"The Hammer Falls, Part 2 of 2"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Mike McKone
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Last issue's final-page reveal had already been stupidly spoiled by solicitations (not to mention the cover itself) when it hit the stands in March. Thor's hammer has returned to Midgard (Earth), and Dr. Doom is willing go to hell and back to get his hands on it. Literally. At the very least, the underwhelming conclusion to the last issue paved the way for what should have been an exciting finale to the two-part "The Hammer Falls" in this week's Fantastic Four #537.
Unfortunately, that's not the case.
Not since the spectacular image of a tattered Superman (wielding the Thunder God's mighty Mjolnir and Captain America's shield) graced the cover of JLA/Avengers #4 had such fanboy-ish excitement been generated by a cover such as the one on FF #537. What could be greater than seeing Marvel's premier supervillain command the awesome power of Marvel's premier Craftsman tool?
"But wait!" you say. "Doesn't Mjolnir specifically state that only those who are worthy can lift the hammer? Who could be less worthy than Victor Von Doom?"
"You are wise beyond your years, young grasshopper," I respond. "Doom is indeed unworthy, and therefore cannot lift Mjolnir."
"But why is he holding the hammer on the cover if it's too heavy for him to lift?" you ask innocently, tears welling up in your eyes.
"Well," I reply, "Would you have bought the issue if Dr. Doom wasn't on the cover?
I am being as facetious as you'll ever see me as a reviewer, but the fact remains that it's impossible not to feel a little cheated by the events that take place in this issue.
I suppose the issue accomplishes two main goals, neither of which make for an engaging story: first, it sets the stage for Thor's inevitable journey back to the Marvel Universe, presumably just in time for him to intervene in Civil War, and second, it resets the status quo for Dr. Doom, effectively wiping out everything Mark Waid was able to do with the character during his run on the book.
In just a few short pages, Straczynski creates an uninventive escape for Dr. Doom from hell, ignoring much of the work Waid did in "Authoritative Action" and his other arcs. Straczynski's characterization of Doom is laughable, ultimately resulting in Doom acknowledging defeat far too easily. Frankly, he's stupid, which is the biggest characterization misfire possible for this character. His appearance would be utterly pointless if not for one genuinely funny line early on in the issue.
The fight scenes are generic and short-lived, but they do allow Mike McKone to draw a few cool battle sequences involving Doombots and the FF. McKone's contribution is just what you'd expect: clean, typical superhero artwork.
Doom wants his "precious," and JMS discards some recent continuity and character growth to allow the good doctor to continue his fruitless endeavor. Aside from a few lines about the Superhuman Registration Act in Fantastic Four #536, no apparent ties to Civil War ever present themselves in this two-parter, and the cover to #537 is deliberately misleading, resulting in an anti-climactic and thoroughly boring read.
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