Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1 Review

Secret Invasion was an anti-climactic and unimpressive event. But, it did birth Dark Reign which does have the potential to spawn some entertaining stories. Of course, the basis for Dark Reign does require the large leap of faith by the reader in believing that the U.S. government would turn everything over to a known and established psychopath like the Green Goblin. And the idea of a secret society of villains is hardly a unique concept. Having said that, I am willing to give this Dark Reign direction an honest chance and approach it with an open mind. Let’s go ahead and do this review for Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev

Art Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Emma Frost dreaming about Kitty Pryde calling out for help. Emma wakes up and hears a knock at the door. Emma opens the door and a Thunderbolts agent in full riot gear armor is standing there. (Wait a minute. I thought the X-Men lived in a super secret impossible to find, but thankfully LEED accredited, headquarters. And why would an agent tasked with delivering a letter be wearing full riot gear armor?)

The agent hands Emma an envelope and leaves. We cut to Emma arriving at Avengers Tower. Emma heads down to sub-basement nine. She enters a small non-descript room with a round table in it. Doctor Doom is already at the table. Doom tells Emma that no man or woman shall enter the mind of Victor Von Doom and he suggest she stop attempting to do so or she will incur his wraith. Emma agrees to stop and sits down at the table.

Namor then walks in the room. Namor says hello to Doom and then introduces himself to Emma. Emma asks Namor “Do you always smell like that?” Namor just looks at Emma. Doom says that there is another who has yet to reveal himself. Doom suggest that the person do so or that Doom will do it for them.

Suddenly, little red riding hood appears on the table holding his gun all gangsta-style ensuring that he would never hit his target. Emma scans the Hood’s mind and says that his name is Parker Robbins also known as the Hood. Emma says that there is also someone else inside of Hood’s head.

The Hood points his gun at Emma and tells her to get out of his head. Emma then takes control of Hood’s arm and forces the Hood to place his gun into his mouth. (God, I love Emma even more after this scene.) Doom then tells Emma to hold still. Doom says that they are in the presence of a god.

We see Loki enter the scene. Namor comments how Loki looks much better than the last time he saw Loki. Loki purrs “I am pleased that you find this new form so appealing.” Namor stammers “Well, I-I didn’t say that, I was merely…” Doom interrupts and says “He is coming.”

Norman Osborn then enters the room. Norman thanks all of them for meeting with him. Norman goes on about how he has the keys to the Kingdom now. That Tony Stark has been removed as Director of SHIELD. That SHIELD has been dismantled and Osborn is now heading a new world peace-keeping taskforce that includes the Thunderbolts, the Initiative and the Avengers franchises.

Osborn says that this is good news for everyone in this room. Osborn says that everyone here is a king among their people. But, under Tony Stark and Nick Fury’s rule that they were always opposed. They were always working alone and working against the grain. Osborn says that it is time to change that.

Norman says that each one of them can tell him what they want him to do and he will see that it is done. In return all Norman asks for is their loyalty and camaraderie. For them to be his brothers in arms. Norman says that each of them have been constantly struggling to achieve their goals. And that they know that they cannot win.

Osborn points out the Hood and says that he likes the Hood’s plan of strength in numbers and how the Hood has consolidated the underworld criminals in his effort to become the new Kingpin of crime. Hood asks if Osborn is stealing his idea.

Osborn replies that he is not. That Norman does not want a piece of any of them. Doom interjects that all Norman wants is credit for bringing all of them under control. Something that Tony Stark and Nick Fury could not do.

Namor says that he does not like or trust Osborn. Osborn responds that Namor needs him. That Atlantis is gone and that Namor’s sleeper agents are spread across the world. Osborn says that he knows that Namor has no plan and that Namor is a king without a kingdom. Osborn then says thing goes for Doom and Loki.

The Hood then asks what happens when it comes time to pay the Goblin and they tell Norman to go fuck himself. The Hood continues that historically that is what they always do.

Norman responds that if they were to do that then Norman would take back by force everything he gave them. Doctor Doom re-iterates the fact that none of them like or trust Osborn or his newfound arrogance to even call of them here today.

