Or – “How To Do A Crossover…”

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Hey, look!  It’s the much-awaited return of AVENGERS DOUBLE-FEATURE!!!  For some months now, the Olympian known as Ares has remained unaware of the activities that his son has been engaging in with Nick Fury’s Secret Warriors.  That situation is about to change, and the God of War is about to register his discontent with Nicholas J. Fury.  Parent/Teacher conferences have never been this interesting…

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Previously, on Dark Avengers:  Norman Osborn’s personal strikeforce has had a busy couple of months, battling the New Avengers on a matter of principle, working a police action in San Francisco against Scott Summers and nearly every surviving mutant, and basically keeping their Q-rating as high as possible with constant public attention.  During that time, Ares has been unaware that his son, Alex aka Phobos, has been undertaking missions with Nick Fury’s Secret Warriors (despite both being present at the battle against the Skrulls during the Secret Invasion, I believe.)  After the battle with the X-Men, the Sentry is barely functional, Bullseye has been or is about to be repeatedly shot in the chest by Clint Barton, Venom is/will be/recently has been defenestrated, and even the mighty Norman Osborn is getting more unstable by the second.  As for this Avengers teams resident deity, Ares is recovering from being beaten down and fought to a standstill by everyone from Spider-Man to Dani Moonstar.  Finally getting a moment to himself, Ares of Olympus has returned home to his apartment to check in on his kid.  Given that his father figure is Zeus, known for sleeping with everything including a goose, I’m actually a little bit surprised that he’s THAT good a father, to be honest…

As this issue begins, we find Norman’s right-hand woman, Victoria Hand knocking on the door of the armor vault that Norm claimed as his own after Tony Stark vacated Avengers Mansion.  “Not now!” snaps Norman, and Victoria lies to the Secretary of Defense that he’s on a mission.  As Victoria leaves, a quiet voice comes from the vault…  “Victoria…  I think I need some help.”  Looks like the Summers mission took more out of Iron Patriot that he wants anyone to realize.  At home in the Bronx, Ares wakes his boy, and they have an awkward breakfast together.  Bendis really nails the whole sequence, as Alexander quietly asks his father about the events of “Exodus” and whether attacking the mutants was the right thing to do.  “Some people think [Norman Osborn] is some kind of monster,” the boy insists, and Ares just laughs that Alex should meet his grandfather.  Alex tries to ask questions, but Ares roars at him, and storms away…  It’s an effective scene, one of the best Bendis conversations in recent memory.

As soon as dad is gone, Alex is picked up by agent Daisy whatserface, and heads off to the latest Fury safehouse, where they find that the former head of SHIELD has a stack of reading for them to digest.  Before they get down to business, though, Ares kicks the door in and hacks his way to Fury.  Secret Warrior Hellfire attacks, and is knocked out in about four seconds flat.  Fury stands his ground as an angry god with an axe confronts him.  “What are you doing down here?  Whare are you doing with my son?”  Fury tersely tells him they’re training, and Alex pleads with dear old dad that the world is a mess.  Nick asks everybody to clear out so the grownups can talk, and Ares goes from rabid warrior to hesitant father.  Fury gives it to him straight:  the kid is powerful, and has the potential to do great things in the world.  Eyes downcast, Ares tells Fury that he had to flee his father to find out who he really is, and he doesn’t want Alex to have to do that with him.  “I’ve long since learned not tell immortals what to do,” says Fury, and Ares asks his son point blank what he wants.  When the response comes that he wants to work with Fury, Ares turns and leaves, with only a brief warning for Fury.  “If this boy dies in battle with you…that won’t stop his grandfather from striking you down and making it his pleasure to watch you burn in the fire of Hades.”  Nick and his team head for the high ground, as Ares stalks away.  Back at Avengers Tower, the Sentry comes home only to have faithful wife Lindy SHOOT HIS FACE OFF with an alien weapon she got from Noh-Varr! 

Oh, my…  This issue totally makes up for the muddle of Mighty Avengers, as Brian Michael B. shows off his chops throughout.  Taking a character like Ares and giving him an authentic voice is a real achievement, and the standoff between Fury and the goddawar is tense and fascinating, as two veteran soldiers size each other up.  The tidbits about Osborn, Sentry, Noh-Varr and even a discussion about Spider-Man’s sense of humor (Bullseye points out that the web-head is funny when you’re in the mood, prompting Venom to snark, “then I’m NEVER in the mood.”  Heh…) are well-handled.  There’s nearly as much going on here as there was in Mighty, but the pacing and breakdown of events is much more controlled and greatly effective.  Mike Deodato’s art is excellent throughout this issue, and the transition from angry Ares shattering concrete to worried father is really an amazing bit of artwork.  Dark Avengers #9 earns a very impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars overall, and really giving me a reason to anticipate the next issue.  Dark Avengers is making a case for itself as the best of the Avengers titles…

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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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13 Comments

  1. ~wyntermute~
    September 23, 2009 at 11:13 pm — Reply

    Yup. That shot-inna-face came TOTALLY out of left field, and I loved it! And I actually LIKE SuperBob BluePants. He’s making this quite enjoyable for me, and all the ancillary goodness (the Spidey-humor chat, and Normie: Stuck In The Vault) is just icing on the already-yummy cake!

