Of all the Wastelanders one-shots, Doom might be the most tantalizing. In a world where the villains won and most of the superheroes died, what could Dr. Doom be up to? Writer Torunn Grønbekk and artist Julius Ohta aim to answer that question while advancing (and ending) character arcs. It’s a story that is without a doubt one of the best Dr. Doom stories in years.
It’s clear that Grønbekk understands the complexity of Dr. Doom from the very first page. The character speaks via green caption boxes with an assertiveness and a bit of bravado only Doom could pull off. In the wilds of the Wastelands, he faces off against a roving band who think he’s a Doom Bot and not the genuine article. They quickly learn they made the last mistake of their lives. From the very first scene, we can see Dr. Doom is formidable and as arrogant as ever.
This sets up the main story well as he investigates a blind spot where magic is likely being used. What makes this one-shot work so well is the mystery at work here and how Dr. Doom’s interest and confusion enhance every new person or place he witnesses. Even Doom knows there is great danger ahead, but he’s even more interested as the danger grows, adding a kind of villainous playfulness to the adventure.
As the story plays out, familiar faces do pop up, actual lives are lost or released from imprisonment, and the story ends in a way that promises more is coming. The Wastelanders one-shots have mostly been good, and this issue is a good example of how the setting and format of these tales can reap huge benefits. It’s a way for Grønbekk and Ohta to explore Dr. Doom unencumbered by continuity and canon.
Ohta and color artist Bryan Valenza do a great job with the art, always shifting and moving our angle on Doom and his journey in interesting ways. There are no full-page or double-page splashes, but there doesn’t need to be as we are tethered so closely to Doom’s inner monologue through the captions. There is a fairy tale quality to the adventure that the art seems to convey, be it through Doom’s looking glass or how fully absorbed Doom looks in this adventure. In a key sequence, we get to see Doom relive memories, and there are some interesting layout choices to convey the topsy-turvy look through Doom’s mind.
This acts as a great solo adventure for Doom, but while the ending does seem to suggest more may happen, the hopelessness of the Wastelands makes it hard to care either way. This is an interesting exploration of Doom at a time when he reigns supreme, and yet that superiority ends up feeling somehow stale or boring by story’s end. What does Doom do now besides sit in a high tower and know he has won again? That leaves you wanting a bit in the end.
Wastelanders: Doom #1 is a great one-shot that explores Dr. Doom in a meaningful and satisfying way. This series of one-shots continues to have trouble asserting its own importance, but as far as character exploration, this is one of the best yet.
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