Fantastic Four 258: Reviews Of Old Comics
With his prominence in Secret Wars, and the endless speculation about how he could be done better in film, Doctor Doom has been on my mind a lot lately. However, for all of my recent disappointment with John Byrne, he was the first writer, for me, that made Doctor Doom a real character instead of a stereotypical comic book villain. It first started in Fantastic Four 247 where he enlisted the Fantastic Four to aid him in overthrowing the ruler of Latveria that they had helped put in place, a ruler that had gone mad and paranoid with power. We saw then that Doctor Doom had room in his heart for the people of his homeland, and only ruled them because he truly wanted what was best for them.
This brings us to this issue. For me, it was my first real introduction to John Byrne’s Doctor Doom. The cover was striking, with Doctor Doom’s hand ripping the cover and showing us the first page underneath. That got my attention. It was the story inside that would capture my imagination.
As the Fantastic Four are recuperating from their battle with Skrulls and the Sh’iar Gladiator, Doctor Doom looks over the nearly rebuilt Latverian capital, and its happy citizens. A Gypsy woman comes to him with news that Doctor Strange is without a disciple, and Doom ponders possibly learning from the sorcerer supreme, but determines that leaving his citizens behind again would be a mistake.
He then goes to look in on the young boy in his charge, Kristoff, whose mother was killed under Doom’s protection. He takes him to review the Doombots and when one relays how Arcade struck a match off the Doombot’s armor, the robot let the affront slide as Doctor Doom might have need of Arcade later. Doom is angered by this and destroys the Doombot. He then has Kristoff with him as he deals with many problems and disputes the people of Latveria bring to him. He is intent on showing Kristoff how a strong ruler treats his subjects.
The next day finds Doom summoned by his scientist Hauptmann who has been seeking a way to restore to Doom the power of the Silver Surfer that he had once stolen. Sensing duplicity, Doom throws Hauptmann into the chamber where the cosmic energies reduce the scientist to dust. Doom knew that the power was too much for a human form, and knowing Hauptmann despised Doom for killing his brother, rationalized that Hauptmann did as well, and intended to destroy Doctor Doom. Later, while pondering his dilemma, Kristoff angers Doom when, by suggesting that he use Magneto, he says that Magneto’s power rivals that of Doctor Doom. Sending Kristoff away, he has his computer search for someone who could possibly hold the cosmic power long enough to destroy the Fantastic Four. It finds someone perfect for the task.
Two of Doom’s robots sneak into a New York Hospital, avoiding the super-heroes there to visit the Thing. They retrieve a patient wrapped head to toe in bandages and take him back to Latveria. Six weeks later, he is out of bandages and visited by Doctor Doom. We learn this person is the alien Tyros. Doom tells Tyros how he is the formerly herald of Galactus named Terrax. He promises Tyros to restore the cosmic power to him.
Dressing Tyros in a special suit, Doctor Doom subjects Tyros to Hauptmann’s chamber, which also restores Tyros’s memories of being stripped of power. Tyros blames the Fantastic Four and using a personal flyer, speeds off to destroy the Fantastic Four. Doom explains to one of his robots that the suit Tyros is wearing holds back the destructive energy, keeping it from disintegrating him as it did Hauptmann. He has five hours with which to weaken the Fantastic Four enough for Doctor Doom to come in and finally destroy them.
The villain is the hero of his own story. In Fantastic Four 258, John Byrne took this theory to heart with Doctor Doom, expanding on a story that made him slightly sympathetic, but showing us here the rage that Doom’s arrogance fuels. While Doom cares deeply for Kristoff, he is not above hurting the child with no remorse when he is angered. Doom does use this anger to fuel his goals of destroying the Fantastic Four, although in doing so, completely forgets his promise to himself to not abandon rebuilding Latveria. We never see Doctor Doom cast a thought towards his subjects again, which gives us a real look inside how Doom’s mind works.
The artwork by John Byrne is some of his best. He is able to make Doctor Doom expressive, even behind full armor with an immobile face mask. Although, as John Byrne has pointed out himself, he did draw Doom sipping from a teacup with this full mask on. He does put Doctor Doom in an environment that while regal, completely suits Doctor Doom. It’s some of the best examples of an artist creating an environment for the story and the characters within it, whether it be Doom’s castle or a Manhattan Hospital. While he does give us a great establishing shot of Hauptmann’s lab in Doom’s castle, the rest of the shots inside it seem very slight on the backgrounds. It’s a constant criticism of John Byrne’s artwork, and a valid one. I can usually look past it, because he does sacrifice storytelling as well, and like in this issue, I rarely notice it until I go back to study the issue.
In keeping with my promise to not put any money into John Byrne’s pocket after some very insensitive remarks about transgendered people, I will not site where you can currently find this story in print. At your local comic shop, the individual back issue shouldn’t cost more than few dollars, even in near mint condition. If you’re very lucky you might even find it in a bargain box at a local convention.
FINAL RATING: 9.2 (out of a possible 10) Fantastic Four 258 is one of the quintessential Doctor Doom stories, showing the character in a role most writers and fans forget about, and showing how that role actually works.