By Jim Beard
After ravaging untold alternate Earths and chronally dispatching Doctor Doom's dead body to become prehistoric shark food, the Marquis of Death now turns his evil intentions on his former student's greatest enemies: the Fantastic Four.
That's when the real fun begins, and that's where writer Mark Millar's tenure on the team's series comes to a close, in July 29's FANTASTIC FOUR #569.
"The Marquis has lived for thousands of years, going backwards and forwards in time and journeying from universe to universe, so in that sense, he's somebody who's lived too long and who's lost all connection with the rest of humanity and the rest of the world," notes editor Tom Brevoort. "He's bereft of morality; so all that's really left to him is to tear things down, like a more cosmic version of a child pulling the wings off of a fly.
"In the specific case of the Fantastic Four, he sees Doom's failure to overcome them as a reflection on himself, so he's setting out to do that which his pupil could not—to not simply destroy the Fantastic Four, but to make Reed compromise his own sense of morality."
The Marquis' opening gambit, an assault on the mind of Reed Richards, began in FANTASTIC FOUR #568. Presented with a terrifying look at Victor Von Doom's seemingly final disposal in the oceans of the Pliocene Age, Reed must wonder if his longtime adversary has met his ultimate fate.
"Doom is prehistoric shark-food, and as everybody knows, there's no coming back from that," Brevoort insists. "Instead, perhaps you should root for the shark. What offspring did he spawn? Can he truly find happiness in today's status-seeking society? How many teeth did he break on Doom's metal armor? If he grew addicted to the taste, what is he going to do now in order to feed his craving?
"The mind boggles at the possibilities."
With its cast including not only the entire Fantastic Four, a multitude of FF doppelgangers, and the Marquis of Death and his mysterious apprentice, FANTASTIC FOUR #569 also reveals the details of the wedding of the century. That's right—Ben Grimm and the lovely Debbie Green take the long walk down the short aisle, making this double-sized issue a landmark in the book's long and star-studded history.
"It's an event that we've been building toward for Mark and [artist] Bryan [Hitch's] entire run, and is crucial to the larger themes in that FANTASTIC FOUR always works best when you can balance the cosmic with the everyday, the mind-expanding with the typical," Brevoort explains. "We've not had a wedding in the series for many, many years, and Reed and Sue's wedding was a milestone in comics history, the first story of its type ever done. But the wedding of Ben and Debbie will be unlike any other super hero wedding you've seen so far."
With a parting suggestion that fans look to page 16 of FANTASTIC FOUR #569 for what he feels best exemplifies the team's eternal perseverance in the face of defeat, Brevoort returns to the heady task of editing the "World's Greatest Comic Magazine."
Not a subscriber to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited yet? Join now!
Check out the official Marvel Shop for your favorite Marvel Heroes!
Download episodes of "X-Men: Evolution", "Wolverine and the X-Men" and "Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes" now on iTunes!