Writer: Karl Kesel
Artist: Paul Smith
Publisher: Marvel Comics
This really should have been titled, “What if Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom had been friends?” In this story, Reed points out the errors in Victor’s experiments and Doom believes him. Doom attaches himself to Reed, funding his research. This pushes Ben Grimm to the sidelines. He and Reed grow apart. Five years later, Reed and Doom are about to launch a new rocket into space. Its crew will be Sue Storm, who turns down Victor’s advances, and Johnny Storm, who annoys the hell out of Doom. Victor plots this voyage to benefit him and only him. Fate, of course, has other plans.
This story ends with the formation of the Fantastic Four, with a super-strong Ben Grimm. Usually, I’m annoyed by these alternative-timeline stories that end in the same place as normal continuity. But this Fan 4 is slightly different from the one we know. It also affects another Marvel hero so much, it would lead to a very different Marvel Universe.
The story mainly serves to remind us why Dr. Doom is a villain. His greed and arrogance lead him to see everyone as either a resource or an obstacle: someone he can exploit, or someone he must eliminate. He drives people away and depends only on himself. But contrary to what he would like, he is not infallible. An error on his part leaves him scarred.
We are also reminded of the importance of Grimm to Richards. Grimm brings an average-guy perspective to the comic. He’s there to deflate egos, be impressed, and reduce everything to the simplest terms. He keeps Richards grounded in the real world. And he’ll always have Reed’s back.
Paul Smith is one of the best Silver Age artists working in comics today. You could almost believe this story was drawn in the 1960’s. The fight between Doom and Grimm is short but exciting. The story is very clear and easy to follow.
Overall, this is a great comic and a real treat for FF fans.
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