    • September 24, 2009 at 10:42 am — Reply

      The scene of Sentry’s exposed skull and brain was unexpectedly awesome…

  2. Brother129
    September 24, 2009 at 9:19 am — Reply

    I enjoyed this issue too. I love the slow burn lead up to Norman Osborn falling apart. However, I’m totally lost in this Noh-Varr subplot as they have dragged this particular thread out too long. Um kay….when did he give Mrs. Reynolds a gun? Totally missed that one.

    • September 24, 2009 at 10:47 am — Reply

      I enjoyed this issue too. I love the slow burn lead up to Norman Osborn falling apart. However, I’m totally lost in this Noh-Varr subplot as they have dragged this particular thread out too long. Um kay….when did he give Mrs. Reynolds a gun? Totally missed that one.

      Did that happen in the Noh-Varr-centric annual?

  3. September 24, 2009 at 10:22 am — Reply

    I love BMB’s conversational scripting. When he’s good he’s REALLY good.

    • September 24, 2009 at 10:46 am — Reply

      I love BMB’s conversational scripting. When he’s good he’s REALLY good.

      Which is why it’s so incredibly disappointing when he can’t get a voice down, such as Doctor Strange…

  4. Steven R. Stahl
    September 24, 2009 at 2:04 pm — Reply

    The review makes me wonder how many of the people enthusing about DARK AVENGERS #9 have read mainstream fiction. The material (“story” is an inappropriate term) sets up a situation that should be resolved, but isn’t. If I might quote myself:

    DARK AVENGERS #9, for example, doesn’t have a story, per se. Ares’s conflict with his son could be the basis for a story, but the material in D.A. #9 is just a slice of life piece with a little action thrown in. Ares accepting that his son is part of Fury’s team doesn’t deal with Alex’s/Phoobos’s lack of schooling; Fury isn’t a surrogate father, and Ares can’t improve his nonexistent parenting skills if Fury takes care of him. DA #9 presents the illusion of a story.

    If Bendis doesn’t want to deal with the ramifications of having Ares and Alex reside in the (simulation of a) real world, he shouldn’t deal with the real world at all — but the “real world” material is his shtick, even if it’s fraudulent. If Alex doesn’t need social skills appropriate for someone his age, then he shouldn’t be on Earth. He should be on Olympus. As I mentioned along with the quoted material, practically every storyline Bendis does in an AVENGERS title fails badly, because of plot weaknesses, mischaracterizations, factual mistakes, or other problems. In this case, he fails to resolve the situation he initially set up.

    SRS

    • September 24, 2009 at 9:04 pm — Reply

      I think a fundamental misapprehension here is that, these days, I’d consider individual comic issues are much more akin to chapters of traditional fiction, rather than stories unto themselves. I’ve ranted about this to no end, but for now, it seems that “writing for the trades” is the nature of the beast. In addition, I’d argue that Bendis IS giving us resolution of the initial Ares-in-one-camp-Alex-in-the-opposing-camp plot, at least inasmuch as Alexander has now openly declared his intent to defy his father’s path. I also very much liked the use of the usually overly confident Ares as a hesistant single father, giving us another view of a character who is often presented very one-dimensionally.

      Final thought: With all due respect, Steven, you seem to have a pretty big axe to grind with the author, which from my perspective seems to be blinding you to any possible positive aspects of the comic book itself. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. I have a similar blindspot about the works of Alex Ross. But let’s not confuse “I didn’t like this story/writer/work” with condescension towards those who did like it, please. Simply because someone enjoys a story that you consider flawed doesn’t mean that we need to demean said opinion. As always, individual mileage may vary…

      • ~wyntermute~
        September 26, 2009 at 1:47 am — Reply

        As somebody who grinds a pretty big axe sometimes *coughBatmanRIPcough*, I must concur somewhat… This does seem like a “I do not think anything he does is good, so this is bad too” argument. I’m sure I’m not exactly being insightful or anything, but maybe being a “neutral 3rd party” is helpful?