Osborn says that he was not done explaining what would happen if one of them crossed him. We see the door to the room partly open and see a shadowy figure standing there. Norman says that if anyone here every makes a move against him then they will have a talk with Norman’s friend.

Norman tells Emma to look into his mind and tell the others if he is lying. Emma says that Norman is not lying. Norman says that it is even something for the goddess of mischief to think about. The shadowy figure retreats and the door to the room closes.

Norman continues that this is not about who is the biggest or the most bad-assed, but that is the language that all of them respect so Norman speaks it, too. Norman says that Nick Fury and Tony Stark made mistakes. That they should have embraced everyone at the table. That they should have worked with them. And that is what Norman is offering today.

Emma states that she is not like the others at the table. Norman begs to differ stating that Emma Frost was once the White Queen of the Hellfire Club. That Emma is now a powerful spokesperson for mutantkind. Norman says that the mutant population has been devastated and that there have been plans floated about to round up all the remaining mutants and place them in Canadian concentration camps. (What? Why would Canada agree to become the official concentration camp nation of all the mutants?)

Osborn also states that it is nice to have a psychic on the team in order to keep everyone honest. Norman then tells Doom that he knows that Doom wants Latveria back. Osborn promises to extradite Doom back to Latveria under the pretext that Tony Stark arrested Doom while Stark was under the influence of the Skrull virus. And that means that Doom was unlawfully imprisoned.

Osborn continues that Doom can rule his people as long as he stays in Latveria. Norman says that they should keep their victories quiet and between each other and do it in a way that works with their strengths.

The Hood states that his people are in a business and they will not see an upside financially to anything that Norman is offering him. The Hood says that he is going to take a pass on the offer. Norman responds that the Hood and his men are going to register with the Initiative and they are all going to go legit.

That the Hood and his men will publicly reform and that Osborn will make them his Thunderbolts or the Wisconsin Avengers or whatever the Hood is comfortable with. After that, the Hood and his men can keep doing what they are doing. And Norman is not even asking for a kickback.

However, what Norman does want is that the Hood and his men will not attack government facilities and no mischief for the sake of mischief. And when Norman calls the Hood and his men to hit something then they go hit it. In return, the Hood and his men get immunity. If any of them get pinched they walk and get to live their lives unpunished.

Norman tells the Hood and his men to get over themselves. Norman says that he is living proof that the world loves a second chance. The Hood asks “What about the Avengers?” Osborn replies that the Hood will find out in a week.

Loki states that she wants Asgard and she wants it in the heavens where it belongs. Norman states that he wants the same thing. Norman says that he has a lunch meeting to attend to now. Osborn says that a plane is waiting to transport Doom back to Latveria. Osborn says that he will be calling all of them soon and for none of them to talk about him behind his back. Osborn then exits the room.

The Hood then turns invisible and exits the room. Loki mutters “Mortals.” and then teleports away. Emma gets up and walks out of the room. Doom and Namor remain seated at the table. Namor asks Doom if the two of them are alone. Doom replies that they are.Namor asks Doom what their move is at this moment. Doom says they should let Osborn set them up. Doom says that Osborn will implode. And when all of this is over Namor gets the seas and Doom gets the land. Namor asks what if Osborn does not implode. Doom replies that Osborn will because it is Osborn’s nature to do so.Namor insists that what happens if Osborn does not implode. Doom replies that they will then have a battle on their hands likes of which this dimension has never seen. (Uh, so a battle between Osborn and Doom and Namor would dwarf, oh I don’t know, say a full scale invasion of Earth by an alien armada complete with alien super-soldiers?)We cut to Thunderbolts Mountain where the Swordsman confronts Osborn about the promises that Norman made to the Thunderbolts. Swordsman yells that for all the work that he has done for Osborn that Osborn promised Swordsman an out. (Oh, we all can see this death coming from a mile away, right?)

