Superheroes have always been a big part of my life, growing up with the Batman movies, and living in the golden age of superhero animated series, such as the Batman and Superman shows, or the weird Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons. But I was kind of late to actually get into comics. There wasn’t anywhere close by to me growing up that I could regularly get comics, except maybe trade paperbacks at a bookstore, but I would almost never be able to find the right order for those, so that was a losing battle. But around 2003, when I was in eighth grade, the grocery store by my house started selling a couple Marvel comics. Basically just Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and some X-Men book that I don’t recall. I started buying Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, jumping into random runs that I had no knowledge of. My luck with Spider-Man didn’t work out that well, I fell into a storyline that was all about Aunt May learning that Peter was Spider-Man, that may have been good, but all I remember of it was issue after issue of just Peter and Aunt May talking about their relationship. My luck with Fantastic Four was much better though, because I just happened to pick the book up right in the midst of the Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo run, and pretty much started with the “Unthinkable,” story, one of the best Fantastic Four stories I’ve ever read. I loved the story at the time, and then kind of fell off the book when the next couple stories weren’t up to par, since I assumed they were all going to be as amazing as “Unthinkable,” but I hadn’t read it since then, so I recently gave it a shot again, and oh man is the story still amazing.
I’ve always loved that Dr. Doom was equally as skilled as a sorcerer as he was a technological genius. And yet, he typically stayed with the technology thing, always fighting the Fantastic Four with his mind, dedicated to proving that he’s smarter than Reed Richards. But every now and then Doom would lean more against his magical abilities, and those stories are always crazy. And this story really went to the magical side. The prologue of the story was a whole issue that told the story of Dr. Doom wandering around a whole down of psychics, trying to get information about his lost love from his childhood, Valeria. We learn from some flashbacks about Doom and Valeria’s ill-fated love, which I’ve pretty much already covered in the article about the “Books of Doom,” storyline. But in the end, he actually finds an older Valeria, who is specifically hiding in America so Doom won’t find her. They have a tender moment where Doom admits that the’s never been happier than he was with her, and that he’s decided to turn his back on science, and devote himself to magic. But right as you think Doom is having some sort of change of heart, and becoming a good man, it turns out it was all a trick, and he sacrifices Valeria’s life, creating a new magical suit of armor out of her essence, giving himself massive amounts of mystical power from her death. And that’s where the story starts!
The story then kick in with the Fantastic Four goofing off as a family. Johnny and Ben are squabbling over money, since Johnny had recently been made the CFO of the Fantastic Four’s company, (don’t ask) and Reed agrees to help Johnny prank Ben. They’re just being a family, having fun together. I’ve never been a huge Fantastic Four fan, but one of the things I love about the series is the fact that the team is a family, through and through. Yeah, the X-Men are kind of like a family too, but I really love just how close the Fantastic Four are. But things start to get bad for the story pretty fast when Sue and Ben are chatting in the kitchen and we pan over to Reed and Sue’s little daughter, Val, who we get reminded through some exposition, was delivered by Dr. Doom, since apparently Sue’s powers make birth difficult, and Reed wasn’t available. But as Val is playing with blocks, we learn that Doom did some magical incantations when she was born, and has made her his “familiar” and can use her as his eyes and ears. He then assumes control of Val, leading to one of the craziest scenes ever, when Ben and Sue are trying to get Val to say her first word, and this happens.
Then right after that happens we go to Reed’s lab, where he, Johnny, and Reed’s son Franklin are working on some sort of prank gun that they’re going to use on Ben, when crazy energy starts coming out of the gun, attacking them. Reed quickly realizes something is wrong, and gets Franklin to go to a teleporter that would send him to his babysitter, Crystal from the Inhumans. But when he gets in the teleporter, Doom’s magic has affected it, and instead of sending him to the moon, he’s sent to Hell. Literal Hell. That’s right. Dr. Doom has taken the gloves off, and has attacked the Fantastic Four’s children. Johnny attempts to save Franklin, but when he gets through to Hell, he’s actually burned by their Hellfire, and is sent back to the Baxter Building, and the teleporter is destroyed. Reed and the rest of the family are understandably furious, and start suiting up to storm Doom’s castle and bring him to justice. And after a quick little scene where we learn that Doom’s increased magical abilities comes from an alliance with some demons, the family heads off to Latveria. Ben, realizing that Doom has gone fully over to the magical side, calls Dr. Stephen Strange, hoping for the magical assistance, but it turns out Doom thought of that first, and has incapacitated Strange, leaving the Fantastic Four alone.
