In comic shops today there is least one series featuring an appearance by what is arguably Marvel's greatest and most villainous of villains: Doctor Doom. In FANTASTIC FOUR #9, written by Matt Fraction (in stores today), we will see just what events Ben Grimm caused that resulted in Doctor Doom becoming the villain that he is today. And although a staple in many Fantastic Four comics, Doom's presence is one that is often felt throughout the entirety of the Marvel universe, and his appearances are not restricted solely to Fantastic Four books. In fact, the character has successfully crossed over (most recently) in books like DAREDEVIL by Mark Waid and in the more recent issues of Jonathan Hickman's AVENGERS. Clearly, he is the go to villain Marvel utilizes when they want to present to readers a force to be reckoned with, but who is Doom, really? What makes him tick? Why is he a villain and what events led to the character's obsession with power and his desire to be the most intelligent and most powerful man in the Marvel Universe? That kind of egoism isn't something that evolves in a character without a reason and it is one that was born in Victor Von Doom while he was still in the womb.
If you have read Doom's appearances in comics but you haven't really been exposed to the full scope of his story then BOOKS OF DOOM is a series that we believe you should definitely pick up. Published in 2006, BOOKS OF DOOM was a six issue series by Ed Brubaker with pencils by Pablo Raimondi that explores the character's identity in a great deal of depth. To write the story, Brubaker took from Doom's history, revisiting many of the events that already existed in comics and retelling them in his own way, but he did more than just regurgitate stories we already know: he gave readers a new perspective from which to view many of these stories and this character, and he does so in a way that might even make you sympathize with Doom. The result is a fantastic story the delves into the details of his life and the emotional repercussions of the events he experienced and the decisions that he made.
The first issue in this series opens with Doom's childhood and briefly explores his relationship with his mother. In the beginning, Doom never understood why his mother's "hands were always cold as ice," but eventually realized why as time went on and he realized that she was a slave to the dark arts. The thing that makes this all very compelling is the fact that although she was mixed up in some seriously evil stuff, she was doing this as a sort of self sacrifice so that her son (Doom), would have a better future. Yet, the death of his mother was far from the only tragedy that young Victor would be forced to endure. Living the life of a gypsy, being shunned from society and betrayed but those people that were supposed to understand him. One of the things Brubaker does very well in this first issue is depict the duality of Doom's personality: he was "marked by the Devil" very early on thanks to his Mother, but he had also retained a bit of innocence being that he was still a young boy. It is towards the end of this first issue that we see Doom lose the last bit of innocence left in him, and it is a very powerful moment.
The story progresses, glazing over Doom's first encounter with Reed and focusing instead on the character's psyche. Reading the series you may find yourself wondering whether there was any good to Doom. Whether the character is truly inherently evil, or if he is simply a man with a tremendous ego that is possessed by personal demons. Would he have been the same evil Victor Von Doom had he not been marked by the Devil, or would he have grown to be a very different kind of man? Doom is clearly his own worst enemy: never accepting that he is still human and in a sense, prone to failure sometimes. For Doom, failure is not an option and his scars became a constant reminder of that.
One of the great things about this series is the fact that it is narrated by Doom, and also that the character appears in some of the panels as he tells his story, recounting his past. This is a very interesting technique and certainly one that I personally felt made the telling of this story rather interesting. As the series progresses we find that Doom actually does have a heart, and it is that disparity within him between good and evil and right and wrong that makes the character seem so intriguing. In all his evil and all his rage, there is still a part of him that hasn't succumbed to the forces that harm him: there is still a piece of him that is capable of love.
The best thing about this series is that it is short, well written, and gives us an introduction to Doom that paints him in a rather complex light. He is not just good or evil, it is far deeper than that, and that's what makes this a great read. If you are a fan of Doctor Doom or you know nothing about him, this is both a great introduction to this character as well as a wonderful story that fans of Doom will certainly appreciate. If you have read it, what did you think of this series? Did it give you a new found appreciation for Doctor Doom? Big thanks to Ryan Dawson for suggesting this series to me, it was definitely worth picking up.