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

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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…

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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14 Comments

  1. Gaumer
    January 30, 2009 at 12:15 am — Reply

    Totally agree with everything in the review.

    I loved the point you bring up about how stupid the citizens of the Marvel U must be to accept all this crap. Besides everything else, Norman Osbourne is a known killer.

    I think Marvel should really do a book that explains it away. Maybe how the media is involved. Oh, my bad they tried that ‘Frontline’ and it got suckier with every issue after the first one during Civil War.

    But with Mighty Avengers not sucky this week too, Marvel should deliver a new ‘assemble the team’ book more often.

  2. Randallw
    January 30, 2009 at 4:23 am — Reply

    As a long term Thunderbolts reader I love how the whole thing is basically a Thunderbolts spin off, and we still get Thunderbolts (the latest issue of which was good)

    I really thought for a few panels that Spiderman would just be a Skrull for hire, even though I had already assumed it would be Venom.

    I used to get Avengers until I quit in boredom, so Ares not caring who he works for me is great. After all when Tony Stark hired him all he cared about was he get paid more an hour than his last job.

  3. MaximusRift
    January 30, 2009 at 6:33 am — Reply

    So how long do you think this book will last? I mean, does this mean that Dark Reign is here to stay for more than a year or will this end in 10 to 15 issues.

  4. Salieri
    January 30, 2009 at 7:36 am — Reply

    They already did this storyline, on a smaller scale, in the 90s, with Howard Mackie on writing. It wasn’t a big event, but it featured Osborn buying out the Daily Bugle, nurturing his estranged Grandson, hiring Ben Urich to help him exonerate the Osborn name, and turning some random lab rat into a gooey plastic man so that he could dress up as the Goblin and they could appear in the same room together.

    The issue was resolved when (sigh) Osborn went even MORE insane, dressed up as the Goblin again, and attempted to bomb down the very newspaper he was making money off of. While anyone who saw him take the mask off afterward was killed by his goons, the public remained blissfully unaware of whether he was the Goblin or not until recent times, when…er…they lost me.

    I wouldn’t credit the MU public as being too stupid, as they have been cowed by Osborn’s talk of “Redemption” back in Ellis’ T-Bolts…as well as, say, the Secretary of Defence being the Red Freaking Skull. Oh, and don’t forget that Quesada comment where he said that most of them, pre-Secret Invasion, didn’t actually believe in aliens…

  5. morpheus11
    January 30, 2009 at 8:59 am — Reply

    I think the MU public aren’t playing stupid. They think that Osborn has reformed, like everyone thinks criminals can do, and he has put together a group of super-heroes. Why would the public not think that these people (dressed like the other heroes) aren’t who they say they are. Osborn will have to make sure that he controls his team to make sure they don’t ruin the charade.

    I really liked this title and I am excited to see where it can go. I think it would be fun if some of the characters fell into the “supervillain cliches” and this forces Osborn to explain it away to keep public acceptance.

    I hope that this is a long running series and this isn’t just another event that will run for a year and then end. Anyway, I will be keeping this title on my pull list.

  6. Ricco
    January 30, 2009 at 10:21 am — Reply

    What I would love is to see what Baron Zemo think of what’s become of his Thunderbolts, he’s been back since “Thunderbolts presents: Zemo born better” my guess is this is what will bring him back to the Marvel U.

    Wasn’t Iron Patriot the alias Captain America used when he lost his powers and put on an identical suit of Iron Man armor as Osborn?

    All in all a better start for “70% cocoa dark chocolat reign with almods… and possibly caramel” then “Dark Reign: New Nation” was.

  7. Brian McQueary
    January 30, 2009 at 10:43 am — Reply

    Wait, Tony Stark has NO way of regaining control of his armor if it falls into the wrong hands? Nor does he have any way to destroy said armor? C’mon! Tony would have protocol after protocol to destroy his tech if the enemy were to gain control.

  8. January 30, 2009 at 12:52 pm — Reply

    Haha…”proving that Brian Bendis can actually decompress on single storyline so far that it becomes it’s own line of comics.” That made me chuckle.

    Good review. I enjoyed the issue as well.

  9. Brother129
    January 30, 2009 at 12:53 pm — Reply

    Obviously, a lot of what we’re reading is a bit of political allegory. Regardless of his villainous past (whether it be from a coporate or supervillain standpoint), Norman Osborn has risen to power because of his ability to fear monger and be the @$$hole that others are afraid to be. We don’t like it because we tend to see him as the Green Goblin. But let’s remember it was Peter Parker (who isn’t popular in his own right in the Marvel U) who went to great lengths to conceal Norman’s sinister identity and protect his reputation because of friendship with Harry. Of course now he gets to see that decision come back to bite him in the butt. The Parker luck indeed.

    What isn’t plausible is that the heroes didn’t mobilize IMMEDIATELY to take Norman Osborn out of power the moment he resurfaced. I do think it would be cool to see Spider-Man have a critical role in taking him down.

  10. Randallw
    January 30, 2009 at 6:13 pm — Reply

    “turning some random lab rat into a gooey plastic man so that he could dress up as the Goblin and they could appear in the same room together. ”

    That might explain the end of Thunderbolts’ last issue.

  11. Ricco
    January 30, 2009 at 6:28 pm — Reply

    @Randallw: I’m pretty sure it’s that guy from the Loners, you know the one guy who was the GOOD Green Goblin but ultimately went insane…

  12. Samson
    January 30, 2009 at 8:08 pm — Reply

    I enjoyed the issue, and was fine with pretty much everything presented. However, I can think of two Bendis-penned issues in which every suit of Iron Man armor got destroyed (New Avengers Annual #1 aka Super-Adaptoid Black Widow issue and one of the early Mighty Avenger issues). Why would Stark, a futurist, keep building obsolete suits?

  13. Ricco
    January 30, 2009 at 8:50 pm — Reply

    Obsolete tech is a plus, for exemple the fact that he kept an old armor around allowed Skrull Hank to defeat Ultron in the first arc of Mighty Avengers. New software means new protections, but they seldom have any type of protection against obsolete technologie, sort of like how a top of the line kevlar vest can be penetrated by a bolt from a crossbow, simply because it not tech a cop/soldier usually faces.

    If the protocols are too old you can bet top of the line computer’s don’t have any sort of protection against it.

    Even War Machine’s armor survived Invasion because it was made of old tech.

  14. mosdef
    January 30, 2009 at 11:08 pm — Reply

    i agree with brother129. but, i think the civilians of the marvel u and pretty retarded. he the green goblin for petes(no pun intended)sake. As soon as Osborne was put into power alll the heroes should have done something, yeah hate Iron Man, but after you take out the obvious bad guy who got lucky with the shot heard round the world. I love the series though, its so Normon Osborne how long will it last is the question

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