Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fantastic Four: The Master of Doom by Mark Millar and Brian Hitch

Earth was doomed until a coalition of heroes from the future jumped into the past to avert the threat. Powered by the bodies of Sue Richards, Victor Von Doom and Galactus, the heroes formed the greatest time machine and came back to our world. Galactus was drained completely and died in the trip, and Doom was pissed. He killed future Sue, who had been posing as the caretaker to Reed Richards' children Franklin and Valeria.

Luckily, the remaining heroes and the other inhabitants of the devastated future have a new place to go to, a construct called Nu-world developed by one of Reed's old flames, Alyssa Castle and her husband. It was meant as an alternate world to escape to, should the earth be engulfed in a cataclysm, but unbeknownst to the Castles, it was not meant for everyone- only the elite. But for the devastated Future humans, it will now be their new home.

The story opens with the funeral of Future Sue, at which present Sue speaks. It is attended by many heroes from both timelines, and afterwards, Reed goes to see Dr. Doom, who has been imprisoned. He warns Reed that there is very little time left- in nine weeks, the one who taught him to be a villain is coming, and there will be no hope for the earth when he does.

Meanwhile, Ben Grimm proposes to his girlfriend, schoolteacher Debbie Green, and she accepts, causing a seven days wonder among the media. Everyone is excited for the happy couple, even Johnny, who leaves her fire messages in the sky. But when she is weirded out by the thought of what this means to her and her life, Sue invites her to come along with them on their vacation to Scotland, only for it to take a truly strange turn.

The village they are staying in is named Iarmalt, which in Scots Gaelic means "Heaven". And that's what it lives up to- no crime, friendly neighbors, and no sickness. They just have one little problem- there's this alien squid-like being who demands a child sacrifice every 25 years- and to save their own child, Sue's brother and sister-in-law have promised it one of Sue and Reed's children.

They don't find this out until Christmas day, when Valeria, Reed and Sue's two year old daughter, goes missing, and the rest of the town and the team spreads out in search of her. But what they find makes them angry- and disgusted.

Then, months later, Doom's released from prison and returns to Latveria. His master, the Master of Death, is coming, and he will appear in Latveria. Unfortunately for Doom, his master isn't pleased with Doom's performance, but can Doom defeat the man he once called Master and save the world, or will he himself fall before his master's greater powers, and those of his new Apprentice?

And if Doom fails, can the Fantastic Four do the job, or will they end up as just wet smears on the pavement? Just who is Death's Master, and who is his new apprentice? And when it finally comes down to the wedding of Ben Grimm and Debbie Green, will it go off without a hitch, or will a supervillain crash the wedding looking for revenge? Will there be a happy ending for the everlovin' blue-eyed Thing and his lady?

I had read the graphic novel that led up to this one, "World's Greatest" and this one picks up right where the other left off. The Future humans are saved, and older Sue has been killed. Now she is buried, and young Sue is in the unique position of welcoming people at her own funeral and speaking on her dead behalf.

One of my problems with "World's Greatest" was that it felt disjointed, that the stories felt... disconnected somehow. That wasn't a problem with this volume. From the first issue, when Victor warns Reed that his master is coming, the tension is built even through the issues that don't directly impinge in the story of Death's Master, letting tension build as you see the him and his assistant killing off whole alternate worlds on their way to Earth. This keeps you juiced and ready, so to speak, for the confrontation to come.

It did bring up other questions for me, though, such as, was one of these alternate Earths Nu-Earth? it's never said, even though one of them is described as "a dimension away". I suppose not, since the entire FF was dead or dying in that scene, and didn't look older. And "Doom's Master"? When did that get retconned into the story? I've always understood that Doom came to his megalomania and pissy-ass attitude all on his own. When did he get "Taught" anything about how to be a criminal mastermind/mad scientist?

It was also interesting to see Doom's fantasies- because he fantasizes himself as a better replacement for Reed. He wants to be the man he sees as his rival, only better. And isn't that just sad? Dream your own fantasies, Victor- don't just be a replacement for someone else!

I found this a lot better than "World's Greatest", probably because this was the end of Millar's Run on the comic, and he made sure that he went out with a bang. A very large bang. It's a much better story than the preceeding volume and makes the whole thing worthwhile. Recommended.

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