The tenth and final issue of Doctor Doom, from writer Christopher Cantwell and artist Salvador Larroca, is a perfect distillation of what makes Victor Von Doom one of the most enduring villains in comics. He can be a sorcerer, God Emperor, or caring uncle, but is always, fundamentally, too selfish to be the hero.
After his attempt to save the world was derailed in the book’s penultimate issue, Doom is transported to a parallel Earth and given a glimpse of what life would be like if he embraced his heroic potential. Face to face with a utopian version of himself, Doom receives the kind of criticism he’d never hear in his home kingdom of Latveria, where journalists are jailed and the slightest bit of resistance is squashed. “Everything about you is a denial of a giant wound within your soul,” Doom is told. “Your tyranny. Your lust for power. Your face.”
How he reacts to that line is one of the many jaw-dropping turns in this swift, final issue, which benefits from Cantwell’s flair for dialogue.
Best known for his work in television and film, Cantwell often structures issues of the series around conversations between Doom and characters like Kang the Conqueror, MODOK, and Reed Richards. These exchanges help to draw out his motivations and petty grievances while also winking at Doom’s long (and often confusing) history on the page.
This issue finds Doom in dialogue with his counterpart from another world, giving their banter a more personal edge as Doom finds everything from his egomania to his “ludicrous” appearance subjected to criticism. For a solo title that has become a character study more than anything else, it’s a fitting way to end: with Doom debating himself.
Thanks to Larroca, who is joined on all 10 issues by colorist Guru-eFX, the book’s visual look is consistent in a way that is often missing from Marvel’s flagship books. Larroca’s skill at drawing armor and machinery, honed through runs on Invincible Iron Man and Darth Vader, is put to especially good use on a character like Doom.
The issue’s only glaring disappointment is that it ends. Despite leaving Doom in a satisfying place, Cantwell evidently had bigger plans for a second arc. In that Newsarama interview, he described the form it would take:
I would’ve loved to have done a second arc. No shit my idea for a second arc was: Doom has a stroke in the first issue, and becomes somewhat incapacitated for a while, leaving his rule vulnerable again.
But, and I kid you not, as Doom reflects on his own mortality, he was going to hire / kidnap the greatest living Latverian music composer and force her to write an opera that was to be the history of Latveria’s (and thusly his) glory. But as it gets written Doom begins to reflect on (actual) things he did in his past that weren’t so great. So at times he rewrites them to make himself look better and at others he lays it all bare and raw.
It was going to be written entirely from the perspective of the composer. The structure of it came from the film Amadeus, where Salieri is desperately trying to keep up with a dying Mozart as he writes the Requiem.
That would have been a pretty cool story. At least Cantwell, now working on Marvel’s Iron Man, has a different lovable jerk to write.
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