Five issues into The Fantastic Four, the heroes meet the supervillain that will become their arch-nemesis. (And, er, also the guy who kinda becomes Iron Man in 2017.)
Introducing the dastardly, the deadly, the diabolical, the douchey… Doctor Doom.
While the Fantastic Four are horsing around in the Baxter Building, a mysterious foe tosses an electrified net over the structure, preventing any of them from escaping. Reed Richards identifies their foe as Victor Von Doom, a former classmate of his who was expelled after he used his brilliant mind in pursuit of dark magic. Von Doom was physically scarred by his experiments, and was last seen searched out even more powerful forces with which to imbue himself – so the Fantastic Four know that this isn’t going to be an easy battle for them. Especially because Doom can’t really open his mouth without reminding everyone in earshot that he’s super, super smart.
Doom’s master plan, though, is impressively convoluted. He convinces the Fantastic Four to voluntarily send Sue Storm over as a hostage, but then also commands that the rest of the Fantastic Four board his craft just moments later! Once they’re on there, he reveals that he has built a time travel machine, and will send everyone except Sue into the past to procure Blackbeard’s treasure chest for him. Richards assures them that, even though Doom is a sociopath, he’s not a liar – so if they do comply and get him the treasure chest, he expects that he will let Sue go. So Reed Richards, Johnny Storm, and the Thing travel back in time… and immediately find themselves in need of piratey clothing, lest they stand out from the crowd.
This is when the fun of the issue really starts… because while the set-up is basically your standard gloating villain has a weird plan kind of story, plopping these superheroes into the past leads to some hilarity. The first thing they do is conveniently run into a couple of guys fighting over a bag of clothing (and a costume beard for the Thing!) which they take. Now donning more past-appropriate clothing, they go for a drink… and are quickly roofied by a pirate captain who wants to make them members of his crew. They wake up on the ship and, as they begin to fight their way off of the ship, the issue takes a turn for the batshit crazy – and it is revealed that the Thing becomes the pirate known as Blackbeard, and that it was their traveling back in time to meet themselves that started that particular seafaring legend. Realizing how great it feels to be accepted as captain, the Thing totally betrays the Fantastic Four and sends Reed and Johnny away on a ship so that he can stay in the past as Blackbeard. They are all immediately shipwrecked, leading the Thing to realize that he was wrong.
Somehow, I’m thinking that if they hadn’t been shipwrecked, he might still be wearing that black beard and hanging with the peg-legs.
Instead of bringing treasure back to the present, the bring a treasure chest filled with chains. They hang back as Doctor Doom opens it and, as expected, becomes furious and tries to kill them. After a brief skirmish, Doom wins until he lets down his guard around Sue Storm, who saves the day – and I like that she does, because she didn’t otherwise get much page time here, but if Doom is as smart as he says he is, he maybe should’ve kept an eye on her. In any case, Doom escapes to boast another day, and the Fantastic Four prepare for their next adventure. As an introduction to the iconic villain, Doctor Doom’s plans are a bit more whimsical than I expected, but that actually led to the best part of the issue. While Doom is a terrifying threat in many Fantastic Four comics, I connect to this series most when the characters embark on light-hearted adventures that challenge their relationships and make me laugh.
And I think anyone can agree: the Thing wearing a pirate beard, becoming Blackbeard, and deciding that being a pirate is cooler than a superhero is good, crazy fun.