[Contains SPOILERS for Infamous Iron Man #5 and Civil War II.]
The near-death of Iron Man at the conclusion to Civil War II came as less-than a shock, thanks to issue delays and the heavily promoted alternative Iron People, including Riri Williams’ Ironheart, and of course Victor Von Doom. While Tony Stark’s comatose state-meets-artificial intelligence continues to impact the Marvel Universe in its own ways, there’s no doubt his two legacy heroes have spiraled off into some extremely fascinating stories of their own. Young Ms. Williams is in the midst of a coming of age tale fraught with fresh dangers and new experiences. On the other hand, Doctor Doom journey is very personal in a different manner, dealing with his path to redemption and the hardships of trying to do right by a world he's so gravely damaged.
Infamous Iron Man #5 picks up from the previous chapter, where recent S.H.I.E.L.D. enrollee Ben Grimm has tracked the former dictator to his castle in Latveria, dropping by his secret laboratory. Instead of Doom, he finds a woman that for all intents and purposes should be dead: Victor’s mother Cynthia Von Doom. It seems Ms. Von Doom is none too pleased to see her son's former Fantastic Four adversary and casts a spell that makes his trademark orange rock crumble from his body, and The Thing's very life now hangs in the balance.
The history of Cynthia Von Doom is laced with tragedy. Born to a repressed Romani group in Latveria, she grew up hating the cruel Baron and his brutal regime. While maturing, she was tutored in the ways of sorcery and later married Werner Von Doom, giving birth to their son, Victor. Fed up with the oppressive regime, she made a pact with Mephisto to liberate her people, one which made her extraordinarily powerful. Naturally, there was a catch: Her magic was nearly impossible to control, causing her to kill not just the Baron’s forces but also innocent children. After perpetrating untold horrors, she renounced her powers but was run-through by a guard before she escaped. She stumbled into the woods, and while dying in her husband’s arms, begged him to raise their son righteously.
Over the course of his life, Doom invented a method to communicate with his mother, and has attempted to rescue his mother from Hell on numerous occasions, even swapping out Doctor Strange for her one point (although it was really a double-cross). Disturbed by her son's actions, she refused to leave the underworld, which constituted a truly unselfish deed and as a result, was sent to heaven. Now, Cynthia has somehow managed to escape death entirely. Finally proud of her son, she attempts (at least readers are led to believe) to help Victor in his quest to rebuild his life. When she discovers the tenacious Thing wandering about her son’s castle, she decides to rid Victor of what she views as a hindrance and perpetual threat.
Fortunately for Grimm’s sake, Doom also followed him to the castle. Like breadcrumbs, he tracks Grimm via a trail of orange rock, finding him in a bad way, along with a woman claiming to be his dead mother.
To say Victor Von Doom is carrying a lifetime of pain would be an understatement. The longtime enemy of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and, well, the entire Marvel Universe really, has dealt with more than his fair share of misery. Of course, that still doesn’t absolve him of his malevolent and selfish actions or the harm he’s caused to said universe. Nevertheless, if Doom is truly seeking to mend his past wrongs, he has a long way to go—especially if S.H.I.E.L.D. has anything to say about it. Those skeptical of Victor’s conversion are well warranted. His actions in the castle, however, seem to indicate a man actually trying to reform – as well as someone with some serious mother issues.
A dazed and hospitalized Grimm unravels his story, reluctantly admitting to Maria Hill that Doom saved his life. As one of Victor's former classmates at Empire State University, as well as a longtime adversary, he was almost as shocked to see Doom’s mother as the doctor himself, especially since she’d died long ago. Initially, Victor challenged the veracity of her identity, and after her continued peaceful requests fail, the two duel as only sorcerers do. It also turns out that they're quite evenly matched, with Cynthia possibly even having a slight advantage.
During a break in the standoff, though, Doom pulls out his 64 thousand Latverian Franc question: if his mother has truly been alive all this time, why hasn’t she made any effort to see him or even communicate with him? Ms. Von Doom informs her son that she was ashamed of his selfish, villainous ways. In that case, he asks her why didn't she try to stop him or at least talk him out of his conquests? Her reply: "Because I love you." Consumed by torrent of emotions, Victor resumes his attack, but Cynthia chooses to bow out until they can speak civilly, leaving her son to puzzle over her very existence and complicating his attempts to rebuild his life.
Doom’s Ultimate Foe Reemerges
In Infamous Iron Man #5, and the entire story line in general, Victor Von Doom’s ego still prevails, including his agreement with his mother that he should be this realm’s Sorcerer Supreme (of course, where does that leave Doctor Strange?). At the same time, for all his incredible intellect, he also concedes to his scientist beneficiary, Dr. Amara Perera, that walking a virtuous path is farm more difficult than a selfish one. Despite suspicions about Doom's amelioration, his willingness to examine his own life, as well as his failings, suggests, at the very least, genuine soul searching.
If Doctor Doom is truly seeking redemption, his course to salvation won't be easy. Aside from dealing with the multitude he's harmed, the reemergence of Cynthia Von Doom is also portentous, especially in light of her previously status and her cauldron companion, previously only heard during earlier issues. The latest twist in writer Brian Michael Bendis’ captivating journey reveals that Reed Richards is apparently her new suitor. Not just any old Reed Richards, though, but Reed Richards's nefarious Ultimate Universe counterpart, also known as The Maker. This reveal is beyond fitting, as Doom is pitted against his oldest foe once again, even if this time their roles are reversed.
Is it possible that Reed is responsible for pulling Cynthia out of the afterlife? As The Maker, he was scattered throughout multiple realities (thanks to Molecule Man during Secret Wars). Aside from his multiversal status, he also possesses super-genius intellect (like his heroic counterpart) and would be quite capable of creating a trans-dimensional teleportation device. If he isn’t involved in her “bail out,” then who is? Either way, his true intentions, as well as is Cynthia Von Doom's involvement may hold the key to uncovering the true heroes and villains
Without any doubt, Bendis has a great deal of story to unpack before Doctor Doom's would-be redemption wraps up. Riffing on a classic Marvel theme, if properly executed, Infamous Iron Man could provide an fascinating counterpoint to the saga of two of Marvel's classic archenemies – perhaps even leading to the return of Mr. Fantastic (we can only hope).
Infamous Iron Man #5 is currently available. Infamous Iron Man #6 arrives on March 29.