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  • Writer's pictureMark Pena

Looking Behind The Mask, A Review of Christopher Cantwell’s Doctor Doom plus Iron Man #1

Marvel’s Doctor Doom series is a comic that, for me, has been like finding a diamond in the rough, so to speak. It is a comic that I’m surprised more people are not talking about, but it is hard not to see why. The landscape of comics has been currently playing catch up following setbacks caused by the pandemic, and while things are still not ideal just yet, there is still plenty going on in comics to get excited for. Doctor Doom is a series that is returning to shelves after a small hiatus. As a fan of this take on the character, I felt it was my duty to herald his return.

The relatively new series is written by Christopher Cantwell (The Mask, Halt and Catch Fire), with art by Salvador Larroca (Punisher/Eminem, Invincible Iron Man), colors by Guru-eFX (Avengers vs. X-Men) and letters by Cory Petit. It is currently on issue #6 with issue #7 due September 23rd. The first volume I will be talking about consists of issues #1 through #5 and is titled Pottersville.

Christopher Cantwell is a relative newcomer to comics. He is best known for creating AMC Network’s Halt and Catch Fire series in 2014 which would go on to receive critical acclaim. Following the show, he would work on Dark Horse’s She Could Fly and The Mask before joining Marvel. After reading Doctor Doom and most recently Iron Man, I am confident in this guy’s writing. I only have a basic understanding of Doom (Ruler of Latveria, science and magic, not a fan of Reed, etc.) but I knew enough going in. I know it can take a bit of nuance when it comes to writing someone like Doom but Cantwell seems unbothered by the task. Building upon past mythos, Cantwell writes an earnest and profound story for the character. One that has him figuratively, and at one point literally, fighting for his soul. In many ways, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but the way the story unfolds is something of merit.

I think one of the things that Cantwell is doing right is that he is not just writing a typical grandiose villain book, but something beyond that. While Doctor Doom is his subject matter, the series as whole is really more of a medium to tell a bigger story, one about the inner struggle between good and evil, a melodrama in the guise of a comic. Themes of redemption and absolution are the driving force of the narrative and makes for some great moments. Without spoiling too much, the series has Doom trying to clear his name after an attack paints him as the only suspect. In his quest for redemption, we get a lot of great character moments not just for Doom but also for his supporting cast. From Kang the Conqueror to Morgan Le Fay, the dialogue between these characters are memorable moments in the series. It never feels stilted or awkward in any way, and Cantwell manages to get some great bits of humor in to keep the story fun.

In addition to that, Cantwell also includes some references to other pieces of writing and art to help flourish the narrative. Those themes of absolution I mentioned earlier become clear when you notice the finer details outside the general action. There are allusions to Shakespeare's Richard III, The Beatles, and even art by the late Francisco Goya. It starts becoming clear that Cantwell isn’t just focused on writing banter and action, but also on using every tool available to push the story. These added details take the narrative into new levels and give us an idea of just how deep he is taking this series. Fantastic writing and dialogue aside, it is important that I give some praise to the art team on the series as well.

Salvador Larroca and Guru-eFX handle the art and colors respectively. Both creators have upwards of 10 years under their belt working with Marvel and their skills are on full display here. Larroca’s style of art leans into realism, which I feel is fitting for this series. Cantwell’s scripting asks for a certain level of detail and putting Larroca on the task is perfect. If I could describe the artwork in one word, I would say “crisp.” By which I mean it is very clean and refined. Guru-eFx’s coloring is remarkable and makes Larroca’s art really stand out on the page while keeping the finer details. These two artists complement each other well in this book and there is a great synergy with this creative team overall.

As I had mentioned earlier, Cantwell’s scripting feels meticulous, but I mean that in a good way. Aside from details in the art, there is also the way in which the story develops. I like the direction that is taken with panel layouts especially. At times there are full page spreads that almost look like they could be portraits (ones you might see hanging on the walls of Castle Doom), and other times the action is spread across five panel grids, keeping the tempo of the situation steady as it unfolds. The comic strikes a good balance between these two and the narrative flows smoothly as a result of it.

It becomes a hard comic to put down and I found myself reading it multiple times just to see if I missed some small detail. Marvel has put together a great creative team for arguably one of their most beloved villains. If you’re a fan of the former God Emperor, you should be reading this book. If you’re not a fan but looking for a comic that has a bit more nuance in its storytelling then you should definitely be reading this book.

Doctor Doom is returning to shelves every month starting September 23rd with issue #7. Christopher Cantwell’s next series with Marvel, Iron Man, just dropped and trust me, it’s gonna be a good one. Iron Man is one of my all time favorite characters and this first issue was awesome. Cantwell brings that same level of nuance and charm to a drifting Tony Stark who is trying to put the “Iron” back in Iron Man. It is a welcome return to form for the character who finds himself back in the saddle, searching for a familiar frontier. This is definitely a series you don’t want to miss.

If you want to catch up, the trade paperback titled Pottersville (collecting issues #1-#5) was just released and is available for order. We might even still have a few of the first issues in our stock. Iron Man #1 is also available, so be sure to add it to your pulls. If you are interested you can swing by Limited Editions Comics and Collectibles to order the trade or you can get in touch with us here and add the titles to your pull today.

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