Publisher: Aconyte Books (Ebook – 2 May 2023)
Series: Marvel Untold
Length: 254 pages
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Two of Marvel’s greatest villains square off in this highly entertaining tie-in novel from talented author David Annandale, The Tyrant Skies.
As most people familiar with this blog will know, I am a man who loves a good tie-in novel, be it related to Star Wars, Star Trek or Warhammer. However, one genre of tie-in books that I haven’t had a great deal experience with is those based around comic books, having only read a few in recent years, such as Loki: Where Mischief Lies by Mackenzi Lee and Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Mass. However, that looks set to change as I was recently lucky enough to receive a couple of particularly fun Marvel tie-in novels through Netgalley. The first of these is The Tyrant Skies by David Annandale, which focuses on the always awesome supervillain, Doctor Doom. Introduced as part of the Marvel Untold novel sub-series, The Tyrant Skies is the third Doctor Doom novel by Annandale, who previously released The Harrowing of Doom and Reign of the Devourer. This third novel also has a great story to it as it sees Doom face off against an old rival, the Red Skull.
After defeating the deadly monsters that haunted his realm, Victor Von Doom has established peace within Latveria. However, this peace is short-lived as a new danger begins to rise in the world, one with an unhealthy obsession with both Latveria and Doom. The newly formed island nation of Wolkenland has just revealed itself to the world and quickly establishes itself as a playground for the rich and powerful, while also appearing to offer new lives for the world’s dispossessed. However, Wolkenland hides a dark secret at its heart: it’s true ruler is the insane fascist Red Skull.
Still enraged by his failed invasion of Latveria and his humiliating defeat at the hands of Doom, Red Skull is determined to gain revenge on his enemies by using the influence and power of Wolkenland. Utilising advanced technology and cosmic power, Red Skull transports Wolkenland to float above Latveria and begins a deadly invasion to capture the country and its advanced technology.
Doom’s only choice is to travel to Wolkenland and confront Red Skull directly, but even the might of Doctor Doom is unable to face the full power his enemy has amassed. With his country threatened, his body weakened, and the only woman he ever loved held hostage on Wolkenland, Doom will need to use every bit of cunning, intelligence and manipulation in his possession to face down the Red Skull. But even if he succeeds, the Red Skull has an ace up his sleeve that could destroy Latveria and break the entire world.
This was a pretty solid and deeply enjoyable novel from Annandale that tells a great story while also referencing some interesting elements from classic Marvel comics. The story in The Tyrant Skies follows on a degree from Annandale’s last two novels and this time sees Doctor Doom and his country facing an insidious invasion from the Red Skull and his new island fortress. The story advances at a pretty awesome pace, and the early highlights include Doom invading Wolkenland and unleashing his trademark havoc upon his foes. After the necessary setback for the protagonist, the story evolves into an intriguing phase with a de-powered Doom leading a slave rebellion against Red Skull, while down in Latveria several of the series’ supporting characters fight off the invasion using tools featured in the prior books. The action and intrigue were pretty non-stop the entire way through, and Annandale keeps the reader hooked to the book with some amazing and elaborate sequences. I personally loved some of the twists that developed, especially as Annandale brings in a couple of foes that haven’t been seen in comics for a very long time, and it was great to see how Doom faced off against them. The story does get pretty big and explosive at times, and I liked some of the great underlying examinations of tolerance, fascism and the vices of the mega-rich, all of which were used to great effect to make Doom, the brutal and deadly tyrant, actually seem like the good guy. The author ends everyone on a pretty compelling note, and I ended up coming away from The Tyrant Skies fairly happy with the cool action-filled and entertaining story that Annandale served up.
