The merciless onslaught of new titles spinning out of the wake of Secret Invasion begins with Dark Avengers #1. Marvel wants our money and is giving us plenty of reasons to give it to them with several intriguing new titles coming out over the course of the next month. Even though I have been less than impressed with Bendis’ work on New Avengers and Mighty Avengers ever since the end of Civil War, I have still decided to give Dark Avengers #1 a try.
The main reason is that I think that Bendis might actually be on to something with this title. The roster looks interesting and I think that Bendis has something special in store for the reader with this title. I also like Deodato’s artwork so if nothing else I will enjoy looking at this issue. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Dark Avengers #1.
Writer: Brain Michael Bendis
Art: Mike Deodato
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin in 680 AD at Morgan Le Fay’s castle. Morgan casts a spell into her cauldron to track down the location of Dr. Doom. Morgan is still pissed that Doom betrayed her. Morgan then sees an image in her cauldron of Doom meeting with White Queen, Namor, Loki, the Hood and Norman Osborn. (The final page of Dark Reign #1.)
We cut to the present. We see the new Avengers being unveiled to the media and the public. The roster includes Iron Patriot, Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, the Sentry, Ares, Wolverine, Hawkeye and Spider-Man (in his black costume).
We flash back to one week ago. We see Norman at HAMMER’s headquarters. Norman is staring at the gaudy gold SHIELD Helicarrier that Tony Stark had built. Ms. Hand approaches Norman and says that he requested to see her. Norman states that he wants Victoria Hand (who is so working that hot bad girl Baroness look) to be his Deputy Director of HAMMER.
Ms. Hand asks what HAMMER stands for. Norman responds that her first task will be to come up with what HAMMER stands for. Norman reviews the extensive list of duties that being Deputy Director of HAMMER entails. Norman tells Ms. Hand to mark all the old SHIELD operatives who are Nick Fury loyalists, Captain America loyalists and Tony Stark loyalists. Norman says that they have to weed out the malcontents.
Norman tells Ms. Hand to discontinue the useless “cape killer” armor and weapons and replace them with Norman’s new weapons designs. Norman instructs Ms. Hand to get rid of everything that is red and gold. Norman says that he wants the gold Helicarrier scrapped.
Ms. Hand states that she thought Tony Stark and Nick Fury had a soft view of terrorism. Norman responds that Ms. Hand will find out that there is nothing soft about Norman Osborn. (Hey there, big daddy! Settle down!)
We then shift to six days ago at Thunderbolts Mountain. We see Norman Osborn meeting with Maria Hill. Norman tells Hill that she has been relieved of her command. Hill tells Norman that she is going to laugh her ass off when Norman inevitably crashes and burns. Maria Hill then does a mocking bow and leaves.
Bullseye enters and asks who the girlish boy who just left was. Norman answers “A has-been.” Norman then tells Bullseye that the medication has been working well and Bullseye has been holding it together well. Norman says that Bullseye did wonderfully during Secret Invasion. Norman says he wants to reward Bullseye by extending their relationship.
Bullseye is initially skeptical and asks how Norman is about to screw him. Norman says he is not going to screw Bullseye. Norman says that they are moving to the Avengers Tower in New York. Bullseye gets a stunned and excited look on his face.
We slide to five days ago at Avengers Tower. Ms. Marvel arrives at the tower and is greeted by Norman Osborn. Norman says that he is running the Avengers and that Ms. Marvel is the leader of the Avengers. Ms. Marvel spits that she only reports to Tony Stark and that Avengers Tower is Tony’s house.
Norman replies that it is actually his house. That Tony built Avengers Tower with SHIELD funding and also used SHIELD money to fund the Avengers. Norman states that clearly Tony did not think this day would come.
Ms. Marvel says that she resigns. Norman says that Ms. Marvel is registered and is military. Norman says that he has the right to order Ms. Marvel to take her position. Ms. Marvel repeats that she resigns from the Avengers. Norman says that Ms. Marvel is under arrest. Ms. Marvel yells that there will be no Avengers. That no one worth a damn will listen to Norman.
We then see Ares and Sentry enter the room. Ms. Marvel is stunned. Ms. Marvel asks them what they are doing. Ares answers that he is the God of War and that there are battles to be fought. Ms. Marvel blurts that Norman is a killer. Ares replies “So am I.”
