Review: Dark Avengers #1


Or – “Oh, Brave New World, That Has Such $@&$ers In It…”


In the wake of Secret Invasion, we’re faced with a new Marvel Universe, a world in which a megalomaniac is running the superhuman task force…  so, not much different, actually.  Marvel’s FOURTH ongoing Avengers title makes it’s debut this issue, proving that Brian Bendis can actually decompress on single storyline so far that it becomes it’s own line of comics.

DA1.jpgPreviously, on Dark Avengers:  Everything has changed.  Tony Stark proved to be more arrogant than he ever was smart, turning over Avengers Tower and many of his own personal holdings to SHIELD so that the government would foot his bills, which led to the federales repossessing much of his property as their own.  Ousted as the head of SHIELD, sent on the run, Tony was replaced by one Norman Osborn, until recently the head of the Thunderbolts, and a minor inconvenience.  Now, Norman owns Avengers Tower, a claim on the name Avengers, as well as a secret vault that no one has been able to open.  With the world finally in his grasp, Norman prepares to soldify his power base, to finally put the masked heroes that have made his life so annoying down for good.  All it takes is a little help from his friends, a few old favors cashed in, and a couple cans of red, white and blue paint…

This issue starts with Morgaine Le Fay, scrying through the timestream to see the man who betrayed her, Vic Von Doom, in his meeting with Norman O and the other Illumi-Naughty members.  We cut from this often seen moment to the introduction of YET ANOTHER team of Avengers, with familiar faces across the board.  We cut back into the past to the moment where Norman takes over the operations of SHIELD, hiring a new assistant, ordering her to change the name of the orgainzation to HAMMER, to destroy Tony’s gold and red personal helicarrier, decommission the Cape Killer units, put together a list of subversives, Fury loyalists, Stark loyalists, and any other malcontents.  Oh, and also to figure out what HAMMER could stand for.  Heh…  He fires Maria Hill, sends Bullseye for a costume fitting, and when Ms. Marvel gets in his face and threatens to quit, introduces her to two Avengers who agreed to work for him:  Ares and The Sentry.  Which means that his “Cut It In Half With A Giant Axe” and “Throw It Into The Sun” portions of the program are covered. 

Carol leaves, and Norman smirks that there’s other Ms. Marvels where she came from, immediately heading for Thunderbolts Mountain, and recruiting Moonstone.  While there, he administers a drug to Venom that allows him to control the symbiote a bit better, morphing down into a slightly more muscular version of Spider-Man in the black costume.  He heads for New Orleans, to hire a young man named Daken (aka Mega-Damage Wolverine) only to be shocked that the kid is Wolverine’s actual son.   Ares snorts openly, remarking “Just can’t imagine a woman who’d let that ferret climb on top of–” before the kid pops his claws and threatens to kill them all, before Norman offers him a job.  He then hires Noh-Varr of the Kree, but thinks something is still missing.  “Captain America.  Iron Man,” grunts Ares.  “The soldier and the knight…  They are symbols that people gather behind…”  Normie realizes that the big gork has a point, and (lucky for him) his three o’clock meeting arrives on time.  The meet?  Former Iron Man villain, now-Thunderbolt, known as the Ghost, who breaks into the secret hidden vault to find…  Armor.  A version of every armor that Iron Man has ever worn, lined up in a row like the world’s heaviest Christmas present.  Across the ocean in Latveria, we see Victor Von Doom retruning home to his castle, only to immediately be attacked by Morgaine.  Cut back to the press conference, as the team is revealed.  Captain Marvel (aka Noh-Varr)!  The Sentry!  Ms. (Moonstone) Marvel!  Ares!  Wolverine (Junior)!  Hawkeye (Bullseye in a new suit)!  The Amazing Spider-Man (Venom)!  And their leader, the Iron Patriot, pulls off his helm and smiles.  “My name is Norman Osborn, and I approve these Avengers!”

Hmmm.  Hmmmmmmm…  I don’t know what to make of this debut.  On the one hand, it’s a briliant piece of treachery on the part of Norman, and a very complex and nuanced situation to use a the premise for a new super-team.  Unfortunately, it requires us to believe that Tony Stark, futurist, is a titanic window-licker, that the entire government can be duped as easily as a little blonde college girl can be coaxed out of her miniskirt, and, most importantly, that no one will be able to tell the difference between these knockoffs and their real counterparts.  The last one, sadly, is most believable…  Norman’s character in this issue is the real star, trying to decode the complexity that is the superhero into something he can break down and amass personal power and cash from.  The doppelganger situation makes Marvel’s already tangled antecedents even more so, as Noh-Varr becomes (I think) the ninth Captain Marvel, Bullseye the third Hawkeye (with BOTH the other ones still active) as well as Daken in his dad’s old brown suit.  The reveal that Ares sides with Norman came as no surprise, and it was actually sad to see Sentry being so obviously manipulated by a bastard like the artist formerly known as the Green Goblin.  Overall, this issue worked on the strength of the dialogue, some nice artwork from Mike Deodato (finally toning down his “stunt-casting”) and sheer venom (as well as sheer Venom.)  Dark Avengers #1 was a surprisingly enjoyable story for me, earning a somewhat shocking 4 out of 5 stars.  If they can keep this from degenerating into supervillain cliches, this book could become one of the best things Marvel has to offer…