Are you old enough to remember a time when you could go to a grocery store or pharmacy and pick up a pack of random comic books? Nothing significant, merely an assortment of floppies–an obscure Batman adventure, maybe a Spider-Man if you were lucky–just enough to feed your comics craving. Were they good? Not often, but at least they featured characters you recognized.
Well, I’m sorry to say Iron Man Epic Collection: Doom is the trade paperback equivalent to those comic packs, just without the plastic packaging.
Had this collection focused entirely on an epic Iron Man-Doctor Doom team-up, as its title implies, I’d have nothing but praise for it. Aside from the fact that Doom’s prominence in the Iron Man universe has only increased during Brian Michael Bendis’ tenure at the House of Ideas, those classic Victor-Tony stories are just plain good comics.
Sadly, this massive tome is mostly comprised of filler, which truly makes me question Marvel’s mission here. Iron Man #249 and the double-sized #250 are Doctor Doom’s only appearances. That means the rest of the collection features battles with the likes of Chemistro, the Wrecker, Spymaster and, yes, even Santa Claus. Besides the fact that none of these characters have ties to Doom in their respective stories, there’s no overarching story at all. This is just a stack of 1989-1990 Iron Man comics with a great story in the middle.
Did I mention that it concludes with the first two chapters of a five-part story? Why, Marvel, why?
But let’s take a minute to talk about what’s good about Doomed. The strongest chapters make up the first half of this book and are written and drawn by the classic Iron Man team of David Michelinie and Bob Layton. The most famous issues are the aforementioned #249 and #250, which serve as a sequel to the fan-favorite arc that ran in Iron Man #149-150, in which Iron Man and Doctor Doom traveled back in time to Camelot. This time around, the rivals are transported to 2089 A.D., where they find themselves in a future Camelot, teaming up with a reincarnated King Arthur and Merlin.
Sure, it’s a bit silly, and Doom is comically evil at times (he destroyed a Renoir painting because it “displeased him”), but it’s the best time I had reading this collection. Plus, it features an evil future version of Iron Man and introduces the name “Arno Stark,” who readers of Kieron Gillen’s recent run will recognize as the adopted Tony’s brother, and true child of Howard and Maria Stark.
But, beyond a very entertaining two-parter, there’s just a whole lot of random here. For starters, we find Tony paralyzed at the beginning of this collection. Apparently, he was shot in a previous issue by former flame Kathy Dare. You’re probably aware of alcoholic Tony, but what about wheelchair Tony? Charismatic Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man, this is not. Because when you’re confined to a wheelchair, beautiful women don’t want to talk to you and doormen don’t even make eye contact with you… as established by these stories.
It’s OK, though, because Tony gets experimental surgery soon after and is back on his feet in no time. But I’ll tell you, it doesn’t do much for late ’80s/early ’90s Stark. With his perm, Tom Selleck mustache and boring corporate adventures, it’s amazing the Armored Avenger’s series made it to #250. Reading these stories, you realize how lucky Marvel Studios was to have RDJ reinvent the character for a new generation. The Tony on these pages could never have launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Did I mention Iron Man used to love making Star Wars jokes? Because there are a lot of Star Wars jokes in these pages, among other dated quips. In the future, for example, everybody goes to the… wait for it… mall! And RadioShack is popular as ever! Oh dear, that one didn’t age well at all…
Now, at times you may be surprised as you move from one issue to the next and see who’s contributing what, like when you see the late Dwayne McDuffie writing some stories or Steve Ditko penciling a backup story. There’s even an announcement that John Romita Jr. will join the series as its new regular penciler. But then, the next issue doesn’t feature his pencils–it has a fill-in artist drawing a story that wasn’t teased. Then, at the end of that issue, Marvel says, for real, though, next issue we’ll give you what we promised.
That’s pretty embarrassing–so why on Earth would Marvel include that in this collection? And again, I ask the same question of all the non-Doom stories in here. It’s just a lot of mediocre stories by fill-in creators that leave a bad taste in your mouth. I mean, it’s all great in a time capsule kind of way, but there’s really nothing special in this collection that deserves the “Epic” banner aside from that future Camelot story.
I believe the Marvel Premiere Classic Doomquest hardcover, which collects the two Iron Man-Doctor Doom team-ups, is out of print. But if you can track down a copy at a comic shop or on eBay, do so rather than picking up Doomed. At $39.99, this one is for Iron Man completists only.
If Doctor Doom got his hands on this book and saw how it sullies his good name, he’d vaporize it in a heartbeat. Because…