Dark Avengers #6 arrived last week.  What does Marlowe Lewis think of the issue?

23_DARK_AVENGERS_6.jpgNorman Osborn calls a meeting of his Cabal to discuss the appropriate response to the Atlantean attack on surface installations that took place in the previous issue and the various members reactions to his proposed retribution plan is not exactly what he expected. Deciding to try his luck with another tack, Osborn unleashes the Void persona from the Sentry’s subconscious and sends it off to almost totally annihilate the undersea opposition. The final page of the tale illustrates that perhaps Mr Reynolds is not the only one in the Dark Avengers whose grip on reality is paper thin.

I truly believe that Herr Doktor Paul Eugen Bleuler would have loved to have had simultaneous access to both Norman Osborn and Robert Reynolds. The eminent Swiss psychiatrist was the person who originally coined the term schizophrenia and for him to witness the interactions between these two completely different psychotic personalities, I think, would have been both personally interesting and professionally satisfying. They would have given him years of fruitful study and if the good doctor did eventually get bored he could then have his pick of all the other murderous killer personalities who inhabit the Cabal or the Dark Avengers. There must surely be several doctoral dissertations worth of material amongst all those crazed characters.

Unfortunately Dr Blueler, who died in 1939, inhabited the real world and not Marvel’s fictional macrocosm, and even though he lived long enough to witness the birth of the comic book superhero there is no written record of his reaction to that particular phenomena, so the Goblin and the Sentry will have to look elsewhere if they truly desire a cure for their similar brain blights. The Dark Avengers do of course already have a qualified psychiatrist, Dr Karla Sofen, on their team but the chances of the director of H.A.M.M.E.R  putting himself under her not so tender care are about as remote as the Andromeda galaxy.

Its established fact that the beginning of all therapeutic psychopathic cures is a conversation. The doctor needs to understand exactly what the patient is experiencing before a remedy treatment suggests itself and so they must talk to their patient. Brian Bendis implicitly understands this. He is famously good at writing believable parlance and this issue, apart from the speech balloon free undersea attack sequence, is all about his lead character, Norman Osborn, talking to people.

He starts off by conversing to the various constituents of the Cabal. They are all strong personalities and his usual way of handling them is to build a consensus of mutual cooperation but this time the pressure of recent events is getting to Norman. Although he does begin the presentation with his usual rational measured tone he makes a serious judgment in error and yells an instruction at Namor. The self control is soon back but long time observers of this character know the deep seated rage inside this man and for a few seconds that came to the surface, foreshadowing what is to come later on in the book. Norman knows that he is not the physical equal of Namor but his overwhelming feeling of superiority means that he believes it’s possible to out think his opponent and in that way control him. Words are his amour and they are much more potent that his Iron Patriot garb.

His second discourse is with his assistant Victoria Hand and its important in here because it shows Norman utilizing that other vital conversational skill:- listening. Most people in their day to day lives don’t accurately listen to the other half of a conversation. They are more often waiting for the other person to stop talking long enough so that they can interject with their own thoughts. Listening is an art that every good manger needs to have and this scene shows Osborn not only judiciously hearing what was said to him but instantly assessing its worth and quickly acting upon it.

The next parlay is done on two levels. There are only two voices involved in the discussion but there are four distinct personalities using them. On the surface we have the Iron Patriot instructing the Sentry to extract retribution for the terrorist attack but underneath its really one psychotic personality communicating with another one. Osborn is skating on the same thin ice that he was previously with Namor but he is not in any way worried or afraid. Robert Reynolds has a very high level of meta-power and could quite easily kill Norman but words again are a power to be reckoned with. He reaches down into the Sentry’s mind and opens the cage door for the Void. (It’s no accident that in the panel where Reynolds mentions his other personalities name out loud we only see black holes where his eyeballs should be.) Osborn is using his voice in the same way a stage hypnotist would tell an unwilling audience participant to stand on their head. The Green Goblin does feels simpatico with the Void but that doesn’t stop him from manipulating that deadly force for his own twisted purposes. Norman appears to believe that the correct combination of words is all that is needed to contain the Sentry but I foresee a day coming when Robert becomes incapable of listening to anyone and in that moment Mr Osborn may swiftly come to regret his verbal alacrity.

Later on, after placating the President about an appropriate military response to the Atlantean attack, we see Osborn having a rapid fire discourse with Sofen. He questions her about Captain Marvel’s absence but this time it’s not the actual words he uses that convey his real meaning – it’s the particular tone he uses that’s the true pointer to his emotional state. The Dark Avengers were not present at his earlier ardent outburst so this was the first time that they have witnessed him so upset and they just appeared puzzled but Moonstone sees the situation much more clearly than that. She is after all a fully trained psychiatrist and has presumably heard many of her disturbed patients use the selfsame tonal paroxysm. She well knows Osborn’s personal history and the violence that he is capable of and in two particularly great panels Mike Deodato magnificently captures both her fear and understanding of the new reality inside Normans mind. She used that other psychiatric diagnostic tool – an understanding of the patient’s body language to make a diagnosis and she is unhappy with what she sees.

The final conversation in the story is one eloquently captured in the last panel. It’s only now that we realize that during all of the other previous discussions that we have seen there has been another one taking place simultaneously and constantly in the deep background. Norman split personality has been talking to itself. We don’t know at this stage how long this has been going on but it must be a while because Osborn is obviously reeling under the onslaught of this constant voice inside his head. He is still barely in control but how long that he can retain the supremacy of his own psyche is open for debate. The ironic thing is that Norman knows that the weapon he has successfully used against the other forces arrayed against him – i.e. words, will not work with this foe because those are the very things that are destroying his sanity.

I give this book three stars.



About Author

Marlowe Lewis is old. I mean really, really old. So old in fact, that the first ever sequential art that he ever saw was when his lifelong friend in their small clan began painting bison on the cave walls. This was a true turning point in his life. Firstly, he was immediately and irrevocably hooked on the visual arts, and secondly he discovered another use for dried bison dung. Marlowe Lewis is British. This is not an apology.


  1. I was a bit disappointed in this issue. Going by the cover, I expected Marvel Boy vs. Dire Wraiths rather than Sentry vs. generic Atlantean terrorists.

    Dire Wraiths > Atlanteans

  2. The cover definitely annoyed me too. Also this series would make me feel betther if I knew when the end was coming….like if it was a 12-issue mini. I feel like they’re going to drag it out for as long as they can….

  3. I’m sure much like the last issue of Star Brand and Marvel’s Transformers, the last issue of Dark Avengers will have a “#(Fill in the blank) In A (Fill in the blank) Limited Series” cover gag.

  4. Why do you want it to end (Brother 129)?

    As long as Marvel has a good reason too keep the book around after Dark Reign, this “Avengers” team is here to stay. But I wonder what the roster will look like when Dark Reign is over?

  5. Keeping this title going would mean that we’re okay with the bad guys running the Marvel U. All of this to me will be interesting for no longer than a year and I’ll be looking for another change in the status quo. I’m actually tired of watching the good guys lose straight for the last four years or so. Yes, I’m counting House of M, Civil War, World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, and now Dark Reign as losses.

    My other problem is that we have four Avengers books. They are all somewhat compelling on their own, but I think we could condense some lineups and storylines here and there. I guess my ultimate question always is if this is all going anywhere. And by “anywhere” I do not mean the next big event….

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