REVIEW: Dark Avengers #185

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New York has been carved up into sections controlled by violent gangs who will stop at nothing to protect their turf. In this chaos, a group of not-quite-heroes in funny outfits find themselves caught in the crossfire. Warring factions as well as shadowy forces behind the scenes conspire to use and/or kill them, while the anti-heroes try to run the gauntlet to return to their home. It makes a good movie, but will it make a good comic?
(Just go watch The Warriors, OK? I’ll wait.)

Dark-Avengers_185-674x1024Dark Avengers #185
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artists: Neil Edwards
Colors: Chris Sotomayor
Inks: Terry Pallot
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Tom Brennan
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously in Dark Avengers:

A group of reformed super criminals (for varying definitions of “reformed”) were on their way back to prison from “super work-release” when a dimensional-type gate that took them to a very different version of New York. In the wake of heroic infighting, the city has been carved up into sections controlled by tyrannical warlords: Dr. Strange, Iron Man, the Thing, Reed Richards, and Namor. Currently, under an uneasy truce, these factions look for any opportunity to overthrow their neighbors. Scattered across the city, the Dark Avengers are like sparks that threaten to ignite open war across New York City.

Waaaarrrrrriiiorsss, come out to pla-ay!

This book continues the tale of the comic-formerly-known-as-the-Thunderbolts and gives me hope that the characters and writing that I previously enjoyed have not been discarded along with the name. The plot is ridiculous but fun. If you think hard about the setting it doesn’t make much sense but I’m having too much fun to think that hard. Plus there are hints that there may actually be an explanation down the road.

When this book changed it’s name, I was worried about the new characters having any depth, but so far they’re improving nicely, particularly as the narrative focuses on one or two characters at a time instead of trying to juggle them all. We see a lot of the fake Scarlet Witch, June Covington, who is starting to have a personality (scheming and intellectual) that I can latch onto as a reader. Moonstone, one of the more established characters, is able to continue her “just barely reformed” personality that made her interesting before.

The characters native to the alternate New York are exaggerated and melodramatic, but given that they have to be introduced, fought and defeated in the course of a 3 or 4 issue (I’m guessing) arc, there’s not too much time for introspection. That said, I felt that the alternate Dr. Strange was a little too slimy and the way he used Tigra as a sex toy was going too far. (And anyone using the phrase “…the way she dresses…” gets a slap upside the head.) Thankfully it was brief and off-panel, but damn, she’s been through enough.

While the main characters flailing around in a world they never made is pretty standard fare, there are some nice clues developing in the mystery of how this New York came to be this way, but it’s still a mystery. The best thing about a second-string anti-hero book is that anything can happen. Much more so than the main hero books. The protagonists could lose, or make the wrong choices or even die–editorial probably won’t put up a fight. In this book I don’t know what’s going to happen and am excited to follow along as the team finds out.

I had a bone to pick with the cover. I tend to think of the covers of comic books separately from the inner content because they are almost always created separately, with different mindsets, to serve different purposes. Normally that works, but here the cover gives away the last panel reveal of the issue. Granted, it’s not a fabulous reveal (already spoiled–multiple amputee US Agent get’s his limbs back) but it’s obvious that the comic was set up to milk some surprise out of it and that was defeated before I opened the cover. Even with a good overall issue, it leaves the reader with an aftertaste of “Meh” because it’s the last page. Poor execution.

Be lookin’ good, Warriors. All the way back to Coney.

The art was pretty good, with only the occasional wonky face to complain about. The fight scenes were decent though brief. There just wasn’t time to do more than flash a little action. The highlight of the issue was the character design, which is always a big draw when a story is set in an alternate universe. As I mentioned before, there’s not a lot of time in a story like this to get into the minutia of the setting, so you imply a lot of depth with allusions (“When I took charge of Mole Man’s kingdom…”) and with design–it’s a minor “Holy crap” moment when we first see the Thing looking every bit the King of the Monsters.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Can you dig it?

I give Dark Avengers #185 three and a half stars—a solid book with a lot of potential. Makes me feel guilty for doubting Jeff Parker taking the formerly-known-as-Thunderbolts in this new direction.
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Rating: ★★★½☆

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Reader Rating

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