Or – “Whatever Happened To Noh-Varr?”

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One of the more vexing things about the Dark Avengers title is the fact that, because of the timing of the stories, Noh-Varr (aka Marvel Boy and the latest Kree warrior to call himself Captain Marvel) disappeared from Norman’s team MONTHS ago our time, but has apparently been missing for approximately 16 minutes in the stories.  This annual promises to tell us where the hero has been, but the question is, will the answers be meaningful, or will they just set up the next big crossover event?

DA2.jpgDark Avengers Annual #1

WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILS AND COVER:Chris Bachalo

Previously, on Dark Avengers:  The initial configuration of Norman Osborn’s personal Avengers team was designed to (in the words of Rodrigo) fool your Grandma. He dressed up various criminals as noted Avengers like Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man and Wolverine, set himself up as Iron Man, and hired Ares and The Sentry, who were already members of the regular Avengers teams. The wild card, though, came when he chose to dress up Noh-Varr of the Kree (who had spent several years in an unbreachable prison after sorta kinda maybe trying to take over the world) as his new Captain Marvel. After a night spent in the arms of Moonstone, Noh discovered that Norman’s intent was not honorable, and he disappeared from Avengers Tower in the dead of night. Despite appearing on several covers since he vanished, Noh-Varr’s whereabouts have remained unspecified until now…

Our story opens with a literal fall from Grace, as Noh-Varr drops from Avengers Tower, having learned the truth about the team he has joined…  He quickly blends into New York City, as we overhear his interstellar radio message to the Kree Supreme Intelligence. “Why am I here?” asks the young alien. “What am I supposed to be doing here? What do you WANT me to do?” Noh has been spending his days assembling parts into a workable facsimile of a Kree radio thingy, but keeps getting busted, by the Fantastic Four, by the Young Avengers, even by his former teammates. After finally successfully sending his message home, Noh-Varr bumps into a young woman having a loud argument with her boyfriend on the street. When he inquires as to whether she is okay after what seems to be a pretty recriminatory breakup, she accuses him of hitting on her. We have a whole “meet-cute” set-piece as he tells her his name is Noh, but the charm is cut short by the appearance of Blonde Superman The Sentry, who wants to know what exactly Noh-Varr thinks he’s doing.

Their fight quickly escalates, and is filled with long portions of dialogue that seem to take considerably longer than the moments shown in the fight, as though Chris Bachalo’s art and Bendis’ dialogue are taking place on different planets. The girl grabs Noh’s discarded space frap-gun and starts shooting at Kal-Elements-Of-Dissasociative-Personality-Disorder, distracting Sentry long enough for the erstwhile Marvel Boy to get away. Taking ground in one of his hidden lairs, Noh is stunned to get a message from the Supremor, who gives him a new mission: serve as Earth’s protector in the wake of the Skrull invasion. To that end, he receives nega-bands not unlike those that Mar-Vell wore, and a new (and, frankly, pretty damn ugly) costume with this final word from the Supreme Intelligence: “Know that you are no longer alone in the universe.”  Before Norman and the Dark Avengers can track him down, he escapes again, and his cute gothy new gal pal dubs him boyfriend material. The issue ends with someone opining that Noh-Varrr could be a force for good.  Cut to a rooftop, and we see Captain America and Steve Rogers watching through binoculars. “If he’s not on Osborn’s side,” says Cap, “He’s on OUR side.”

