December 2, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Noteworthy Issues: The Darkhold Alpha #1 (September, 2021)

The Scarlet Witch needs to gather some heroes to stop Chthon once Dr. Doom finds and reads from the Darkhold.

Apparently, back in September, Marvel Comics did a short event of some sort about the Darkhold, the Book of the Damned, and it heavily featured the Scarlet Witch.  Was that done in anticipation of a certain movie?  I don’t know.  But I did stop to take a look at the first issue, and it did look like the timing was just right to get the entire event onto Marvel Unlimited about the same time the movie came out.

Issue:  The Darkhold Alpha #1, September 2021

Writer:  Steve Orlando

Artist:  Cian Tormey

The Plot:  When Dr. Doom finds the Darkhold, Wanda Maximoff knows that will lead to nothing but trouble.  She’ll need to call in some friends.

Commentary:  Given this is an event, even if it appears to be a rather short one, this first issue is all set-up.  Dr. Doom is looking for the Darkhold as he is wont to do, and finding it sets off Wanda “Scarlet Witch” Maximoff’s magical alarm bells.  She can’t prevent Doom from reading from the book despite her best efforts.  Wanda knows that reading from the book will supposedly drive anyone other than maybe herself insane and also bring said reader to awful elder god thing Chthon’s attention.

Apparently, Doom is made of stronger stuff because he doesn’t seem to go insane.  Or he already was and can’t get worse.  This little detail is the one inconsistency on display as Doom does read from the Darkhold without any real problems.  It does grant Doom the power to go to Chthon’s realm under the belief that he and he alone can defeat the elder god once and for all.  All things being equal, it’s always fun to see Doom just assume he can do anything, even going against the advice of all kinds of people who might theoretically know better.  That also means he assumes he can and will save the day when it meets with his own self-interest.  So, no, he won’t be listening to Wanda.  Wanda herself knows that Chthon was defeated once before by a group of heroes.  These five heroes represented archetypes like “the inventor,” “the stoic,” and “the fool,” so maybe Wanda can use her superhero rolodex to get the current equivalents for those guys.  Basically, that means Wanda uses her magic to summon Iron Man, Blade, the Wasp, Black Bolt, and Spider-Man.

Yes, Spidey is the fool.  He doesn’t seem to mind.

Now, the stakes do need raising, so not only does Doom come back defeated, if not humbled, but she needs to convince the five heroes to read just enough of the Darkhold to give them access to Chthon’s realm but not enough to drive them hopelessly insane.  How much is that?  I don’t know.  It’s not like Doom is helping either.  It seems more like just read a word or two and see what happens.

So, really, this was a set-up issue.  Doom didn’t defeat Chthon because if he did, this might have been a very short story.  Four of the five heroes–Black Bolt needed a little more convincing–all more or less agreed to help out right away, and things didn’t go according to plan.  As near as I can make out, the rest of the event is mostly a series of one shots taken from the perspective of each of the five heroes seeing their own worst nightmares as filtered through Chthon’s power, but as set-up goes, this wasn’t a particularly bad issue or anything, but it also didn’t do all that much.  That said, some of the character design from artist Cian Tormey was fantastic if nothing else.

Grade:  B-