Swordsman tells Osborn that he is insane and a whackjob. That Norman is no Nick Fury. Swordsman yells that he is not going back to jail. Swordsman rants that he will go public with all the shit that Norman has done over the years.

Norman suddenly grabs a sword and guts the Swordsman. Norman then lifts the Swordsman off the ground with the sword and tosses the Swordsman out of a window. Norman yells “I am in charge! Me! Me! Me!” Norman then grabs his face and whispers “Oh, no.”

We shift to Emma dreaming about Kitty calling out for Emma’s help. Kitty says that she thought Emma would find her. Kitty asks why did this happen. We see Emma waking up in her bed screaming and clutching her head. (And evidently, Scott must be totally deaf or passed out drunk because he sleeps through it all.) Emma sits at the foot of the bed looking upset and scared. End of issue.
Comments
The Good: The best thing about Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1 is that this new direction for the Marvel universe has nowhere to go but up. Because it certainly cannot get any duller or more uninteresting than what Bendis gave is in this issue.Having said that, there were several positive aspects to Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1. I did enjoy how Bendis handled Doom in this issue. Bendis delivers a bad-assed Doctor Doom who is always in control of his surroundings and is simply never taken by surprise. It is immediately clear to the reader that out of all the people at this meeting that Doctor Doom is the most dangerous and imposing one of them all. I wouldn’t even bet against Doom in a confrontation with the goddess of mischief in Loki.Doom is firmly in control during this meeting. Doom sets the tone with his ordering Emma to get out of his head or face the consequences. Doom calls out the Hood who was hiding in the room. Doom even guesses what Norman wants out of this entire arrangement before Norman can voice it himself. Bendis absolutely nails Doom’s imperious attitude and iron strong will.

I enjoyed the scene near the end of this issue between Doom and Namor. Out of this collection of characters, I view Doom and Namor as being the two biggest heavy hitters. I know that Loki is a goddess, but I have never viewed him on the same level in the 616 universe as Doom and Namor. And Bendis picks up on this theme as he has these two men stay behind after all the others have left in order to discuss with each other what to do next.

Bendis properly understands that out of this collection of characters that the only two that would have mutual respect for each other would be Doom and Namor. Doom’s response to Osborn’s offer was perfect. Bendis plays up the fact that Osborn is unstable and has always imploded as his own mental problems have continually led to his downfalls throughout his career. And unlike much of what Bendis gave us, Doom’s plan to wait for Osborn to implode and then to divide the world with Doom getting the land and Namor getting the sea actually made sense.

Bendis gave a good enough explanation for why Emma was included in this meeting of villains. As most readers had already figured out, Osborn is offering Emma a chance to guarantee that mutants remain protected from government attacks and imprisonment. And Emma’s villainous past gives her credibility with the group of villains seated at the table. It is understandable and logical that Emma would be willing to deal with someone as distasteful as Osborn if it meant that her people would be kept safe.

My favorite moment of this issue was easily when Emma totally punked out the Hood. This was vintage Emma Frost. This moment also punctuated the fact that the Hood is a newcomer and certainly a minor player compared to the heavy hitters in Doom, Namor, Emma and Loki.

Bendis does a nice job working in two teasers concerning upcoming Dark Reign storyline. First, Bendis has Osborn hint to the Dark Avengers and his plans for the Avengers franchise. Second, Bendis clues the reader into the fact that Osborn and the government are going to be gunning for Tony Stark.

Bendis then presents with reader with a little mystery concerning Norman’s “friend” who will have a talk with any who decides to cross paths with Norman. I am guessing that the shadowy figure on the other side of the door is the Void version of the Sentry. That is the only character I can think of that is powerful enough to intimidate or be a dire threat to characters like Emma, Doom, Namor and Loki.

One of the astute Followers of The Revolution pointed out the fact that the shadowy figure could also be the Scarlet Witch.  I had not thought about that, but Wanda would certainly have the power to strike fear in all the characters present at this meeting.