That last panel may reveal what happens at the end of Captain America – Rebirth (or, more honestly, what happens at least briefly in the wake of Captain America – Rebirth) and serves as one of the best parts of this issue. Let’s be honest here for a second… I paid FIVE DOLLARS for this issue. What I got was a pitch for a Captain Marvel Boy limited series, a preview of ‘Siege’ that I’ve already seen three or four times, and a cameo from two Captains America. That is NOT what I call a value. Chris Claremont used to run seven or ten different sub-plots simultaneously, with characters dancing in and out of the stories issue by issue, but Bendis seems to use a different tack, telling a story that is focused exclusively on the bits that he wants you to see and ignoring everything else so that we can have an issue like this every few months that gives us the bird’s-eye lowdown on what has been happening. I have to say, I would prefer the subplot. If you had parsed this story out a bit at a time through the last few months of Dark Avengers, it could have broken up some confusing narrative, explained some strange non-representational cover images, and NOT COST ME FIVE BUCKS. Dark Avengers started out strong, but has slowly been fading due to an over-reliance on blowing up the Sentry and overly talky non-linear storytelling. This issue just makes me mad, answering virtually none of the questions that I might have had about Noh-Varr and his people, turning him into a bleach blonde E.T. trying to phone home for six months.  The art, by Age of Apocalypse/Generation X mainstay Chris Bachalo is quite pretty, save for the design of Noh-Varr’s new (probably going to be)Captain Marvel costume, visuals which keep the issue from being a dead loss, but the bottom line is simple: An Annual has long been an “event” issue, and a $4.99 price tag raises the stakes on that event. Dark Avengers Annual #1 doesn’t deliver on the promises that the main storyline made, and overcharges for what we do get, earning a very disappointed 1.5 out of 5 stars overall.

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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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18 Comments

  1. lifeisaglitch
    December 5, 2009 at 9:12 am — Reply

    Kal-Elements-Of-Dissasociative-Personality-Disorder …That was magnificent.

  2. Big Money B.G.
    December 5, 2009 at 9:28 am — Reply

    Wow…I read a different review of the same book with a completely opposite opinion. I really appreciate the different POV on things.

    Question, though…As a stand-alone story, nevermind the horrid pricetag(if you can), would it rate better? Say, if you can imagine reading it without knowing who anyone is (and someone else paid for it), leading to the intro of Captain Morrison, would it be an OK book or still just a pretty mess?

    Thanks in advance!

  3. December 5, 2009 at 10:31 am — Reply

    Kal-Elements-Of-Dissasociative-Personality-Disorder …That was magnificent.

    I work hard on those. :)

  4. December 5, 2009 at 10:38 am — Reply

    Question, though…As a stand-alone story, nevermind the horrid pricetag (if you can), would it rate better? Say, if you can imagine reading it without knowing who anyone is (and someone else paid for it), leading to the intro of Captain Morrison, would it be an OK book or still just a pretty mess?

    Good question… Okay, speaking theoretically, I would probably be more disposed to like this book if it were presented to me as Captain Marvel #0, or as a two issue Marvel Boy limited series tying into Dark Reign.

    The main thrust of my irritation comes from the fact that this was marketed in Previews as the issue that would tell us what Noh-Varr has been doing. I’m down with that… But apparently, all Noh-Varr has been doing is running and looking for guidance and getting a new costume.

    Running and looking for guidance and getting a new costume isn’t an annual.
    Running and looking for guidance and getting a new costume is a SUB-PLOT.

    If Dark Avengers was a television show, you probably wouldn’t take a whole week (or, in the case of this book, the equivalent of two weeks of time and money, since it’s double sized and double-priced) just to watch Tony Almeida search through a database while Jack Bauer is out in the field. If you DO dedicate two whole weeks of narrative to Tony at his computer, (or Hiro running with a baby, or Daniel Jackson sitting in his lab or Seven-Of-Nine doing jumping jacks) in my mind, you better have one of three things:

    1) A big payoff.
    2) A big push for Tony (or Hiro or Daniel Jackson or Seven-Of-Nine.)
    3) A very clever bit that makes it all worthwhile.

