What if… Doctor Doom became a hero?
If you’ve read as many Fantastic Four comics as I have, you might assume I’m delusional. But bear with me.
What if one day, Victor Von Doom realized he was wrong? All those years spent chasing dominion were wasted because all power in the Universe wouldn’t satisfy him. What if one day remembering the pain he caused felt like plunging his fingers through an open wound?
What if the world had to end for Victor to see that?
Have I piqued your interest?
Over the years, Marvel writers destroyed diverse worlds, killed famous characters, and broke up cherished couples. But one fact remained: Victor Von Doom is evil. Not just evil, but one of the most terrifying villains in the Marvel Universe – and dare I say, in pop culture.
Until he wasn’t.
After literal worlds collided, Victor became the good guy. He became Iron Man, and despite years of absurd plotlines in comics, I was engrossed by that premise.
But one thing bothered me.
Couldn’t Von Doom create a new name? Like, I don’t know… Dr. Good Fortune?
I’m just kidding, of course. That’s a terrible name. Still, for all his genius, Doom should have created a more elegant alias because no one calls him Infamous Iron Man. It’s not catchy or innovative.
But I digress; what you really want to know is how and why Doom became Iron Man – and in this infamous Iron Man guide, I’m going to tell you that in a second.
My Bottom Line Up Front
Infamous Iron Man creates a credible hero’s journey for Dr. Doom. At the hands of another writer, this could have been cheesy or implausible, but Brian Michael Bendis sets the right motivations and the proper execution to make Victor’s superhero era shine. In a nutshell, this saga proves that marvelous things can happen when writers strive for the inconceivable.
Infamous Iron Man Quick Facts
|October 2016 – September 2017
|Brian Michael Bendis
|No. of issues
The Day the Multiverse Died
Before Doom strived to save the day, Earth was shattered.
Years ago, the Illuminati learned they had to become destroyers of worlds to save Earth. The group formed by the most brilliant minds in the world, Reed Richards among them, discovered the incursions – contractions in the multiverse’s timeline, which caused planets to collide.
To save one planet, you had to crush the other.
One by one, the Illuminati smashed alternate Earths. Two remained: classic Earth 616 and the Ultimate Universe, Earth 1610. Still, trouble was far from over; both planets were on a collision course. This led to 2015’s Secret Wars, a mega event to determine who would come out alive.
Warfare gets the brightest minds working on solutions, but Reed wouldn’t be Reed without a contingency plan. Once he realizes there’s no avoiding collision, the scientist builds a spaceship to transport some of Earth’s heroes out of the planet, including his wife, Susan Storm, and their children.
Suddenly Earth’s surface begins to crack, and the loudest thunder starts rumbling. The ship falls apart while Susan and her children disappear into the void right before Reed’s eyes.
Everything turns white.
A new reality emerges where Doom is the God and ruler.
How did that happen?
During the final incursion, Dr. Strange and Dr. Doom traveled through space to defy the Beyonders, steal their power, and use it to assemble both Earths’ fragments. However, Doom stole power and rebuilt reality as his ideal life: a world where he was king, Susan Storm, his wife, and her children were his.
But this reality wouldn’t last. Several heroes remember life before the incursion, including Reed Richards, who vows to defeat Doom.
When Reed and Doom finally meet, they fight for the fate of the Universe, but above all, for themselves. Their confrontation exposes years of hurt and sheds light on Doom’s insecurities. Mr. Fantastic accuses the villain of stealing his life to feel worthy, and Victor retorts that the hero believes himself to be a better man.
Reed says he doesn’t believe to be better than Doom but that Victor can become a better man if he so wishes. Still, Richards states that if he had Doom’s godly powers, he would build a superior reality. Seeing Mr. Fantastic’s noble intentions, Molecule Man – the source of Doom’s cosmic abilities – transfers the power to him.
Mr. Fantastic rebuilds reality as a mixture of the two prior Earths. But instead of seeking revenge because the villain stole his life, Reed heals the antagonist’s face. That’s symbolic because Doom’s scars were a big source of insecurity for him. Besides, healing Victor’s face is a metaphor for giving him a clean slate.
But what would Victor do with his new chance? And how the hell would he become Iron Man?
