MARVEL 2-IN-ONE ANNUAL #1
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Penciler: Declan Shalvey
Inker: Declan Shalvey
Cover Artist: Chip Zdarsky
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Dr. Doom has renounced evil and taken up the cause of good. But even heroes have personal demons—and Doom’s greatest demon is Doom himself!
What You Need to Know:
The search for Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman in an alternate reality has led back to the conclusion that Reed and Susan Richards are dead! With his best friends gone, the Thing persists in his desire to travel across realities and find other Reeds and other Sues. The journey to yet another universe is about to lead Ben and Dr. Doom into the darkest corners of Doom’s mind. It all sounds a bit like a Twilight Zone, doesn’t it…?
What You’ll Find Out:
Why does the Thing insist on traveling to other universes with the Torch, Rachna Koul, and Dr. Doom in search of other iterations of the leaders of the Fantastic Four? Doom himself calls out Ben for this. The findings of the Reed Richards of the last world they visited (Marvel 2-in-One #4-6) make clear that “our” Reed and Sue are no more. (But wait for the new Fantastic Four #1.) And Doom maintains that Rachna has ulterior motives for using the Multisect technology to keep hunting for alternate Reeds and Sues. Meanwhile, however, what Ben and Doom find when they sneak into the Castle Doom of their latest world is a shocker: a Dr. Doom outfitted in an armor similar to that of the Walter Simonson issues of the original FF series, who has just murdered this Earth’s Mr. Fantastic!
The “triumphant” Doom quickly subdues the Thing, then confronts “our” Doom, who talks him into recognizing the futility of his vendetta against the Fantastic Four and his pursuit of ultimate power. So the alternate Doom challenges “our” Doom to the only duel that he has decided really matters: the battle of Dr. Doom against Dr. Doom! The two Dooms strip off their armors and engage in sparring with nothing but battle staffs. But when “our” Doom takes advantage of being knocked down in combat and searches the remains of this world’s Reed, he discovers something on the costume of the elongated corpse: a device that transports him someplace else. He finds himself in a meeting room of…the Council of Reed Richardses!
You remember these guys from the Jonathan Hickman issues of The Fantastic Four, right? These are the Reeds from across the Multiverse who set out to fix every problem in reality. It seems they have reconvened. Further, the “Reed” that this other Doom “murdered” was a double; the real one is right here, confronting Doom about his need for human connections. Using yet another device, he takes Doom on a journey into his own mind, where Doom relives the moment when he was defeated by “our” Reed at the end of the last Secret Wars, and “our” Reed used the last of the reality-altering power from that story to repair Doom’s grotesquely scarred face. By removing Doom’s motivation for evil, Mr. Fantastic hoped to enable Doom to open himself to other, better ways of life. Has it worked? It doesn’t seem so: for when Doom returns to the battle with his alternate self, he gains the upper hand and kills him!
The Council of Reeds ponders what’s happened. Doom’s reformation is not perfect. Dr. Doom, at heart, is still Dr. Doom in spite of his attempt to be a hero. The Reeds decide to change their focus from the reform of the “main” Dr. Doom to the prevention of other Dooms across the Multiverse by ensuring that the conditions of hatred, bigotry, poverty, and cruelty that affected Victor Von Doom’s childhood do not result in other iterations of the Monarch of Evil. Their goal, then, is “No more Dooms!”
What Just Happened?
Much as it pains me to say it after I thoroughly enjoyed the first six issues of the revived Marvel 2-in-One monthly series, what just happened was a very disappointing Annual. And the fault lies not in the story, but the art. I can understand not wanting to overwork Jim Cheung and Valerio Schiti, the two artists of the main title. But the delegation of the art for this story to Declan Shalvey has resulted in an art job that suffers mightily in comparison to the art of the regular book. Shalvey’s style is very sparse, scratchy, and sketchy-looking, and in particular, the pages with the two Dooms sparring are devoid of backgrounds and details. There are artists who can take pages of just figures in motion without backgrounds and details and make them still look spectacular, but Shalvey is not one of them. Furthermore, a lot of the renderings of the characters, especially in Doom’s castle and the meeting room of the Council of Reeds, are just lacking in “polish”.
And what’s going on with the faces? “Our” Doom with his mask off ought to be handsome-looking (part of the reason he was so vain, to begin with). Shalvey makes him look much too plain. And the other Doom with his mask off? Firstly, we’re not supposed to be allowed to see the hideously scarred countenance of the villainous Dr. Doom at all; it’s a tradition going all the way back to the beginning of Marvel Comics. Leaving that aside, the way Shalvey makes the unmasked evil Doom’s face a mass of almost solid black with suggestions of scarring and gruesomeness doesn’t do the concept any more favors. The whole thing should have been “directed” and “choreographed” very differently—or not done at all. The various iterations of Reed Richards don’t come across any better. Different artists have always drawn Reed with different degrees of “leading man” quality, but I’ve never seen a Reed Richards as thoroughly mediocre-looking as the different ways he is depicted in this story.
This book could have been as rousing a success as the six issues of the regular Marvel 2-in-One we’ve seen so far. Regrettably, the whole thing comes across as kind of a “filler” or place-holder, marking time before the developments with Dr. Doom that Dan Slott has hinted at for the reboot of The Fantastic Four that’s starting in August. And the choice of artist is just unfortunate. Declan Shalvey’s talents could have been put to better use elsewhere; his style is really not a good fit here. This book needed an artist more compatible with the look of the main title. I’m sorry to say this Marvel 2-in-One Annual is quite a letdown.
Final Thought: I wanted to like the Marvel 2-in-One Annual as much as I’ve liked the six “Fate of the Four” issues that just wrapped up. Sadly, I found the whole thing quite unsatisfying. The one positive note is that it further illuminates what has been obvious since the first issue of the regular title. As much as he tries to be a hero, Dr. Doom is a man too arrogant, too proud, too vain, too firm in his convictions about his own superiority, to be truly heroic. He’s capable of battling other villains (including counterparts of himself), but the essential facts of his character remain the same. Doom loves two things: power and Victor Von Doom. He may become a somewhat morally ambiguous figure, but I believe it’s inevitable that he will return to something like the epic villainy for which he is most famous.
Sue Richards once called Dr. Doom “the greatest evil the world has ever faced.” (Fantastic Four #260.) Underneath the veneer of a Doom who poses as the successor to Iron Man, that character still lurks. I’m sure we have not seen the last of the Monarch of Evil.
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