WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Infamous Iron Man #11, by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, on sale now from Marvel Comics.
One of the best things about Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Infamous Iron Man is how it managed to flip the script on the classic Reed Richards/Victor Von Doom paradigm by having Doom be the heroic champion working to combat the behind-the-scenes machinations of The Maker, the evil Reed Richards from Earth-1610. However, in last week’s Infamous Iron Man #11 we learn that The Maker has a huge secret that changes everything we thought we knew about this conflict and adds a new personal dimension to his hatred of Doctor Doom.
The majority of this issue focuses on a conversation between Doctor Stephen Strange and Victor Von Doom, who finds himself in the custody of S.H.I.E.L.D. and housed in Project PEGASUS. Doctor Strange has been brought in to figure out what’s been going on with Victor, and the two meditate into the astral realm together to speak freely, out of earshot of S.H.I.E.L.D., Sharon Carter and Ben Grimm. There, Strange and Doom discuss the Reed Richards doppelganger that has been causing so much trouble, his relationship to Doom’s resurrected mother Cynthia, and the possibility that it isn’t Reed Richards at all.
Meanwhile, The Maker himself shows up unannounced at Project PEGASUS, seeking to take care of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Doctor Doom problem once and for all, but is met as a hostile threat. Somehow engaging powers that look somewhat similar to that of the Human Torch, Sharon Carter is forced to release Victor Von Doom into Strange’s custody so the two master sorcerers can take on the threat of The Maker, whom they’ve already determined is absolutely not The Maker at all.
It’s not addressed in this issue, but The Maker actually had been involved in the multiversal reshaping plot in The Ultimates, where he was frozen solid and shattered into a thousand pieces. The Maker who has such a grudge against Doom is in fact one of Doom’s oldest enemies, who's been conspiring and consorting with Doom’s own mother since the beginning of Infamous Iron Man in order to get revenge for something that happened a long time ago. The true identity of The Maker is someone who hates Doom with a fiery passion and cannot abide to see him attempt to turn over a new leaf: Mephisto, lord of Hell.
When Hell Freezes Over
Mephisto’s hatred of Doom stretches back to the 1989 Roger Stern/Mike Mignola graphic novel Doctor Strange/Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment, in which the two frenemies invaded his realm. After losing to Strange in a contest to determine the realm’s Sorcerer Supreme, Doom invited his rival to Latveria, where he revealed, begrudgingly, that he required Strange’s help in his oldest and most personal quest, to free his mother’s soul from Hell.
The pair journeyed into Mephisto’s realm, where they were beset by trials, false realities and straight-up demons, and after being separated from each other, Doctor Strange made it through the other side to see that Doctor Doom had betrayed him and seemingly allied with Mephisto. Having seen the person that her son had grown up to be, Cynthia Von Doom assisted Doctor Strange, which allowed her soul to ascend into heaven. Strange soon realized that Doom had planned everything out, including the betrayal, to save his mother’s soul at the cost of her love. He managed to beat the devil at his own game, but at a great price.
Mephisto has reappeared to cause trouble, but it’s not simply because he was beaten and embarrassed by Doom; it’s that he can’t stand to sit by while Doom redeems himself and potentially carves his own path toward salvation. Ever since Doom cheated Mephisto out of his mother’s soul, the lord of Hell has been waiting patiently for Doom to die and end up within his domain. But now that Victor is making an honest go of being a hero, that opportunity for revenge is slipping through Mephisto’s grasp.
Better The Devil You Know
Something to always remember about Mephisto is he isn’t some ordinary supervillain who comes barging in looking for a dust-up; he’s a lot more subtle and nuanced than that and likely has more up his sleeve than it appears by the end of this issue. Mephisto has been plotting his revenge against Doctor Doom for a long time now, and with it so close to slipping away — plus the chance to take out Doctor Strange while he’s at it — Mephisto’s final clash with Doom is likely to be a truly epic encounter.
There’s only one more issue of Infamous Iron Man left before the title and its characters are folded into a single Iron Man title as part of Marvel Legacy. Before that, though, Doom and Strange have to resolve the Mephisto problem and the question of why Cynthia Von Doom was working with him at all. One of the most compelling things about Doctor Doom’s character has been that everything about him stemmed from his first attempt to save his mother’s soul from Hell; the machine that he was working on in college that blew up, causing him to start on the path to becoming Doctor Doom, was an attempt to access the extradimensional realm of Hell after all. If Infamous Iron Man ends with Mephisto defeated but Cynthia once again damned, it would provide Victor with a whole new motivation to once again rescue her, one that could put him at odds with his recently found moral turnaround.
Victor Von Doom has done a great job so far of actually turning his life around, even managing to convince The Avengers for the most part but he’s always one bad day away from returning to a life of villainy and tyranny to get what he wants. With just one issue to go and the return of Tony Stark on the horizon, will Victor Von Doom remain the Infamous Iron Man heading into Marvel Legacy or is he, pardon the pun, doomed to his role in life as the Marvel Universe’s number one villain?