Sentry then states that Avengers Tower is where he lives. Sentry then adds that Norman is “helping” him. Ms. Marvel asks “How?” The Sentry does not answer. Ms. Marvel tells Ares and Sentry that they are making a big mistake. The men do not answer. Ms. Marvel complains that she is talking to three lunatics. Ms. Marvel then blasts off from Avengers Tower and flies away.
Sentry asks if he should go after her. Norman says no and that Ms. Marvel will come around eventually. Norman adds that there are also plenty of Ms. Marvel’s out there.
We zip over to Thunderbolts Mountain. Moonstone is meditating on the edge of a cliff. Suddenly, Norman appears in front of Moonstone. Norman throws a Ms. Marvel costume at Moonstone’s feet. Norman says that Moonstone is coming to New York with him.
Moonstone asks why she can’t be Moonstone instead of Ms. Marvel. Norman replies that Moonstone stays at Thunderbolts Mountain under armed guard. On the other hand, Ms. Marvel gets her own penthouse in New York City with full privileges. Moonstone smiles.
Norman says “Welcome to the Avengers.” Moonstone asks if she is still team leader. However, Norman has already disappeared. (What, did Norman put on his track shoes and haul ass off of this cliff?)
We cut to inside of Thunderbolts Mountain where a Skrull is lead to a cell. The Skrull is locked inside. Venom’s voice then comes from off panel and tells the Skrull to shape-shift into Spider-Man. Venom says if the Skrull does it then he will live. The Skrull turns into Spider-Man. Venom then appears and eats the Skrull.
Norman appears outside of the cell and opens it up. Norman tells Venom that he behaved himself during Secret Invasion and that Norman promised to do right by Venom. Norman then offers Venom a serum that will preserve Venom’s powers, but make Venom more presentable.
Venom states that he likes how he is. Norman asks if Venom wants to get out of Thunderbolts Mountain and if Venom would like to meet a nice girl. If so then Venom should take the serum.
Venom then takes the serum. Venom then goes into convulsions. Venom then stands up and he is now a normal man and looks just like Spider-Man in his old black costume. Venom is very happy with Norman.
We zip to four days ago in New Orleans. We see Daken (Dios mio, why hasn’t someone killed off this pathetic character, yet?) enter a diner and meet Norman, Ms. Hand and Ares. Norman tells Daken that he is impressed that Daken had the stones to beat up Wolverine. Ares laughs and states that he cannot imagine a woman that would let that “little ferret” climb on top of her.
Daken screams that Ares is talking about his mother. Norman steps in between the two saving Daken from a serious beating from Ares. Norman tells Daken that he has a job offer for him that would certainly tick off Daken’s dad.
We cut to three days ago at the Cube. We see Marvel Boy, Noh-Varr, sitting all by himself in the empty prison. Norman enters and asks why Marvel Boy is sitting here. Norman asks what Marvel Boy is waiting for. Norman then states that he wants Noh-Varr to be Norman’s new Captain Marvel for the Avengers.
We zip to Avengers Tower with the new New Avengers, I guess, assembled. Norman stares at the old picture of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and Hawkeye. Norman tells Ms. Hand that his current Avengers are missing something. Ms. Hand suggests that Norman needs a “Jarvis.” Norman agrees, but says that the team itself is missing something.
Ares walks over and says that the team is missing an Iron Man or a Captain America. Ares says that the current team has no symbolism. Ares continues that Iron Man and Captain America where the knight and the soldier. That they were more than men. That they were symbols that people gathered behind. Norman just turns and looks at Ares. Ms Hand then says that Norman’s 3 o’clock is here.
We cut to Norman walking down the hall with the Ghost. The Ghost can get into anything that is locked. Ghost goes on a left-wing loony rant about how he hates corporations and in particular Tony Stark. Ghost says “I’m going to bring it all down, man.” Ms. Marvel quips “Good luck with that.” Ghost gets all pissy at that remark.
Norman calms the Ghost down and says that he wants Ghost to get into the vault that is before them. Ghost asks what he is going to get out of this. Norman replies that he has plans for the Ghost. Ghost asks if he is going to be an Avenger. Norman says no that the Ghost would be a slap in the face of everything that the Avengers stand for. But, Norman does have big plans for the Ghost. (Yup. As a member of the Thunderbolts.)
