Â Or – “Whatever Happened To Noh-Varr?”
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.Â This annual promises to tell us where theÂ hero has been, but the question is, will the answers be meaningful, or will they just set up the next big crossover event?
WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILS AND COVER:Chris Bachalo
Previously, on Dark Avengers:Â 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… Â 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.” Â 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.Â 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.Â The art, by Age of Apocalypse/Generation X mainstay Chris Bachalo is quite pretty, save for the design of Noh-Varrâ€™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.