackling characters and books for whom his talents are ill-suited, never really reaching the heights he'd formerly achieved and, if we're honest, producing a lot of outright rubbish. Any time he and Maleev work together, they're obviously going to be competing with their own legend and for working creators, that has to suck--it's damn hard to live up to a legend. But what if rather than competing with it, they're able to expand it? This book does have that potential. Overtly, the once-great Doom here appears to be on a mission of redemption for all the terrible things he's done in the past. Is this for real? Is he faking a change of heart for his own ends? On that, only time will tell but it's hard not to see in this story a reflection of Bendis's own and it's hard not to see that as a potential recipe for a smashing success. It feels an awful lot like Bendis and Maleev have picked up several threads in Doom's characterization that were developed for a number of years then entirely abandoned when the Waid atrocity was imposed. To borrow a variation on another well-worn cliche, it feels like this is a book that may give me my Doom back.

I didn't expect that. It makes me happy.


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