The Ghost then phases through the vault door and suddenly, the vault door opens up. Inside are all of Tony Stark’s different suits of armor.
We slide over to this morning in Latveria. We see the Thunderbolt helicopter that is transporting Dr. Doom landing. Bendis has one of the Thunderbolt agents do a rip-off of the scene in the Iron Man movie where the soldiers ask to take a picture with Tony Stark. Only, this time, Doom is not as agreeable to the idea as Tony was in the movie.
Doom exits the helicopter and sees Morgan standing off in the distance. Morgan and Doom then engage in a battle of spells.
We cut to right now in New York City outside of Avengers Tower. We see the unveiling of the new Avengers team. Iron Patriot them removes his helmet and it is Norman Osborn. Norman states that he will lead the Avengers in battle against anyone who would threaten the American way of life. Norman says “My name is Norman Osborn and I approve these Avengers!!” End of issue.
The Good: Dark Avengers #1 was a surprisingly solid read. This issue was much better than what I was expecting. Bendis uses a very traditional structure for Dark Avengers #1 that is seen on many first issues of a new team title. The formula dictates that the writer start in media res with the scene unveiling the new team and then the writer immediately flashes back to the various scenes where the members of the new team are gathered. The formula then follows that the issue end with the same unveiling scene that it began with.
This formula is standard issue and time tested and certainly does the job with Dark Avengers #1. Sometimes it just is not necessary to try and re-invent the wheel. And since Bendis’ strength is not team titles I thought this was a very wise move on his part.
Bendis does an excellent job giving enough back-story on each character. This roster includes several characters that many readers may not be familiar with. Bendis manages to seamlessly integrate into the story just enough information about each member of the team so that readers unfamiliar with these characters get a good sense of the personalities of these characters. And Bendis does it with an economy of words so that readers who are familiar with these characters do not get bored during these introductions.
Bendis succeeds in carrying out the number one task of a new title and that is making the title new reader friendly. Bendis spoon-feds the reader and makes Dark Avengers #1 an easy to read issue that is as attractive to newer readers as it is to readers who have been following Mighty Avengers, New Avengers and the Thunderbolts for a long time.
Bendis does an impressive job utilizing the scene with Norman and Ms. Hand in the beginning of this issue in order to outline Norman’s plan and vision for HAMMER, the Initiative, Avengers and Thunderbolts. This was very well done and in a couple of pages clearly established the setting, the tone and the goals that constitute the foundation for Dark Reign. It also clearly conveys to the reader the drastic new direction that the power structure of the Marvel Universe will now have in the wake of Secret Invasion.
I dig the roster for the Dark Avengers. Daken is the only character that I find totally uninteresting and useless. All the rest of the members are all interesting and appealing in their own way. Bendis does a nice job by not simply taking the Thunderbolts and merely re-masking them as the Avengers. Instead, we get a neat mix of characters.
We have the big bad villains from the Thunderbolts in Bullseye, Moonstone and Venom. Bendis then adds in two wildcards in Daken and Noh-Varr. And to round things out Bendis adds in two heroes from the Mighty Avengers in Sentry and Ares. This is an unusual blend of characters and I am extremely curious to see how this team gels together. Without a doubt, this mix of characters should lead to some friction and some entertaining situations.
This is definitely a very powerful roster that Bendis has assembled. The new roster for the Mighty Avengers could go blow for blow with the Dark Avengers, but the New Avengers would get absolutely decimated by the Dark Avengers. Bendis is going to have to pit the Dark Avengers against some serious heavy hitters in order for the battles to be compelling.
Bendis crafts some solid dialogue. The aspect of the dialogue that I enjoyed the most were all of the humorous lines that Bendis served up. Bendis had me chuckling through this entire issue. The nice sense of humor that Bendis brought to this issue was much needed given the dark tone of the title.
A good example of some of the humor is the scene where Norman, Moonstone and Ares are waiting for Ghost to open the vault door. Ares totally checks out Moonstone and says “You’re a fine woman.” Moonstone replies “Oh, my God.” And Ares answers “Yes. I am.” Heh, that’s good stuff. And this is the type of unusual character interaction that I am looking forward to with such an odd cast of characters on this roster.
