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... Though Some Call It Magic!
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Whatever it's called this is an absolute stone cold classic story from Gerry Conway and Gene Colan, building on their own previous work and that of others to give us a beautifully written and drawn story that sheds light on a brand new aspect of Doom's character that would have repercussions for years.
It starts with Doom being called for by his manservant Boris, a character introduced in Doom's origin story back in Fantastic Four Annual #2 and only seen since in the re-telling of that story in Marvel Superheroes #20. Returning to the interpretation of Doom as the heroic, misunderstand leader of his people, is Conway's attempt to move him away from the deluded lunatic we've seen in recent stories, and show once more the tortured man behind the mask. This is demonstrated when the two characters make their way to an "old oaken door" and, in his thoughts, Boris reveals a very different Doom to the one we've seen lately, whose voice has always been "calm". These seems like a wildly inaccurate view of Doom's behaviour, but perhaps Boris has seen a different side to him that the one we've seen screaming and shouting at adversaries over the years? Here he is behaving much like Alfred does with Batman, nominally a servant but acting more like a worried parent.
Outside the people of Latveria watch the castle in fear. They explain to a young woman (who has been "abroad") that every Midsummer Doom engages with dark forces in an attempt to free his mother from hell. The fact that Doom's mother was a witch has been mentioned before, but her damnation and his annual battles to save her are new information.
We see Doom beginning the process of this fight, by summoning up... Satan! It's a bit of a shock to see The Actual Devil named as such here, as usually Marvel prefers to call him "Mephisto". There's a bit of badinage between Doom and Lucifer, before Doom requests that they get on with it. The deal, apparently, is that Doom fights a monster of Satan's choosing and if he wins his mother will be freed from hell.
Kagrok The Killer is summoned, a Gollum in bandages basically, and he and Doom do battle, with Doom very nearly winning, right up to the moment when... he doesn't. Satan disappears, taunting Doom with the promise of a rematch next year, and Doom leaves the room, falling into the arms of a waiting Boris. This is a beautiful bit of characterisation from Conway and Colon, with the severely weakened and distraught Doom accidentally allowing himself a moment of humanity with one of the few people left who knew him as a child and, apparently, remain genuinely loyal to him now, before realising who he is and refusing human contact once more. The story ends with Doom stalking off alone once again, promising to do better next time. As I say, it's a classic story which will inform the development of Doom's character right up to the present day. It also ends with the promise of a story called "Deathmasque", leading one to believe that there was meant to be another solo Doom story. If they'd all been as good as this one it would have been amazing, but it was not to be, and readers would have to wait several months for Conway and Colan to continue the tale as promised.
link to information about this issue
posted 7/12/2018 by Mark Hibbett
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