When it comes to comic book rivalries, Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom are akin to Coke vs. Pepsi. They’re so bitterly opposed to one another that their conflict has shaped the world as we know it. Just as the cola wars shape our economy and the kinds of Super Bowl commercials we see, the war between Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom shapes the foundation of the Marvel universe.
Going all the way back to the of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Reed and Doom embody two extremes. They are both of brilliant minds who intend to shape a flawed world they believe is in need of guidance. Reed finds progress through enlightenment, using the power of discovery and knowledge to unite a conflicted world. Doom seeks a more direct approach, using his natural brilliance to impose progress through force. These are not methods that can be resolved through compromise and a friendly chess game.
These two opposing views are what led to many of the iconic clashes between Dr. Doom and Mr. Fantastic. From cosmic powers to soul-stealing demons, these clashes have taken both characters in many different directions. That’s why the situation that Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev have created in Infamous Iron Man is so compelling. They essentially flip the script, putting Victor Von Doom on the opposite end of the spectrum. It shows how he goes about doing what Reed does, but without ever admitting he was wrong. For someone like Doom, that’s pretty important.
Some aspects of the script are somewhat different. Dr. Doom, even if he is reformed and that’s still a big “if”, isn’t going to conduct himself like the thoughtful and studious Reed Richards. He’s going to do things his way while ripping off Iron Man along the way. Unlike Reed, he’s not above usurping someone else’s brand. However different his approach might be, Infamous Iron Man #7 offers insight into the effectiveness of Doom’s new Reed-like methods. By and large, the results are pretty impressive.
Dr. Doom playing the role that Tony Stark and Reed Richards once played is still an uncomfortable novelty for some. Those, such as Ben Grimm, SHIELD, and every Marvel superhero who ever existed since the Kennedy Administration, are rightly concerned about Doom’s sincerity. There are so many occasions where Doom has revealed a hidden agenda that even Reed Richards couldn’t surmise the breadth of his agenda.
For the villains now in Doom’s cross-hairs, though, the novelty is far more distressing. These villains, which include the likes of the Hood and the Wrecking Crew, are used to dealing with a specific kind of hero. Namely, they deal with heroes who follow Reed’s script, working within a set of parameters and operating by a set of principles that is fairly well-understood. With Dr. Doom, however, there is no more script and even for hardened villains, that’s genuinely terrifying.
This is what makes the narrative within Infamous Iron Man #7 so uniquely compelling. It doesn’t just involve Dr. Doom fighting villains in his own unique way. It explores the larger impact he’s having on the greater Marvel landscape. The past few issues spent a great deal of time touching on the reactions from those are still skeptical of Doom’s intentions. With villains like the Hood, there’s much less skepticism and a much harsher impact.
Unlike every other hero these villains have faced, they know what Dr. Doom is capable of. They know how skilled he is. He can create world-ending technology on his lunch break and spend the afternoon taking on Mephisto. Unlike the Reed Richards of the world, though, they know he’s willing to go much further than any card-carrying Avenger would ever dare. That ends up being Doom’s greatest weapon and for a man with a functioning time machine in his closet, that’s saying something.
It makes for a pretty lopsided battle when Doom shows up. For once, though, that battle doesn’t feel bland or boring. It’s very much a spectacle, akin to watching the Hulk in an arm-wrestling contest. Seeing a powerful hero take down an entire contingent of villains is nothing new. Seeing Dr. Doom be that hero is still new for many and the sheer efficiency with which he works sends a powerful message, both to the villains and Doom’s former enemies.
Doom does more than just defeat a bunch of villains. He genuinely scares them. For once, they don’t stand on a pedestal, laughing maniacally and twirling their mustache as they insult or mock the hero. They understand that this is not Reed Richards, Spider-Man, or Squirrel Girl they’re fighting. This is Victor Von Doom, a man who can do things that make every one of those heroes violently ill. When someone can inspire that level of fear in villains, then that’s clear they’ve found a new method and it works.
Even the likes of SHIELD and Thing end up acknowledging Doom’s efficacy. They’re still understandably skeptical. They still debate just how much they should trust Doom’s new endeavor as Iron Man. However, they clearly have it easier than the villains for once. They’re still genuinely terrified, so much so that one member of the Wrecking Crew turns himself in rather than facing Doom. Even Thing’s Aunt Petunia would be impressed by that.
Infamous Iron Man #7 offers a greater insight into a new narrative for Victor Von Doom, one that he handles as masterfully as anyone would expect of someone who regularly frustrated Reed Richards. It also continues the evolving narrative surrounding Doom’s evolving relationship with SHIELD, Thing, and other established heroes. Bendis takes the long road, letting those relationships develop slowly and steadily. As effective as Doom is, they’re still a long way from giving him his own Helicarrier.
Between the character relationships and the methods Doom utilizes, Infamous Iron Man #7 gives polish to the overall narrative. It also sets up some new challenges that will test Doom’s overly-efficient methods, as well as his commitment to being a hero. While stories about heroes becoming villains are nothing new, a character like Victor Von Doom requires a certain level of refinement. For the story unfolding in Infamous Iron Man, Bendis and Maleev continue to deliver. Terrifying hardened villains is just a nice bonus.