The Bad: For the most part, Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1 was a dreadfully dull, boring and uninteresting issue. The main objective of this one-shot special issue was to drum up reader interest in the Dark Reign direction of the 616 Universe. And in that respect I found this issue to be a failure. Nothing that I read in this issue got me any more excited or interested in Dark Reign than I was prior to this issue. All in all, this was a rather underwhelming issue.

Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1 inched along at a terribly slow pace. This issue was also weekly plotted. There were moments when Bendis went off on silly tangents that lacked internal logic. This issue had enough substance for maybe half of an issue. Therefore, much of this issue felt like Bendis wasting time trying to fluff this story up in order to take up space.

This issue was also way too talky. I do not mind a dialogue heavy issue when the dialogue is well crafted and serves a purpose or advances plotlines or performs character work. That is not what Bendis gave us in this issue. Instead, Bendis merely rambles on with no particular purpose.

The meeting with Norman just went on and on for way too long. Norman’s dialogue was too longwinded and was extremely repetitious as Bendis simply tried to see how many different ways he could say the same thing. Osborn’s plan really is not that all complex or novel of an idea at all. It is rather basic and common and definitely did not bear so much explanation and re-explanation.

The character work on Namor seemed off. At no point did Namor talk like himself as I have read him over the years in other titles. Namor normally talks with extreme confidence, pride and brashness. However, Bendis gives us a Namor who comes across rather subdued and somewhat slow on the uptake.

Bendis has never succeeded on selling me on the Hood. And this issue only serves to re-enforce my belief that the Hood is a lame one trick pony who does not deserve to be included with this collection of characters. The Hood seemed like a little kid trying to play grow-up by sitting at the adult’s table. Maybe Bendis can convince me of the Hood’s worth, but so far it just has not happened.

The arrangement that Norman offers Doom, Namor, Loki, Emma and the Hood was a bit pedestrian. Norman wants them all to work together. Norman will give them whatever they want and in return he gets to be the guy who has brought them under control. This has such a recycled feel to it. Hopefully, the more that we investigate Dark Reign that this new direction for the 616 universe will get more complex and intriguing.

Bendis did a great job selling me on the fact that Norman can help out Doom and Emma. It is easy enough for Norman to free Doom and send him back to Latveria. And I can see how a powerful ally high up in the U.S. government who could help protect mutantkind would be very tempting and appealing to Emma.

However, I am having a hard time believing that there is anything Norman can do for Namor and Loki. I am not too sure how Norman can help restore Namor’s kingdom of Atlantis. And I definitely have no idea at all how in the world Norman can give Loki control over Asgard and return Asgard to the heavens. Bendis failed to get me to buy into the fact that Namor and Loki would need Norman for anything.

The offer that Norman gives to the Hood and his men is basically just a re-hash of the Thunderbolt concept. It will be quite difficult for costumed villains who are supposedly reformed to continue to go about their lives of crime and not get exposed by the media.

Doom stating that if Norman does not implode then there will end up being a battle like this dimension has never seen before was just way too over the top. That is overselling an ending that cannot possibly be delivered. There have been some mind boggling massive battles in the history of the Marvel Universe.

At this point, Norman Osborn is not that compelling of a main villain. The final scene with Norman was predictable. Norman Osborn comes across like a spazzy and less intelligent version of Lex Luthor. Osborn is not a monster villain that the reader is in awe of or that has that powerful personality that captivates the reader’s interest.

The death of Swordsman was predictable and did not really do anything to make the scene more interesting, advance any plotlines or make Norman’s character any more intriguing. Osborn is the Green Goblin. We already know that he is nuts.
I did not like the art in this issue at all. I thought this was a dull and ugly looking issue. Now, Alex Maleev is a talented artist. But, his style of artwork is much more suited for gritty realistic titles like Daredevil or bizarre and off-beat Vertigo type comic books. Maleev’s artwork does not work on a traditional super hero comic book. And Maleev delivers what was hands down the worst Namor that I have ever seen. Namor looks like an out of shape, balding used car salesman with skinny arms.

Overall: The purpose of Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1 was to generate excitement and reader anticipation concerning the new direction of the Marvel Universe that spins out of the conclusion of Secret Invasion. This issue is supposed to be a special issue that hooks readers into purchasing all of the various new Dark Reign related titles.