        Anyway, yeah, this issue doesn’t offer a “resolution”, but there are many modern stories that do not end in denouement, or some kind of twisted parody of it. “Fight Club” and “The Usual Suspects” come to mind — we are given and end, yes, but it reveals that the whole ‘story’ up to a certain point is a damned lie. Or consider even the final sentence of the novel “American Psycho” — “THIS IS NOT AN EXIT”. (Really folks, that’s not a spoiler if you haven’t read the book. It looks and sounds like one, but I really don’t think it is. I am truly sorry if it does spoil anything for anybody, but I couldn’t find another example to suit.) It’s one of the modern “devices” in literature, but it is still a literary device which all media are entitled to use. You & I might like stories with an ending (I had a SERIOUS problem with “Batman RIP” not actually ending where it said it did, and ranted kilobytes about it back in tha day), but “stories with an ending” are not the one & only type, nor do they appeal to all readers. :) I’m just sayin. Besides, like Matthew says: It’s probably being “written for the trade”, so we’ll get SOME kind of resolution down the road. I guess that’s the curse of episodic media, hmm? Everything now is for the “season finale” or the “trade paperback”. Or the “complete box set”. Meeh.

        • Steven R. Stahl
          September 26, 2009 at 12:23 pm — Reply

          The primary issue in DARK AVENGERS #9 is the handling of Alex. He’s presented to readers as a child, and so should be treated as a child, not as a midget adult. That requirement invalidates practically everything Bendis does with him. He’s not old enough to choose a path, not old enough to argue with his father, not old enough to hang out with adults, not old enough to get in fights involving ethical and moral issues that he can’t understand, or even old enough to stay at home alone. He is old enough to eat sugary breakfast cereals, watch cartoons, play with kids his own age, etc.

          The “resolution” in DA #9 fails because of all that — makes as much sense as a real-world father sending a child to a military boot camp because he doesn’t have the time to father him properly, or Franklin Richards being a member of the classic Avengers. The real world solution to Ares’s problem would have been to send Alex off to a relative or to hire a full-time nanny while he tried to develop some parenting skills.

          The problems with Alex are separate from the problem with the character concept. Alex/Phobos shouldn’t even exist, because the mythological Phobos came into existence when the other Greek gods did, thousands of years ago.

          When one looks at Bendis’s writing, it’s easier to describe the problems broadly because there are so many small problems in a storyline that one becomes lost in the cloud they form. “Dark Reign” has no theme or solid reason for existing. When I look at it, I see no reason for the event except that it gives Bendis the opportunity to write about villains instead of heroes.

          SRS

          • ~wyntermute~
            September 26, 2009 at 9:29 pm — Reply

            “He’s presented to readers as a child, and so should be treated as a child […]”

            Okay, I think maybe I’ve isolated the problem. What you EXPECT is not what is being delivered, so it is not to your liking? Is that the issue underlying all of this? Because in my experience, children are not all “childish”, nor do all of them require being “treated as a child”. Some children have surprising amounts of maturity, and perhaps a godling fits that bill. I dunno. We could split hairs for weeks, if you want to waste the bandwidth. I’m just sayin that “because the comic book does not follow your rules is not a reason to dismiss the entire project and whatever intentions it might have.” Some of us are perfectly okay with the concepts as-is, and so does that make us “reprobates” (my choice of word, not trying to put anything in your mouth) for enjoying it? We are the decline of civilization, etc yadda blah? ;) I’m exaggerating a little bit with that last bit, but I do wish to use it to remind us that this IS “comic books” after all. They’ve never been perfect, they probably never will be, and some of them _are_ much better than they used to be (in my opinion, and it’s a humble one).

          • September 27, 2009 at 10:17 pm — Reply

            When one looks at Bendis’s writing, it’s easier to describe the problems broadly because there are so many small problems in a storyline that one becomes lost in the cloud they form. “Dark Reign” has no theme or solid reason for existing. When I look at it, I see no reason for the event except that it gives Bendis the opportunity to write about villains instead of heroes.

            Mmm… You’re speaking in absolutes when what we’re dealing with is a matter of opinion. There’s merit to all of your arguments, but that doesn’t make the opinions of people who enjoyed the story wrong, nor should we be calling into question their intelligence or how educated they are.

            I like this issue’s story. I don’t always like Bendis. The two are separate and distinct questions, to me.

  5. Wayne
    September 25, 2009 at 8:11 am — Reply

    I have always liked Dark Avengers and all the story lines that are building. Like will Norman snap (DUH). O.K when will Norman snap. Where in Captain Marvel. Why is every one obsesed with killing The Sentry and I may have skipped this or missed it, but when did Mrs Reynolds come back to life after Ultron killed her.

    But I digress. Fury is one of the only non supers I can think of that has the stones to stand up to a God. However Ares warning dosen’t carry much water at the moment as Zeuz looks younger than Alex at the moment and has no memory of his past life. Unless this came before Hercules #131. Even if it did Zeuz would have been dead at the time.

    As far as the mystery door opening I think it’s Norman but the Green Goblin side of him will be in control. Like in Dark X-men origins #3.

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