Bendis turns in some serviceable character work. Bendis is never going to be capable of delivering particularly fleshed out characters on a team title. It just is not one of his talents. However, at least Bendis manages to get across to the reader the basic personalities of each character and how they differ from each other.
I thought that Bendis did a fine job dealing with why heroes like Ares and Sentry would agree to stay with Norman’s Avengers. Ares’ response that he is the god of war made sense. Ares is just looking for a fight and Norman is offering him that opportunity. And Ares responding to Ms. Marvel exclaiming saying that Norman is a killer with the statement “So am I.” was just classic.
It is no surprise that Sentry would join up with Norman. Sentry is crazy as a loon. He is about the easiest person for Norman to manipulate. I am sure that Norman is “helping” Sentry with his split personality concerning the Void.
I liked the scene with where Norman recruits Moonstone to be Ms. Marvel. Norman’s explanation of the differences between being Moonstone and being Ms. Marvel was humorous. Bendis also did a nice job showing how becoming an Avenger really seemed to mean a lot to Moonstone. Bullseye, Daken and Venom were more excited about being an Avenger just to rub it in the faces of the heroes. Moonstone, on the other hand, truly seemed happy to finally have achieved such an honor of being an Avenger.
I dig the change to Venom’s character in this issue. Venom is usually way too cartoonish and over the top for my taste. I prefer this newer version of Venom. This version of Venom should offer Bendis more depth and substance to work with than the cartoonish monster Venom. I am definitely looking forward to seeing how Spider-Man reacts to this new version of Venom.
Noh-Varr is a cool Grant Morrison character and I glad to see that Marvel is utilizing his character more. Placing Noh-Varr on a high profile team title like Dark Avengers is an excellent idea. While, I am not too sure that Bendis is the correct writer to handle Noh-Varr’s character, I am still looking forward to some character growth and evolution for Noh-Varr. This is a character that has plenty of potential.
I loved the scene where Norman wonders out loud at what special ingredient his Avengers are missing. And Bendis’ decision to have Ares be the person to astutely identify the missing ingredient was perfect. And it makes sense that the god of war would be quite attuned to the symbolism that causes men to gather around a leader and be willing to follow them into battle.
Bendis impressed me with his take on Iron Man and Captain America and their importance to the Avengers as symbols. The soldier and the knight that inspire others and cause people to gather behind them. This was a surprisingly interesting take on the two cornerstones of the Avengers franchise. Bendis has rarely displayed any sense or feel for the Avengers’ storied history so I was caught off-guard by this nicely done scene.
Bendis ends Dark Avengers #1 with a solid hook ending as we see Doom and Morgan lock horns in battle. I dig that Bendis is bringing back the Doom/Morgan plotline from a year ago in Mighty Avengers #9. This is a great job of taking a dangling plotline that was put on the back burner to simmer during Secret Invasion and finally weaving it back into the current story in a proper and interesting fashion.
Mike Deodato provides plenty of nice artwork for Dark Avengers #1. Deodato supplies a visual bridge between Thunderbolts and Dark Avengers since Deodato was the artist for Warren Ellis’ run on Thunderbolts. Deodato’s style of art is balanced enough to be suited for a public super hero team like the Avengers, but at the same time also has that hint of something dark and sinister that is fitting for a team being run by Norman Osborn.
The Bad: Dark Avengers #1 was a slow and largely uneventful issue. But, that is the nature of the beast with set-up issues. First issues often suffer from having to perform the job of laying the foundation for the title, introducing the members of the team and cuing the reader into the mission statement for the team.
The structure for Dark Avengers #1 is certainly a bit predictable and formulaic. Bendis relies mostly on the predictable shock value of seeing the various villains turned into versions of our beloved Avengers in order to carry the issue. Again, with first issues of a new team title, it is tough to come up with an interesting and innovative method to deliver the debut issue.
For the most part, Bendis actually manages to keep the story and his dialogue fairly tight and focused. However, there are still a few moments where Bendis loses his focus and gives the reader some of his usual unnecessary dialogue. There is always a certain percentage of fluff in Bendis’ issues. The Maria Hill scene would be an example of that.