Infamous Iron Man Explained
No Man Is God, and God Is Not Man
When brilliant scientist Amera Ferreira asks Doom why the change of heart, he has two choices: hide behind a façade or expose his turmoil.
Doom decides to tell the truth. At this point, lying was as easy as breathing, but it didn’t bring the comfort he yearned for. It didn’t harness any connection. So Victor explains he grew up poor and helpless. The sorcerer didn’t want that to be his reality forever, so he made it a long-life mission to acquire power.
But Von Doom always failed to gain cosmic dominion; until he became a god.
Yet, things didn’t turn out the way Doom expected.
“(…) I created the Universe in my image, and it took all of that to discover that no man is god, and god is not man. I was god and yet unchanged. I was not one with the Universe. I was not content.”
(…) And it was then that a sudden and simple notion struck me. (…) If the selfish act of ultimate power was not my calling… then maybe the opposite could be true.”
It’s not a noble reason, but the fact remains: Doctor Doom is a hero.
You can judge his motivations, but the guy captured villains non-stop and saved heroes, including Maria Hill. I didn’t care he wasn’t pure-hearted; I was rooting for Doom, truly enthralled by the idea and where it would take the character.
But other characters weren’t as happy with that explanation, and that’s understandable. After all, Dr. Doom can’t jump out of the comic book page and kill me.
Only Deadpool can do that.
However, the villain could damage Marvel heroes’ lives if his intentions weren’t real. After so many evil actions, people had a hard time believing Victor had changed, so Doom didn’t have a free pass to go and save the day.
No, he had to deal with Ben Grimm breathing down his neck, working as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
I loved this dynamic; it gave me Jean Valjean and Javert vibes.
The Thing is a brilliant choice for this role because, considering their history, who could be better to chase Doom?
Grimm won’t believe the man who tormented his family for years is now the good guy. Ben will do anything to complete the mission. Who cares if historic buildings and S.H.I.E.L.D. property are damaged along the way?
This makes the conflict compelling because personal stakes always trump universal ones.
But while Grimm chases him, Doom has one question: “what if I became Iron Man?”
Tony died after the events of Civil War II.
His armor was an excellent opportunity for Doom to look more heroic, so the former villain heads to Stark’s lab to snatch it.
But a surprise awaits him.
Before he died, Stark downloaded his mind into a computer program. When Doom arrives at the lab, A.I. Tony shows up to say hello. Stark doesn’t want his adversary to take the armor, but Victor states: “if you can’t be Iron Man, someone needs to be.”
A.I. Tony can’t do anything, so Victor wears Iron Man’s armor and flies away.
That moment was one of the coolest in the series!
But then comes the twist.
Doctor Doom’s mom monitors the comic’s events while talking to a figure in the shadows. Cynthia Von Doom had died many years before; she was convicted of witchcraft and killed when Victor was a boy. This led to Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment, an event where both sorcerers rescue Cynthia’s soul from the hands of Mephisto in hell.
So, how is Cynthia Von Doom alive?
The Ultimate Rival
The Thing heads to Doom’s lab in Latveria, but the former villain is not there. Instead, a terrible fate awaits the hero. As soon as Ben Grimm enters the lair, pieces of rock start falling off his face, and the hero wails until Cynthia Von Doom emerges from the shadows.
The sorcerer uses magic against Grimm because she wants to protect her son, but Doom arrives right on time to save Ben. Victor is shocked to see his mom; he can’t believe what is happening. Indeed, he doesn’t believe she is his mom.
He had saved her soul already. He had acquired immense power and bargained with the Devil to rescue her from endless torture. So, how could she be right before his eyes, more powerful than ever?
Emotions surged through him, but Doom is a man of rationale. Even his endeavors with sorcery came out of logic. So he questions his mom. Why is she here? Why wasn’t she here before? Why now?
Cynthia Von Doom says she has always followed him, but up to this point, she hadn’t shown herself because Victor wasn’t on the right path. Now he is the good guy. Now she is proud of him.
Doom is conflicted. He is having difficulty believing her, so Cynthia leaves, saying they’ll talk later. Once she returns to her lair, we discover an intriguing secrete: Cynthia Von Doom is working with Ultimate Reed Richards.
