Waiting for the Trade
Emperor Doomby David Michelinie and Bob Hall
Why I Bought This: So this is an original graphic novel from the 80s that I had never seen or even heard of until about a year ago when something on the Internet referenced it and I was like that sounds interesting. I eventually tracked it down on Amazon in fair condition for $15.
The Plot: Dr. Doom successfully conquers the world by releasing a mind control contaminant into the atmosphere. Wonder Man, who is made of living energy and doesn’t breathe, proves to be immune. He has to find a way to get through his Avengers teammates and save the day.
Purple Man—a street level villain with a pheromone based mind control power--is doing his thing when he is abducted by an unseen hand.
Namor, at this time apparently still an outlaw, meets with Dr. Doom in a NY restaurant. Doom proposes renewing their partnership (from the 70s comic Super Villain Team Up). He explains he has channeled Purple Man’s power into an amulet and proposes to power up a larger version to conquer the world. He offers to let Namor rule the oceans in return for his help (Namor apparently has been exiled from Atlantis again). Specifically wants Namor to attach control discs on artificial life forms that are immune to Purple Man’s power. Namor agrees.
At the West Coast Avengers compound Tony Stark puts Wonder Man into stasis for 30 days so they can better understand his ionic energy makeup.
At Avengers Mansion Namor attaches a control disc to Vision after he uses the small amulet to threaten Wanda’s life so that Vision surrenders. However Vision is able to get an SOS off to the West Coast team beforehand.
Namor subsequently tracks down Machine Man and Ultron and attaches discs to them as well.
The West Coast team storm Doom’s island where he holding Purple Man but are unable to defeat him before he powers up the larger crystal and takes control of their minds as well as the planet. Doom also betrays Namor by using the smaller amulet he’s been wearing to fight the robots to take control of him too.
We see what the Earth is like under Doom’s rule. Generally he improves things including solving the famines of
brining an end to war and crime, ending apartheid and increasing prosperity for
Thirty days later Wonder Man wakes up. He is kind of shocked to see Tony and Cap talk about the honor of serving the “emperor.” When he sees Doom leading a parade in
he attempts to alert his teammates and they attack him. He narrowly escapes
only to become a fugitive across the entire world with mobs of citizens hunting
where he goes. New York
Doom meanwhile has grown bored of ruling a world of people who never question him and hopes Wonder Man will provide with a diversion.
More time passes as Wonder Man has been wondering the land disguised as a drifter. He seriously considers letting Doom rule considering that people seem happy and things seem to be improved. But a chance encounter with a blind woman in the woods reminds him of the value of freedom and he decides he has to bring Doom down.
He subsequently investigates and discovers how Doom did it and that Daredevil and Kingpin proved in the past that those with exceptional willpower can shake off Purple Man’s power. With that knowledge Wonder Man decides Cap is his best bet and indeed armed with video footage of Doom’s past misdeeds Cap frees himself. Cap suggests Hawkeye, Wasp and Iron Man are the only other teammates that are likely to shake off Doom’s spell because all of their powers on heightened concentration. His faith is rewarded thought Tony proves a little harder to convince than the others. Hawkeye disobeys Cap and tries to free his wife but she sends out an alert to Doom.
The five heroes quickly storm Doom’s island and fight his way through various robots. Wasp sneaks into where Purple Man is held but Namor catches her. However she is able to blast a nearby aquarium and being doused with water frees Namor as well. Doom has a chance to flood the room with knockout gas but decides not to because he is bored running this world. Namor smashes the crystal killing Purple Man in the process. Doom flees before the Avengers can stop him. As the world reverts to normal (i.e. war, crime, discrimination and poverty) the Avengers debate whether they did the right thing.
Critical Thoughts: This is a decent but not great, and I feel like it had the potential to be better.
I was always a big fan of the West Coast Avengers book so it is nice to see them featured with the East Coast team in the supporting role. This is also a nice reminder of how Wonder Man was presented as an A-list player back in the 80s. He’s an interesting character choose for the man alone against the world plot because he is not the inspirational leader or scientific genius or even the maverick many of the other Avengers are. He is really is something of an everyman in terms of personality. His power-set is strong enough to fight these odds but he’s not the guy you would typically call on and that shows in his doubts in the middle on whether the world is better under Doom.
The 30 days in stasis and waking up to complete changed world is also a good plot device. In fact the Avengers Assemble cartoon lifted it for an episode only with Vision in Wonder Man’s place, and it worked there too.
I think plot with Doom being bored with victory, while somewhat in character is sort of the easy way to go. It’s not a completely original idea either as I’ve see it played out in other genres. I’m just not sure I fully buy it for Doom because he has ruled Latveria for years so he should be used to a certain amount of day to day administrative decision making already. I also did not like Doom betraying Namor as there is a longstanding portrayal of Doom as a man who keeps his word. It also makes the fact that later writers have kept the Doom-Namor alliance intact kind of absurd.
I’m not familiar with Namor from this era but his brutality is a bit surprising as he seems willing to kill a hostage in the scene with Vision. I also feel like there has to be more than just three robots to override on the planet—if it’s the 80s I would think off the top of my head Warlock and Nimrod are wandering around the X-books but I understand this is an Avengers story hence why even the FF don’t appear despite their obvious connection to Doom, so that’s just a quibble.
Of course I like that Cap is the first one to shake off Doom’s effects. I think it’s interesting these same Avengers are ones Busiek chose when he did the “Morgan Conquest” arc where she conquered the world by magic and only a few heroes had the stuff to see through—although in that story Iron Man is the one hero unable to shake it off.
Grade B-. It didn’t fully live up to the potential of the concept but overall it is worth reading.