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Made for each other – Super-Villain Team-Up #7

September 25, 2011

No one out there can compete with the villainous bombast of Doctor Doom. Marvel’s man in the iron mask has an ego and a willingness to express it unrivaled in all of comicdom. You can’t picture this guy speaking in even tones. Everything has to be a bellow, a shout, a holler, and it all always boils down to how great he is and how stupid everyone else is. End of story.

If there’s anyone out there who can hold a candle to him in the single-minded jag-off category, it’s the Sub-Mariner. A fellow ruler, Namor the tweener vacillates between somewhat reluctant heroism and high-dudgeon punitive expeditions against the surface world. It doesn’t take much to set him off. Throw an empty soda can into the Atlantic and the next thing you know he’s marching the Atlantean military down the streets of Manhattan, demanding (loudly) redress.

Putting these two together would seem like a natural pairing, and it was (and is). They have a lot of common asshole ground. Monarchs. Jerks. Wordsmiths. They can pool their catchphrases into an unstoppable “Bah! Imperious Rex!” salvo.

But one comic sometimes ain’t big enough for the both of them, and Namor spends most of this issue off-panel as the “slave” of Doom, due to a previous bad bargain (I like to imagine him losing a variant of the pro wrestling “loser leaves town” match). It’s unclear if this is “menial labor” slave or “leather and red ball in mouth” slave, but he’s a slave nonetheless. And though he spends most of his time sitting around in a Latverian sitz bath, there’s still a lot to keep a reader entertained in the Steve Englehart/Herb Trimpe/Pablo Marcos “Who Is…the Shroud?”

For instance, here’s special guest star Henry Kissinger!:

At no point does Doom say “Pray with me, Jew Boy.” Oh well.

Doom has exploited Cold War tensions in a diabolic bit of triangulation and realpolitik, forging a treaty with the U.S. which allows them to focus their energies on the Soviets and ChiComs (I’d suggest they just call Thor). This puts the screws to constant Doom foils the Fantastic Four, who are expelled from Latveria with the U.S. government’s support and have a heated political debate as they depart:

Is there anyone more “establishment” than Reed Richards? Even Superman calls this guy a square.

With the Four now barred from opposing his rule, Doom is left to luxuriate. Namor sulks to his chambers, where he gets a surprise visitor:

The Shroud recounts his blatant Batman (with a dash of the Shadow) ripoff origin, including parents gunned down in front of him and a life of dedicated training. The big difference is the hot-branding iron to the eyes that left him blind (the rare origin that actually is senses-shattering) but with heightened perception.

Oh, and he’s out for Doctor Doom’s blood.

And what’s the good Doctor up to? Why, walking the dogs, of course:

One benefit of absolute rule? Not picking up your pets’ shit.

He has his hell-hounds out because he’s taking them up in the hills to stalk a wolf — good to have hobbies I guess. On his way he gets a little horny and pops into a hovel to bag himself a babe:

Now he’s the prima nocta noble in Braveheart. He’s really racking up the demerits.

Doom takes Gretchen out on the hunt (nothing loosens up a timid Latverian virgin like the baying of dogs), and as he paws her — but before he can unbolt his cod-piece — there’s a severe case of pre-coitus interruptus:

Doom, of course, can’t believe this crap:

They square off, with Doom shouting his usual insults, the Shroud matching him bloviation for bloviation and deploying his Bat-a-ra-, I mean Bomb-a-rangs:

Doom meets his, well, doom when the Shroud superheats his chestplate, forcing him to remove it, and it rains storytelling payoff:

But we learn, after the Shroud frees Namor, that (surprise) Doom isn’t dead, though the tables have very much been turned:

Now that’s a much more appealing brand of slavery.

There’s stupid-stupid and then there’s stupid-fun. This is stupid-fun, a veritable horn of plenty in terms of 1970s Marvel goodness. Doctor Doom is a great villain, and an easy case can be made for him being THE villain, but part of his charm is that it’s so much fun to watch him fall flat on his metal encrusted face. He enslaves Namor. He bamboozles the Ford administration. He plucks a young babe from her loving family. And then he gets shoved off a cliff by his poorly trained mutts (at least it wasn’t squirrels) and thrown into bondage by broads wearing seashell bras. It’s like a simple, great Betty Crocker recipe. I wish I could read something new like this every damn day.

And I wish we still had droit de seigneur. Oh, and also that I was a seigneur.

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