As I mentioned before, The Tyrant Skies serves as the third book in an intriguing trilogy from Annandale that dives into Doom’s connection to his country as well as his own dark ambitions and adversaries. I felt that The Tyrant Skies continued this story thread extremely well, and it was interesting to see how several of the recurring characters and their storylines developed as a result. However, Annandale also makes The Tyrant Skies quite accessible to new readers as well, and if this your first Marvel novel you can dive into it with very little prior knowledge about the series. While substantial comic or Fantastic Four knowledge isn’t needed to enjoy this book, Annandale does fill the story with several compelling references to previous comics, some of which were published a very long time ago. Not only does the origin of Doom and Red Skull’s feud emerge from the pages of these older comics, but there are references to Doom’s dark relationship with Valeria, especially her death in the main comics, as well as other previous adventures. Annandale also pulls one particularly intriguing feature out of a very old, obscure comic by Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber and Stan Lee, which I had honestly never heard about. The author’s fun description about this somewhat absurd comic will get a chuckle out of aficionados of classic comics who will appreciate the intriguing references. Annandale’s love for all things comic related really shines through with his writing, and I loved how he was able to effectively describe and bring to life several scenes that would usually need a full comic spread to appreciate. I personally thought this was an outstanding and very clever tie-in to the larger Marvel universe and The Tyrant Skies is a great book to check out no matter how connected you are to source material.
Of course, one of the major parts of The Tyrant Skies is Annandale’s excellent portrayal of Victor von Doom, who steals any scene he is in. Doom is probably one of the best villains (or anti-heroes, depending at how you look at him) in the entire Marvel canon, so anything featuring him is bound to be good (excluding a few Fantastic Four movies). Annandale’s use of Doom in The Tyrant Skies is pretty spot on, and he shows the protagonist at his full power and intelligence. I love the sheer arrogance and pride that dominates much of Doom’s character, and every scene shown from Doom’s point of view works to highlight this. Annandale also looks deep into the powers and abilities of Doom, puling out some interesting elements of his abilities over the years. Not only do you get to appreciate the technological prowess of Doom, but Annandale also makes sure to fully feature his magical skills, something which the mainstream media usually avoids, and even his old-school abilities to hypnotise people. However, the best part of Doom is his sheer intelligence as he manages to outsmart anyone he goes up against, even when disadvantaged in other ways. There are some great scenes when a de-powered and vulnerable Doom manages to secretly organise and inspire a slave revolt and lead his new followers on a deadly rampage against a superior foe. Watching him succeed in controlling everyone just with his sheer force of personality while tactically outthinking his opponents was pretty damn epic and it really captures just how impressive Doom can be as a character.
Aside from Doom, there are several other great characters featured throughout The Tyrant Skies that add a lot to the story. This includes the infamous villain of the story, the Red Skull, who serves as a great foil to Doom in this book. Few villains can make Doom look like a sane, noble and reasonable figure, but the Red Skull is one of them, especially in Annandale’s hands. The author seeks to make Red Skull as evil and diabolical as possible, causing chaos and initiating world-ending plots for petty reasons and prior defeats. I loved seeing the rivalry between Doom and Red Skull that formed the basis for much of the novel, and the author did a great job capturing the hatred they both have for the other. It was interesting to see Red Skull’s methods against Doom in this book, and he proves to be a very dangerous opponent, able to outsmart Doom at several turns, which works to make the novel pretty compelling and fun. As such, Red Skull is a very impressive villain for this book and it was really something to see these two iconic figures square off once again.
I felt that the rest of the cast, which includes a combination of some over-the-top second-tier villains and several recurring figures from Annandale’s existing novels, were worked into the plot well, and there are some great scenes, especially with the characters of Doctor Elsa Orloff and Captain Kariana Verlak, who have become heroic figures within Latveria during the last two books. I also deeply appreciated the inclusion of Valeria, Doom’s long-lost love, who is a key part of his origin story. The powerful reunion the two have in this novel is quite impressive, especially as it is clear that Doom still has feelings for Valeria, despite her reluctance to trust him and his nature. This was a very interesting inclusion, especially considering how their story spun out in the comics, and I am glad that the author attempted to dive into this older character element of Doom. Throw in some craven, evil and incompetent members of the uber-wealthy, many of whom are parodies of certain business owners, and The Tyrant Skies proved to be a very rich novel in terms of character, and I liked the wider story elements that emerged thanks to this cool alternate focus.
Overall, The Tyrant Skies is an outstanding and highly entertaining novel that perfectly ties into the larger Marvel universe. I deeply enjoyed how David Annandale set two of the genre’s best villains against each other in this novel, and I had a ton of fun with the thrilling encounters that emerged. Featuring a great blend of story development, references to classic comics, and amazing portrayals of Doctor Doom and the Red Skull, The Tyrant Skies has something for all comic book fans, and you are guaranteed to have a fantastic time getting through this amazing novel.