There are some villains so memorable that they define the heroes they fight against. It’s nearly impossible to imagine Batman without The Joker as his arch-nemesis. What would Superman be without the deadly threat of Lex Luthor? In the fifth issue of The Fantastic Four, the villain that will be the biggest threat, the most dangerous rival, the most influential villain against Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Ben Grimm, and Johnny Storm, is introduced. He will come to define the team in many ways and will be a significant presence in the Marvel 616 continuity permanently.
The beginning of the issue starts with some mystery as to whom Dr. Doom could be and what he wants. However, he hates the group from his opening panels.
Once we enter the FF’s headquarters, we get another nod to the Marvel 616 universe containing Marvel comics as we see Johnny Storm reading an issue of The Incredible Hulk. Marvel isn’t the first company to have made what we now call Easter eggs, but they have always been masters of it.
Right from the outset, Doom is a threat. He starts off the issue by trapping the team in their Baxter Building headquarters. He tosses a net that is electrified and fireproof. Johnny can’t burn through it, The Thing can’t break it, and Reed can’t stretch past it. Doom demands Sue Storm be given to him as a hostage. Reluctantly, the team agrees to let Sue go to prevent Doom from causing harm to anyone.
Before that happens, Reed takes us on a flashback to his college days and reveals that he knew Victor Von Doom in college. At that time, Doom was obsessed with both science and the supernatural. He tended to conduct science experiments that were forbidden. During one of these experiments, Doom was disfigured and has covered his face ever since. We don’t see what the test was, but it’s evident it was not an innocent one. Doom gets expelled but continues looking for secrets in black magic and sorcery.
As soon as Reed realizes who has trapped them in the building, he understands what a threat Doom is. Doom’s demands are somewhat strange. He takes them back to his fortress and demands that The Human Torch, Mr. Fantastic and The Thing all travel to the past to get the treasure of Blackbeard, the pirate. He gives them forty-eight hours to bring back Blackbeard’s treasure chest. Doom obviously wants something inside the chest but he doesn’t phrase the request that way.
The story gets a little silly as the three heroes have to disguise themselves as sailors. They even equip The Thing with a black beard. There’s a bit of fighting, and soon it turns out to be the case that The Thing is Blackbeard, the pirate. This means the group is not actually stealing anything from anyone. Also, The Thing considers staying because he is seen as a regular, if intimidating, human in this era. Ultimately, the group does go back, and they do present Doom with Bleackbeard’s treasure chest. Since Reed is the smartest man in the world, he puts chains into the chest, thus fulfilling Doom’s request of getting the treasure chest but not giving Doom the ability to increase his powers. Doom tells the group the gems belonged to the ancient magician Merlin, which sets up the possibility of magic existing in the 616 universe. Johnny is also pretty quick to realize the gems are at the bottom of the sea and could be deadly in the hands of the Sub-Mariner.
Doom is outraged that he has been tricked, and a fight breaks out. We find out here that Doom is an intelligent foe. He has created a robot replica of himself, so he is in no danger of harm from the three heroes. This is the first instance of a Doom-bot showing up, but it will be used over and over to fool heroes in the future consistently.
For all his intelligence and arrogance, Doom is not infallible. He forgets about Susan Storm, and she destroys his machinery and frees the rest of the group from the room Doom has trapped them in. The group escapes and manages to force Doom out of his own fortress. He makes his escape with a rocket-powered jet pack and flees in order to fight another day. The issue sets up Doom as a repeat threat, and he will certainly deliver on that threat in years to come.
Next on the reading list is Amazing Fantasy #15 (A story), potentially the most significant Marvel comic book ever to be printed. This is the one that introduces us to a certain teenager who has quite the reaction to a little spider bite.
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