In issue #8 of Christopher Cantwell and Salvador Larroca’s Doctor Doom, one can watch the team’s hopes and dreams for the series die.
The issue, which happens right in the middle of Bedford Falls, features a narrative-skipping, time-shortening montage covering no less than nine plots, three narrators, and an unknown amount of time. Huge, cosmic events and bombastic, terrestrial conflicts are all presented with monotonous, weightless narrative, woven together haphazardly so that each voice becomes uniform, discernable only by different fonts. Nearly every major concern in the series is dealt with, wrapped up tight, and put to bed in the span of one issue.
Issue #8 is, of course, the last issue released before the series cancellation was announced, and it very much feels as if Cantwell and Larroca, aware of the impending (sigh) doom, condensed every major concept they had for the series in a scramble to come to some reasonable conclusion.
Each of those concepts is an exciting seed that could fill a volume the size of Bedford Falls to itself. The utter strangeness, escalating conflict, and cosmic scale of those stories might have further raised the stakes in order to make the already brutal finale all the more horrifying.
In less capable hands these omissions would be a devastating blow to the narrative integrity of the book, but here it amounts only to an unfortunate stumble. Cantwell and Larroca deliver an incredible story, and their Doctor Doom is wholly realized, fraught with honest anxieties and self-judgment. Despite his insane and dangerous tendencies, the reader finds themself sympathizing with him, rooting for him, right up to the moment before he commits some mortifying crime or another.
Victor is convinced that he’s seen a better version of himself (the It’s a Wonderful Life parallel that gives us the title Bedford Falls), and he has committed himself to all the incredibly intense, brutal, and violent acts which climax in issue eight in hopes of making himself into that better version. As a result, Doom is presented as more than a narrative wall to oppose heroes, an outline of self-opportuning evil to get in the way. A sliver of understanding into his frame of mind is opened, and the reader can almost understand his egoist drive. The road to salvation is presented, the major pitfalls of which lie in Doom’s own misunderstanding of events.
The final, crushing realization that Doom is an incredibly horrific, genocidal nightmare person—an inescapable reality—works just fine as it stands, but one cannot help but wonder how devastating the narrative would have been if the rising action wasn’t so truncated.
All the wasted potential aside, Doctor Doom is an incredible feat that the character has needed for decades, and this volume hammers home that the biggest problem with the series is that it ended.
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