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Despite the speech about keeping Iron Man’s legacy alive, Doom is not the only one to wear an iron armor.
Enter Riri Williams, an underage genius who reverse-engineered Stark’s armor and now goes by Iron Heart. But what does she have to do with anything we’re talking about?
Riri Williams is a curious girl, and like any teenager, she supposes to know way more than she actually does. So, Williams confronts Doom in Latveria about what’s going on with him, even though he is one of the most powerful villains in the Universe, and she’s a beginner superhero.
Doom’s out of Riri’s league, even with A.I. Tony’s help.
The meeting is one no one could have predicted. Doom says he had a future vision and asks Iron Heart to hit him with her laser so he can reaccess the foresight. Once she complies, Doom discovers the person from the future is an alternate Tony Stark with the powers of Doctor Strange.
Tony says Victor can’t be Iron Man, and the dream fades.
Doom is knocked out, so Riri Williams takes him to the Hellicarrier. S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives hold Victor hostage, but an agent kills two of her colleagues out of the blue. Cynthia Von Doom appears, revealing she mind-controlled the agent. Then, the sorcerer takes Doom to another dimension.
After traveling through space, Victor takes a trip down memory lane. When he was a boy, Doom’s mom tried to initiate Victor into witchcraft by asking him to kill a rabbit. But the boy ran away scared, and instead of being understanding, Cynthia called her son a coward.
Back to the present, Doom wants answers from his mom, and she says they’ll meditate. The woman teaches him new spells, and they seem to get along until Doom realizes the sorcerer is not his mom. When Victor talks about his memory, he mentions a frog instead of a rabbit, and Cynthia’s agreement reveals she’s an impostor.
Suddenly, Ultimate Richards appears and says Doom was not supposed to be there. Victor leaves.
A Deal With the Devil
Grimm shows up at Latveria, and Doom tells him to run, but The Thing transports the sorcerer to a S.H.I.E.L.D. Hellicarrier.
Dr. Strange arrives at the Hellicarrier to talk.
Doom offered no resistance, which puzzles Stephen because Victor could leave at any moment if he chose to do so. The Sorcerer Supreme realizes Victor is afraid, and they try to solve the mystery of Ultimate Reed and the fake Cynthia Von Doom.
Who is the threat behind all this? What do they want?
During the sorcerers’ back and forth, Ultimate Reed arrives and fights S.H.I.E.L.D. He says he’s not there to attack them but to talk to his former enemy. Strange and Doom meditate, and suddenly Victor realizes that’s not Reed Richards.
The devil himself.
There was never a Reed or Cynthia; it was all a ruse to collect Doom’s soul. Mephisto wanted revenge because Victor freed Cynthia’s soul. The devil wouldn’t let a bad guy escape his jurisdiction, especially one that humiliated him.
But Strange and Doom attacked Mephisto with all they had.
The result was quick and clean. Mephisto was down.
But what would be of Doom? S.H.I.E.L.D. was still after him. However, Victor was clever. He had just saved the day, and he knew he could convince them he would do much more good free than behind bars. The former villain had already defeated several criminals and could arrest many more. So the new hero strikes an unspoken deal with S.H.I.E.L.D.
Victor Von Doom flies into the sunset to take out a Hydra Outpost.
There’s nothing else he’s rather be doing.
What Makes Dr. Doom Great?
Batman is often singled out for being ridiculously prepared, but Doom is more unbelievable than the Dark Knight. The villain is one of the most brilliant men on the planet and one of the most accomplished sorcerers in the Universe.
Dr. Doom is an incredible mix of opposites. He’s a man of science and magic, terrifying but possessing unmatched charisma. I remember watching the 90’s cartoon as a kid and being simultaneously scared and fascinated by him.
No wonder Doom is my favorite Marvel Villain, along with Magneto. Those ’90s cartoons really built a solid fanbase for these guys.
Besides, Doom’s psyche is complex, even more than Batman’s. Victor believes himself superior to everyone but still envies Reed Richards and his family because of how lonely he feels. Von Doom yearns to connect, like any other human being, but he despises this part of himself.
That is what I call layered and intriguing character-building.