Unfortunately, this issue failed in that endeavor. Instead, this issue read like pure filler that was quickly slapped together in an effort to make a quick and cheap dollar. There is nothing of real importance in this issue that would require you to purchase this issue in order to enjoy the Dark Reign event. Save your money and use it for purchasing some of the new titles that are coming up like Secret Warriors or Agents of Atlas instead of wasting it Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1.

15 Comments

  1. Has anyone considered the Scarlet Witch may be Norman’s shadowed “friend?” That would certaintly give him the power and resources to help Loki and intimidate the others, no?

  2. It seems obvious to me that the portrayal of Namor was intentional, showing that the loss of his kingdom and the implosion of the illuminati has reduced him to a shabby shell of himself. Maleev’s rendition was perfectly consistent with the the current staus of the character.

  3. Dude-

    Go back to the black text on white background. White text on black gives me migraines. Unreadable!!

  4. No offense, but the white letters on black is really hard on the eyes. I couldn’t even finish the review (I liked the part I read). And I am still seeing afterimages as I type this and my head hurts. Please go back (or to other more normal color schemes).

  5. Thank you for listening! This is much better….

  6. It turns out that Emma and Scott sometimes stays at a hotel in SF instead of the X-headquarters so that’s not really an “error”. (See AXM #25).

  7. what was up with the whole kitty dream thing? you’d think there would be some reference in the X books. and now whats going to happen to the thunderbolts plot of how swordsman’s sister came back to life ( only to be killed again) with no explanation. I hope he survived the fall and stabbing to make things more interesting

  8. Emma’s bad dreams will apparently continue in Uncanny #506 according to the solicit so maybe it’s something more sinister than merely feeling guilty for Kitty’s fate. It’s certainly a new plot-point and not just something Bendis threw in for this one-shot.

  9. Thank you! Now I can finish the review!

  10. “Wait a minute. I thought the X-Men lived in a super secret impossible to find, but thankfully LEED accredited, headquarters. And why would an agent tasked with delivering a letter be wearing full riot gear armor?”

    A lot of times Bendis’ stories don’t seem to make much sense. The trick is to remember that Bendis hates you and wishs you personal harm. Then it all makes sense.

    “Doom replies that they will then have a battle on their hands likes of which this dimension has never seen.”

    This is true, in that there are very few battles that would be over so quickly. You have two of the biggest hitters in the Mu verses a guy who’s mildly strong and has a glider. It’s a bit like thor and the hulk teaming up to take down paste pot pete.

    Also, what is the deal with Namor in this issue. Why doeshe sometimes switch into an irish accent? And more importanlty, why does he look like a balding Sean Penn.

  11. “Wait a minute. I thought the X-Men lived in a super secret impossible to find, but thankfully LEED accredited, headquarters. And why would an agent tasked with delivering a letter be wearing full riot gear armor?”

    I found this really strange too.
    But the best part of this comment was LEED. I’m sorry, this just made me giggle with glee.

    And folks are probably fleeing to Canada to avoid registration.

    And about Namor’s hobo look. As Anonymous (#2) said, he’s probably shabby because he lost his kingdom. Yes, he’s fugly as hell, but I found it to be an interesting and powerful take on his character.

  12. I’m guessing that Emma dreaming of Kitty was a reference to Whedon’s run when Emma told Kitty that she wanted her on the team to make sure Emma doesn’t go back to the dark side. And now that Kitty’s gone, Emma’s starting to go kinda bad again and she doesn’t have anyone to keep her in check. But I’m probably wrong and it’s just something completely new.

  13. Not to defend the crap that Bendis puts out, but isnt’t The Hood the pawn of Dormamanu?

  14. Yeah, i think Norman’s shadowed friend is Wanda. And…Maleev’s Namor looks like Jean Reno to me 🙂

  15. Oh…and i love the way Maleev drew Emma! I think the story have a good premise! Im gonna start to collecting this serie! Thanks for he review, Rokk!

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