In Victor von Doom’s last battle with Hell, he lost something. He lost the knowledge of his future and he wants it back. Now he believes he has found a way to recover those lost memories. But as he searches for his lost future he discovers something from the deep past. Something that should stay buried. Something that may destroy not just him or Latveria, but the whole world if it gets free. Will Doctor Doom put his desires or his country first? Find out in Reign of the Devourer by David Annandale.
[Warning: My review of Reign of the Devourer contains some spoilers!]
Doctor Doom: A dangerous man with a dangerous plan
During his last battle with Hell to free his mother, Doctor Doom lost some memories. He’s sure that he lost memories of how to secure the future that he wants. Beyond that, he doesn’t know what he lost or how much he may have lost.
The not knowing is driving him crazy. But he believes he’s found a way to restore those lost memories, and more. He enlists the “help” of priest turned geomancer, Grigori Zargo and neurosurgeon, Dr. Elsa Orloff to reach his goals. The two work on separate projects that seem unrelated but are both about finding an ancient reserve of memory that Doom is certain exists. He wants to access this reserve and gain not only his lost memories but all the memories that have ever been, giving him true omniscience and omnipotence.
Doom has Zargo use his geomancy skills to track the hidden reserve through the earth to where it is hidden. Meanwhile, Orloff is set the task of collecting and interpreting brain waves from some very unusual subjects. Somehow, using a combination of sorcery and science, Doctor Doom has found a way to extract brain waves from corpses, but he needs Orloff’s expertise to decipher them.
Doctor Doom doesn’t really understand what this ancient reserve is or how it’s connected to the memories of the dead. And we all know what happens when evil villains start messing with powers they don’t understand.
Just what is gathering these lost memories and why? There’s a good bet that there’s a reason this collector is locked away. Zargo tries to tell Doom that some things are better left alone but convinced of his own genius, he dismisses Zargo’s warnings. Will his obsession with his lost memories lead to the destruction of Latveria?
An unsettling contradiction when a Marvel villain must also be a hero
Okay, Victor von Doom is a bad guy, right? We can all agree on that. But Annadale puts us, the readers, in the weird position of rooting for Doctor Doom in Reign of the Devourer. Because of course, Doom’s actions have far graver consequences than he intends. And Latveria is almost completely destroyed because of them. There’s no doubt that everything that happens is Doom’s fault. But he’s also intent on stopping the monster he unleashes and saving his citizens. In a weird (and very reminiscent of abusers) way, Doom truly wants his subjects to lead happy, safe lives. So long as they’re completely subservient to him and doing exactly what he wants them to do, that is.
Because of this strange dichotomy and because the monster that he releases is so much worse than him, you want him to prevail. You want him to win each battle and when the monster pulls one over on Doom, you’re sad. Of course, I was mostly sad for the poor citizens of Latveria who were experiencing hell once again, thanks to Doom.
But I also knew that those same citizens were not going to be able to save themselves, they needed Doom to save them. So as much as I wanted Doom put in his place with a defeat, I wanted him to win more so that the innocent civilians would be okay (Yes, I know they’re not real, so what?).
It really was weird to want Doctor Doom to win. Especially because so much of what he was doing and thinking I really didn’t like. But at the same time, he did want what was best (in his opinion) for his subjects. It was interesting to see the working of his mind and to find myself emphasizing with, at least the sentiment of his desires, if not his means of obtaining them. It got me thinking that if we would spend a little more time actually listening to each other we would find we have common ground than we think we do.
Reign of the Devourer – a surprise horror book
Going in I expected Reign of the Devourer to be a battle book and that Doom would be fighting some tyrant known as “the Devourer”. To my surprise, “The Devourer” was a monster (yes, in hindsight the name was a bit of a giveaway) and Annandale wrote a horror story, not a war tale.
There was a big bad monster and also the minions that worked for the bad guy running around causing chaos. This combo was a great move on Annandale’s part because it made The Devourer a worthy opponent for Doctor Doom in a way that a simple vampire or werewolf could never have.
An unexpectedly enjoyable experience
Now I don’t mean I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Reign of the Devourer. What I mean is that I thought it would be only an “okay” book but it ended up being a “pretty good” book instead. I wasn’t expecting the horror aspect to the story at all but it was a very welcome angle. Of course, the only way to make Doom a relatable protagonist was to set him up against an even worse baddie.
Annandale’s decision to go the horror route was an unusual choice, which made it more exciting and enjoyable. It was also nice not to see Doom being thrown against the Fantastic Four like he usually is. Having a different adversary really elevated the story, and allowed us to root for Doom’s victory instead of his downfall. I really liked going down this different path with Annandale. Doctor Doom fans and horror fans will both find Reign of the Devourer an exciting read.
My Rating: 8/10
Reign of the Devourer: A Marvel Untold Novel by David Annandale is available now. Are you interested in checking it out? Stay tuned for another Doctor Doom review from an upcoming Aconyte novel coming soon! Let us know your thoughts on Twitter or in the Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review of Into The Dark Dimension: A Crisis Protocol Novel!