Yet, it was only when he had absolute power that Doom saw his unhappiness, making him wonder if he should go in the opposite direction. If attaining limitless power wasn’t it, could he find purpose in helping people?
Pure curiosity, instead of morals, moved his good actions. But ironically, that made him a more compelling protagonist than most other heroes. I’m a sucker for redemption arcs, and when the reasons behind atonement are surprising, that makes the narrative more fleshed out.
If I had to describe Doom in a nutshell, I would say “self-centered.”
That’s what moves him. That’s what justifies his actions. It doesn’t matter if he’s a villain, a hero, or an antagonist; Doom always follows his inner compass, and the results are always unexpected.
This uncertainty keeps me coming back to him, even when shinier events are on the rise. If Doom is involved in a story, it’s a guarantee I’ll put the comic back on the shelf with a happy demeanor.
Alex Maleev entered my comic artists’ hall of fame once I finished Infamous Iron Man. I like artists who draw bold lines mixed with softer ones and sharp edges. That’s Maleev in a nutshell.
Besides, Alex draws unique features. The characters don’t look all the same, and the faces are riddled with emotion.
Alex brings weightlessness to his art even when he draws sharp edges and repeated texture lines. He accomplishes that by coloring light with such brightness it envelops all shapes around it. So, instead of dimming his work, the thick black shadows and contours make the light appear even more incandescent.
Plus, Doom’s design is awesome.
I never thought combining these two characters – Iron Man and Doom – would work so well, but the result looks stunning.
Infamous Iron Man’s pages are a sight for sore eyes.
Awesome or Lame?
Infamous Iron Man is awesome. In fact, it is one of the most incredible series after Secret Wars.
Brian Michael Bendis is a fantastic writer with great books, whose highlight is House of M.
With Infamous Iron Man, he did his magic once again.
Writing Doom as a hero could be dull and unbelievable, but it works here. The motivation is correct, the tone is right, and the execution is flawless.
My only complaint was the end fell a little short for me.
I like that Brian did something different – we’ve already seen all kinds of battles imaginable in comics. Seeing Mephisto explain his motivations and point out how super-scaled fights end quickly was refreshing.
But I couldn’t help but feel it was a bit anti-climactic.
The way the monologue was written was kind of cringe and didn’t fit the narrative’s tone. I found myself a little bored by it. It was a worthwhile attempt, but the execution of this specific part didn’t live up to the rest of the series.
And the Award for the Best Quote Goes to….
Cynthia Von Doom: (..) Frankly, I think you should be Sorcerer Supreme of this realm.
Victor Von Doom: I’m not convinced I’m not.
Infamous Iron Man, Issue 5
There are many fantastic moments and quotes in this series, but this one takes the spot because it shows why Doom can do whatever the hell he wants.
Doom has the confidence to believe he can gain absolute power, and when that fails, he has the confidence to make things right. That’s why he’s such a compelling character, and I love him.
Besides, that quote makes me laugh, and that’s a weak spot for me.
Question: Who Is Infamous Iron Man?
Answer: Infamous Iron Man is Dr. Victor Von Doom wearing Tony Stark’s armor. After realizing being a God didn’t make him content, Victor decided to go in the opposite direction and become a hero. You know, just to see what the fuss was all about.
Question: Is Infamous Iron Man Good?
Answer: Infamous Iron Man is divisive; he can be good, depending on your parameter. Von Doom acted heroically but not for the right reasons. Victor doesn’t save the day because it’s right but because he got bored of being a villain. So, can Doom still be considered good under these circumstances? You chose.
Question: What Happened to Infamous Iron Man?
Answer: Infamous Iron Man brokered a deal with S.H.I.E.L.D. and walked free because he was too powerful to catch and would do more good for free. He had the knowledge to take down several villains and proceeded to do so. But this backfired after a few years because Doom got back to his immoral ways.
You may love him, or you may hate him, but Doom is one of the greatest Marvel villains for sure. He’s the perfect counterpart to the Fantastic 4 and a significant threat in any story he’s in. If we’re lucky, the MCU will finally do justice to the character on the big screen, and we’ll see Doom’s true potential in phase six. But until then, you can keep reading more awesome articles about Marvel, like this Avengers Universe Guide.