Every year Victor von Doom fights to rescue the soul of his mother from Hell. Every year he fails, but now plans to turn the tables. Blending super-science and sorcery, Victor focuses on creating a singular device, the Harrower, which will rip souls from the netherworld. With the obsessive genius distracted, the underground resistance seizes a chance to liberate Latveria. But they attack at the worst possible time, damaging the machine and inadvertently tearing a gateway into Hell. As demonic creatures and rebels besiege his castle, Doctor Doom must make an impossible choice – free his mother or save his people.
The Harrowing of Doom is a novel by David Annandale, part of the Marvel Untold line by Aconyte Books. This one focuses on one of the most iconic villains ever created by Stan Lee - Doctor Doom. The challenge, of course, is how such an iconic character is portrayed. There are things we expect from Doom - confidence to the point of arrogance, conviction, unflinching pursuit of his goals, and, when dealing with a tale set in Latveria, concern for the country he rules. Whenever any author uses Doom, they need to hit those notes or the story does not feel genuine. Annandale is successful here; he delivers the Doom we longtime readers come to expect.
The other challenge with an untold tale is how to develop change and consequences in the lead characters without contradicting what has come in the comics. Again, with an iconic character like Doctor Doom that is not something that can easily happen. Annandale instead surrounds Doom with various characters through whom change can occur: the witch Maria von Helm, the scholar-turned-priest Father Zargo Grigori, Captain Verlak of the Latverian guard and more. While Doom's name and face are on the book's cover, this is very much their story as well.
For someone like me with a long history with super-hero reading, this was a very enjoyable novel. I look forward to future offerings from the publisher in this line as the Marvel Universe has plenty of opportunity to explore in its histories and vast pool of characters, both heroic and villainous (and some that can exhibit a bit of both traits such as Doom).
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