Or – “When Venom Is The Voice Of Reason, Something Is Very, Very Wrong…”
“Wait, we’ve been bought out by WHO?”Â
Or would that beÂ whom?Â I can never remember.Â But, man, the Dark Avengers certainly look surprised to see something, don’t they?
Dark Avengers #10
Previously, on Dark Avengers:Â Norman Osborn popped his cork in a pretty major way, refusing to come out of his hidden cabinet full of armor.Â Mac Gargan’s antisocial tendencies (which have, admittedly, been amplified by the Venom symbiote) may or may not be under control.Â Ares of Olympus has made a tenuous peace with his son, Phobos, and stood up to one of the Marvel U’s heaviest hitters.Â Noh-Varr of the Kree has gone missing, his agenda unknown.Â Daken continues to manipulate his manipulators, and torment his tormentors, with his primary goal seemingly discrediting his famous father.Â “Ben Poindexter” (if that IS his real name) just wants to be able to kill with impunity.Â Bob Reynolds’ dark side has left him the world’s mightiest basketcase, ready to listen to anyone who claims to have the answer to controlling The Void within.Â And as for Karla Sofen, she’s gone almost four issues without $&@$ing with somebody (and I mean that in all senses of the word, thank you very much) and is ready to “open a new dialogue.”Â If I’m counting right, I think we’ve covered all seven deadly sins, and made up one or two new ones, and we haven’t even hit issue #12 yet!
We open our festivities in the small town of Dinosaur, Colorado, as two young ladies rocking the “Thelma-and-Louise-got-a-tarty-makeover-from-Paris-Hilton” look to the max stop to get gas and use the facilities.Â Deodato shows remarkable subtlety with this sequence, with the regulars in the grungy diner downcast, always in shadow, and a really cinematic and bold overhead shot as one of the girls enters the restroom.Â Before you know it, the girl’s phone melts away, and screams can be heard, as we cut to an exterior shot and see the ladies’ car dissolving into dust and blowing away.Â Two words: Cree.Â Pee.Â Meanwhile, in the Bayou of Louisiana, Ares uses his giant axe to hack the Man-Thing in half (and, no, that’s not a metaphor for anything, people) while his teammates express how tired they are of their breakneck pace.Â Having been in seemingly every comic published in the last year or so, The Dark A’s need some downtime.Â Returning to Avengers Tower (which looms over the skyline in a very fascist “Big Brother Is Watching” sort of way, one of the reasons I never liked it as the heroic Avengers residence) the team tries to normalize, with a few big problems.Â No one has seen Norman in days.Â Venom’s meds are so far off that he refers to Man-Thing as “that poor thing.”Â And Karla Sofen’s power trip/libido has locked in on none other than BULLSEYE…Â Raise your hand if, “Ewww?”Â Victoria Hand tries to send them on a mission, but their particular psychoses get in the way, with Daken challenging her authority, and Bullseye demanding time off.
The situation is defused by the arrival of Iron Patriot, who asks what’s next on his “List,” only to hear that two teenages have gone missing in Colorado.Â I.P. isn’t interested, until he finds out that one of them is the daughter of the Secretary of State, forcing him to act or lose their funding.Â Sentry is sent out as the advance man, while Karla puts the moves on Bullseye, stripping off her costume top in a very graphic moment of not-so-subtle seduction.Â Upon arriving in Colorado, though, The Sentry explodes, and I start to get irritated.Â This is probably the fourth or fifth time we’ve seen the Sentry explode, isn’t it?Â Heck, they just used this trick during the Morgan Le Fay affair, and it feels like a cheap trick to pull “Superman” off the table so that we can work Marvel-style.Â The Dark Avengers see their big man taken down, and leap into action, with a full squad of HAMMER thugs (and do we know what HAMMER stands for yet?) and some bad intentions.Â Venom can’t keep from obsessing over how bad an idea it is to engage a foe that takes the Sentry off the board so easily, and I can’t help but agree with him.Â Iron Patriot benches Gargan, and the Dark Avengers sweep in hard.Â Ms. Marvel lands first, and her transmission ends as suddenly as Sentry’s, and the Iron Patriot suddenly blacks out.Â When his eyes open, he beholds a charnel house, filled with serpents and dragons and skulls.Â The Enchantress cackles, Mephisto himself looms over Norman, a creature I can only assume is Zarathos, the demon who once inhabited Johnny Blaze laughs his evil laugh, an indentified giant fellow skulks in the background, and sitting atop a throne of skulls is the Molecule Man, who taunts Norman about fancying himself in charge of things…
This issue has it’s nice touches.Â I like how the implication is that Moonstone/Ms. Marvel/Dr. Sofen seduces Bullseye not because she likes him (he’s actually a reprehensible excuse for a human being) but because he’s wearing a Hawkeye costume, a callback to old-school Thunderbolts.Â I like the opening sequence, which feels like a drive-in horror movie, leaving me yelling at the stupid girls to get back in the car.Â I liked the use of Venom here, showing the obvious consequences of Norman’s shotgun approach to medication.Â But there are a lot of things that I can’t quite figure out.Â Wasn’t the Sentry left for dead at the end of last issue, his brains blown out?Â How long has it been since Captain Marvel/Marvel Boy/Noh-Varr disappeared, anyway?Â Why is the Man-Thing in Louisiana, and not his usual Nexus of Realities in Florida?Â And what about Naomi?Â My biggest complaint about this issue is the way it seems to exist as an island unto itself, not really tying in to anything else in the Marvel Universe, even it’s own previous issues.Â Having the Sentry get dispatched in almost exactly the same way as a previous arc underlines the problems with the character for me, in that he’s just too ridiculously powerful to use in a monthly title like this.Â How long has it been since he’s done something other than be jerked around by whatever armor-wearing schmuck needs a secret weapon?Â It seems like forever since World War Hulk, the last time I remember him actually being central to much of anything.Â The ending is big and suitably ominous, but the whole issue feels disjointed to me, and no amount of shiny Mike Deodato art can cover the fact that pretty much nothing happens this month.Â We get a scary thing, we get some blah blah blah, and then we head out to engage the scary thing…Â Cliffhanger!Â Even the COVER adds to the dissonance, showing a pretty much generic group shot, including characters who haven’t appeared in the book for months.Â Dark Avengers #10 is a disappointing ride for me, earning 2 out of 5 stars overall.Â Man cannot live on shocking reveals alone, and a successful issue needs more substance, at least in my mind.