    For me, this is all transparently prologue for ‘Siege,’ and “Oooh, Captain America thinks I’ll make a great new Captain Marvel in his war against the Green Goblin” doesn’t really equal big payoff, big push, or clever bit. As always, your mileage may vary…

  5. Vistapa
    December 5, 2009 at 10:45 am — Reply

    Wasn’t the supreme inteligence dead? Didn’t the inhumans run the kree empírea now? I keep half expectin to be shown a panel of Dr richards behind the big Green head

    • December 5, 2009 at 3:31 pm — Reply

      I believe Supremor was only MOSTLY dead, returning in the ‘Maximum Security’ miniseries a few years ago and appearing sporadically since…

  6. December 5, 2009 at 12:19 pm — Reply

    No. Not Blonde Superman. EMO Superman. ;)

    He should get together with Tom Welling Prime and hang.

    • December 5, 2009 at 3:32 pm — Reply

      Too bad they’re both invulnerable and can’t cut themselves…

      Although that’s one more thing about which to whine.

      • lifeisaglitch
        December 5, 2009 at 7:23 pm — Reply

        Didn’t the Sentry get shot in the face by his wife..supplied with a gun Alien McAlienpants gave her…what happened to that?!?!

        • December 5, 2009 at 9:45 pm — Reply

          We haven’t been given any idea as to how, I guess we just attribute it to “He got better.”

          • Randallw
            December 5, 2009 at 11:02 pm — Reply

            Then Molecule man did to him what Dr Manhattan did to Rorschach. Sentry dies almost every issue only to come back next issue.

          • Jacin B
            December 7, 2009 at 9:10 am — Reply

            Dying and getting better without explanation is his schtick. That, and throwing things into the sun.

  7. Josh
    December 6, 2009 at 12:45 pm — Reply

    The Supreme Intelligence is kinda dead. His consciousness is held by Wraith, that character created in the lead up to Annihilation Conquest.

    Nohvarr is a Kree from an alternate reality, by the by. It’s still not entirely clear if Bendis is just retconning all of that away.

    • December 6, 2009 at 2:09 pm — Reply

      So, if Supremor is dead, who’s pulling Noh’s strings? Any good guesses?

  8. December 6, 2009 at 4:30 pm — Reply

    Didn’t the illuminati try and convince Noh to take up the mantle of Captain Marvel back in the day? Maybe it’s one of them following up on the work, which probably means Reed Richards though I suppose Blackbolt or Charlie could’ve done it.

  9. December 7, 2009 at 10:03 am — Reply

    This is a review, right? So…any thoughts on the art side of things? Or was this COMIC BOOK all text?

  10. December 7, 2009 at 1:31 pm — Reply

    The biggest shocker? This “story” was 31 pages long. Yes, annuals used to me a good 48 to 64 pages of story; and have now been reduced by Marvel to a 31 page story for $5! I so want my money back.

    And one thing Marvel has really caught onto doing is giving us “previews” of 7-10 pages of upcoming books (previews that mind you we see online for free) and then thereby “approving” the extra $1 increase in price. Dark Reign – The List specials anyone? Hey, why give them 48 actual pages of story, or a back up story, when we can just throw in a preview we’ve already got in the can that they’ll buy in a couple months in the actual issue! Win-win for Marvel. Bah, I’m really thinking of skipping all $5. books from Marvel now just on principal. And I’m not someone that would usually do something like that, but come on.

  11. December 7, 2009 at 10:44 pm — Reply

    This is a review, right? So…any thoughts on the art side of things? Or was this COMIC BOOK all text?

    I suppose, technically, this is more of a critique… I happened to have a lot more to say about the problems with the story and presentation than I did about Chris Bachalo’s art.

    However, you might want to look again, to wit:

    “Their fight quickly escalates, and is filled with long portions of dialogue that seem to take considerably longer than the moments shown in the fight, as though Chris Bachalo’s art and Bendis’ dialogue are taking place on different planets.”

    “The art, by Age of Apocalypse/Generation X mainstay Chris Bachalo is quite pretty, save for the design of Noh-Varr’s new (probably going to be)Captain Marvel costume, visuals which keep the issue from being a dead loss…”

    Also worth noting: I’ve been married to a very smart Irish woman for a decade and a half. I’m immune to sarcasm… :)

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