Marvel’s latest Avengers run drew on some classic characters with their latest run. To kick things off, writer Mark Waid and artist Michael Del Mundo brought in a tweaked version of Hercules (big gun, no sword) and returned Spider-Man to his on-again-off-again spot on the roster. They also brought in a legacy Wasp, Nadia Pym, who's also the daughter of classic Ant-Man Hank Pym. The creative duo then pitted the Avengers against the always-confusing continuity-tweaking of Kang the Conqueror in their first story arc.
Now that their time with Kang is at an end, at least for now, the Avengers take on another old-school adversary, Doctor Doom. But in this case, taking on actually refers to an alternate meaning of the phrase, as in welcoming him to the team – although welcome is a pretty strong word. Let’s just say allowing him to coexist with them, for now. Naturally, Doom, as well as his brand of reformed and solipsistic heroism aren’t the easiest fits, but since his “reform” in the pages of Infamous Iron Man, he actually seems to be working to change his M.O.
In Avengers #7, Doom actually seeks out Earth’s mightiest and requests their assistance with a very delicate issue: teenage girls gone bad.
A Chilly Reception and Gushing Fandom?
Since Doom’s turn from the dark side, if you will, few of his former adversaries (understandably) actually believe he's reformed. Even longtime foe, Ben Grimm, who tracked him down, battled him several times, still questions his motives. Even after Doom saved Ben from his mother, powerful sorceress Cynthia Von Doom, and apologized to him, he's still not sure what to make of his longtime foe – and Victor remains a person of interest to S.H.I.E.L.D. At this point, the only people who believe Victor has switched sides are his former allies, the villains he’s managed to hunt down, incapacitate, or send to jail. So when Doom arrives, requesting assistance with a series of “magical incursions,” the Avengers exactly don’t welcome him with open arms, despite saving them from a mystically-regenerating monster. In fact, they’re about to bum-rush the former Latverian dictator, when they're halted by young Nadia Pym and her gushing praise.
Nadia was stolen from her mother and locked inside the Russian super-assassin program the Red Room. But when her overlords learned of her prodigious intellect, she was channeled into their science division. As a result, she knows little of the world beyond science and isn't quite as caught up in traditional hero-villain boundaries as her teammates. Realizing who their mysterious Iron Man-esque visitor is, she geeks out, gushing about Doom’s research unique blend of science and magic. The teen Wasp is so taken by her legendary inventor/mystic that her enthusiasm spills over onto her teammates – or at least keeps them from smiting Victor, at least just long enough for him to explain himself and his would-be mission.
It turns out the dark forces emanate from one particular point: the Susan Storm Camp for Girls’ Leadership in the Catskills. Doom isn’t keen on letting some creepy critters destroy or besmirch the reputation of former Fantastic Four member Sue Storm. Trouble is, whether good or evil, Doc Doom can’t just snoop around a summer camp without, as he puts it, “causing a panic.” The Avengers warily team up with Doom – mostly because he helped them banish a cthuloid monstrosity earlier – and send Nadia to camp, albeit undercover.
Doom’s True Agenda?
As the only age-appropriate Avenger, Nadia enjoys a pleasant evening of roasting marshmallows and general campfire ambiance – at least until she stumbles across a cabin with an odd rosy glow (a pinkish hue even) emanating from it. Inside, she discovers a gaggle of young women sitting in a circle of candles and summoning the moon demon Anamelech, who has some seriously bad ethereal blood with Doom (best not to ask). After being invited inside the circle, the girls prepare to sacrifice Nadia, whose Pym particle technology is affected the magical binding spells of the circle.
Fortunately, the magical protection doesn’t block good old-fashioned verbal communication. So when Nadia yells for the Avengers to assemble, they rush in like gangbusters, even though they're a little squeamish about beating up on teenagers. However, the young women's mystical abilities give them second thoughts about preconceived notions, and the crew holds the possessed adolescents in place, while Nadia and Doom concoct a science-meets-magic one-two punch. Focusing his banishment spell with her shrinking bands, they take out the demon, without harming the young women. Good deed done, right?
With Victor Von Doom, there’s always a catch. Surprisingly, at least at this point, Doom's motives doesn’t come with a stereotypical evil barb. As it turns out, Doom wasn’t simply taking out numinous minors, but also digging for dirt on Nadia Pym. He can now eliminate her as a potential “mad scientist” hell-bent on taking over the world – which jives with Doom’s previous quest in Infamous Iron Man, where he scuttles every evil genius and twisted tinkerer he once schemed alongside.
Doom’s purported conversion into a hero is a curious one, and it’s difficult not to expect malevolent motives. Still, his desire for redemption seems earnest: between his internal monologue, his apologies to superheroes like Grimm and the Avengers, as well as his mostly non-lethal attempt to upend other supervillains, his admittedly complicated play for redemption has a ring of validity to it. Even though Doom ruled Nadia Pym out of the evildoer game, his mad scientist hunt may be put on hold, though. In the final pages of Avengers #7, Nadia and Sam Wilson discover a strange grave in the basement marked “Here Lies Avenger X.”
The brief career of Avenger X, a.k.a. mutant power-drain Cressida, as detailed in the limited Avengers.1 series, proved she was nothing but trouble. If she's returned from the grave, the mighty squad will have a lot more than Doom’s theoretically questionable motives to deal with – and will probably need his help once again.
Avengers #7 is currently available.