Since Millar has stated in his interview at CBR that this series will tie in with the future arc in the FF called "Doom's Masters", I suppose it is appropriate to start a discussion about this series here.
Setting aside my less than glowing opinion of the recently concluded opening arc of Millar/Hitch's FF, I have been anxious to read this 6 issue limited series. Millar has stated he had completed this about 3 years ago and it makes me wonder what took them so long to publish this, assuming that 3 years ago it wasn't hinted that he would be writing the FF. I recall seeing the original promo art (which I recently stumbled across on my PC) around that time with very little being leaked about the story itself.
Ever since FF Annual #3, I have always had a fondness for covers that with the kitchen sink philosophy of throwing in as many characters on the cover as you can so I picked the Jim Cheung variant that features Magneto, Doctor Doom, Titania, Ultron, the Red Skull, the Juggernaut and another dozen or so of ne'er do wells.
Right off the bat, I loved the splash page showing Stan and Jack in silhouette and Tommy Lee Edwards photo-realism style works well here, as it does throughtout most of the book. Ironically, his depiction of some of the fictional characters, like the last page appearance of the Hulk, were less impressive. But that's just a minor complaint.
The story opens with the lead character Toby at his local comic book shop getting up to speed on the storyline in 1985's "Secret War", which is up to the point where Doom has taken on the Beyonder and succeeded in stealing his powers. I am sure there is a reason why "1985" starts at this point in "Secret War" that will become clear as the story progresses.
Toby is from a broken family and his stepfather is a more successful provider than his bio dad. I like that the two dads are not in contention with each other and Toby's dad tells him he doesn't have to prove any loyalties to him by hating the stepfather. It turns out that Toby's father knew the family that owned the mysterious house that suddenly has a lot of new tenants. I have to wonder if the former playmate of Toby's Dad, Clyde Wyncham will play a bigger role later on. He had a comic book collection, left behind in the deserted house, that dates back to Fantastic Four #1. Ironically, it is the Mole Man that wants to give this collection away to Toby, as the Red Skull is glimpsed from a window looking out at the scene by the youngster. Later, there are reports on the news of a bird man (The Vulture) being seen around the town.
Initially, Toby thinks these characters are just some weirdos dressing up like the Marvel characters but the Vulture sighting convinces him that something is afoot and he figures the old Wyncham place is at the bottom of it. He sets out alone to play "Nancy Drew", as his skeptical friend puts it. No sooner does he reach the house than he finds himself eavesdropping on Doctor Doom ranting to the Mole Man about the "living out here in this miserable hovel with you and your idiot cohorts". This little row between the two was the highlight of the story for me, with the Mole Man trying to placate a pissed off Victor. There are references to doing the bidding of "The Great Man" by Mole Man and Victor's natural refusal to march to his tune and Doom states "his mutant powers have no influence over me". Toby's audible reaction to an engery blast from Doom's gauntlets gives him away and he dashes off into the woods, only to bump into the Incredible Hulk.
So far, the premise in this story is a good one and the opening chapter has me curious as to who the "Great Man" is...the Beyonder perhaps? I will be picking up the rest of this one.