They then reach Latveria, where their ship is quickly destroyed by Doom’s magic, and it’s pretty clear from the beginning that Doom is not messing around, and neither is the family. They start attacking Doom ferociously, all going for kill-shots, but Doom’s magic is now so strong that he’s able to deflect all of their attacks, barely lifting a finger. But the family beings to realize that Doom can’t be beaten, and when he steals Val from them, and offers to give their child back if they agree to surrender, the family doesn’t even think about it. But of course, since Doom’s an asshole, it turns out he was scamming them, and said “Child” so he give Val back, leaving Franklin in Hell with the knowledge that the family chose Val over him. Doom then uses his magic to remove their powers, and brings them to his castle where he proceeds to torture them. He has some Mindless Ones beat the Thing to death, gives Johnny Reed’s stretching power and starts stretching him to his limits, and gives Sue Johnny’s flame powers but so she feels the pain. And Reed? He just locks Reed in a room. A room full of spellbooks, books that have the secret to getting out of the room, but Doom knows that while Reed may be a better scientist than him, he’ll never be a better sorcerer, and will never get out.
But while Reed is struggling to learn a basic magic spell that could free him a save his family, he gets a message from the astral projection of Dr. Strange, who was able to get his astral form out of his Sanctum before Doom’s demonic associates incapacitated his body. Strange then tries to teach the stubborn Reed, who’s too proud to admit that magic is the one thing he doesn’t understand. But Strange is finally able to get Reed to use a teleportation spell that gets him out of Latveria, and into New York to reach Strange’s Sanctum. Reed reaches the Sanctum, and Strange shows him Doom’s demonic helpers, Franklin in Hell, and what Doom is doing to the rest of the family. But in his anger, Reed attempts to attack Doom using untrained magic, and Doom is made aware of Strange’s involvement. Doom then brings himself to New York, ready to kill Reed. Strange knows that Reed isn’t ready to fight Doom, and gives him a sort of magical weapon, explaining that it uses magical words, but doesn’t have time to explain it before Doom neutralizes him. Reed is panicking, knowing he can’t beat Doom, and in his panic, admits to himself that he’s an idiot, at least as far as magical things go. And what do you know, turns out that the artifact runs on humility, and Reed admitting that he doesn’t understand something makes the artifact release magical energy. So Reed saves his family, and goes to battle with Magic Doom. And as the family begin using their abilities to help, Reed starts to deliver the final blows to Doom, humiliating himself in the process.
The battle continues after that, even having Reed utter the immortal, “It’s Clobbering Time,” before punching Victor into the Sanctum Sanctorum. Then, as Doom lays broken and defeated, Reed twists the knife even more by telling Doom he pities him. He then eggs him on by saying that Doom isn’t as smart as him, and isn’t a real sorcerer since he needed help from the demons. This of course rubs Doom’s ego the wrong way, and he starts loudly proclaiming that he needed no help, and did it all on his own, earning him the ire of the demons who gave him his magical abilities, and they come to get him. Doom is then dragged to Hell, and the Fantastic Four follow him to save Franklin. Then, right as they’re getting ready to head back to safety, Reed sees Doom getting dragged off to eternal damnation, and is stunned to see Doom actually begging for help. And normally, Reed would have helped him, because as I’ve discussed on this site before, Reed is a hero, and a hero’s job is to save people, not punish evildoers. But Doom has gone too far this time. He’s tortured his family, sent his son to literal Hell, and possessed his daughter. So Reed straight up leaves Victor Von Doom, his archnemesis to burn in the fires of Hell for his crimes. But right before they get out, Doom reaches out and scars Reed’s face, leaving his face as warped as Doom claims his own is.
And that’s the end. The next couple issues deal with the fallout of the story, especially a pretty amazing issue that revolves around the family trying to get Franklin’s mental state back, since he’s become essentially comatose after his horrific ordeal. But that’s the story of “Unthinkable,” one of the most straight up evil things I’ve ever seen a supervillain do to someone. Dr. Doom is such an amazing villain, but he really outdid himself in this story. A lot of superheroes have had their loved ones targeted throughout their careers, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen another villain go after kids. And he didn’t just target children, he sent one to Hell! Jesus Doom. This story is just so great. I love that in the end, it’s all about pride. Doom has been trying to years to defeat Reed through science, but had to admit to himself that he’s just not capable of doing so, so sells his soul to attack Reed in the one way he knows he can win. And his plan revolves around Reed being too stubborn and prideful to admit that he knows nothing about magic, which turns out to be just the thing that can save them. It’s a great story, and a real crowning achievement in the run.
“Unthinkable” was written by Mark Waid and Penciled by Mike Wieringo, 2003