Bendis’ poor research skills and his penchant for blatantly disregarding continuity and what is going on in other titles rears its ugly head once again in Dark Avengers #1. Bendis reveals that Avengers Tower was built with SHIELD funding and that it is now Norman’s and no longer Tony’s property. Norman adds that obviously Tony never saw this day coming.
This is completely contradictory to the Knaufs’ run on Iron Man where they had Tony at odds with the government on several occasions. And the Knaufs had Tony totally untrusting of the government and Tony stated several times that he knew at some point that the government would end up replacing him.
Still, this is probably nitpicking and I can shrug this off as just Bendis being lazy and ignoring the Knaufs’ run out of convenience in order to implant the necessary plot device of getting Avengers Towers into Norman’s hands which would in turn give Norman access to Tony’s armors so that Norman could then be able to construct the Iron Patriot armor.
Having said that, one of the followers of The Revolution rightly jogged my memory by pointing out that Avengers Tower pre-dates Tony Stark taking over SHIELD. Avengers Tower first appeared in New Avengers #1 in 2005. That is well before Tony became director of SHIELD. So, I have no idea how or why SHIELD funding would have been used to construct Avengers Tower.
Beyond the issue with the Avengers Tower and the SHIELD funding there was one other point that I found even harder to reconcicle. I found it completely unbelievable: that Tony Stark would leave his entire armory full of every single suit of armor he made behind for Norman Osborn to gain control over. This is completely inconsistent with Tony’s character through out his entire history. Tony is so obsessive about his armors and his proprietary technology that he went through not one, but two “Armor Wars” in order to get back his tech that was stolen.
On top of that, Fraction in the past two issues of Invincible Iron Man has showed us the incredible and unbelievably ornate lengths that Tony has gone through in an effort to keep any and all valuable information that was in the SHIELD databases from falling into Norman’s hands.
And I am supposed to buy what Bendis is selling me that Tony would simply leave his entire armory in Norman’s hands? No way. This is just another example of Bendis not knowing or caring anything at all about the history of characters who are not one of his pet characters.
And it is another example of Bendis’ deficiencies of his writing skills when it comes to writing a title within a shared universe. Bendis is known for constantly and blatantly disregarding a character’s continuity and core personality when it runs counter to what Bendis wants to do with his own story. Instead of shaping his stories around the core personalities and continuity of certain characters, Bendis morphs the personalities and continuities of the characters around his story.
I know it is much easier for a writer to simply focus on his characters and his plotlines. And that is why Bendis excels on titles like Powers which, aside from some neat cameos, is in its own world and on titles like Ultimate Spider-Man where luckily Bendis has been largely allowed to do his own thing within the Ultimate Universe. However, it is incumbent upon a writer to keep himself aware of a character’s history and what that character has done or is doing on other titles when writing a comic book in a shared universe.
The reveal of Iron Patriot’s identity at the end of Dark Avengers #1 was anti-climactic and predictable. Bendis missed on a chance for something incredibly creative and interesting by having Luke Cage be the Iron Patriot. It would have been endlessly more compelling to see Luke Cage in the armor. Bendis could have had Luke have to deal with not only betraying the New Avengers and being a total sellout, but also having to then assume the role as the leader and wearing the amalgam of the two greatest symbols of the Avengers. I would have greatly preferred that to the predictable and somewhat dull move of having Norman being the leader and being Iron Patriot.
Some readers may view Dark Avengers as being duplicative. This team and its concept is basically just a public version of the Thunderbolts. And we still have the Thunderbolts around and active. Throw on top of that two “good” Avengers teams in the Mighty Avengers and the New Avengers and the reader is left with the feeling that we have one or two too many super teams running around.
Overall: Dark Avengers #1 was a good read. Bendis delivers a solid debut issue and gives the reader just enough to get them to come back for more. Dark Avengers #1 is straight forward and mass consumable. It is also new reader friendly. This title should appeal to a large cross section of fans. I would expect this issue to post huge sales numbers.
I would recommend giving Dark Avengers #1 a try. Even if you have disliked Bendis’ run on New Avengers and Mighty Avengers, I would still recommend giving Dark Avengers #1 a chance. I think that Bendis is presenting the reader with something much different than what we have been getting on New Avengers and Mighty Avengers ever since the end of Civil War. Bendis certainly showed me enough in Dark Avengers to get me to believe that Bendis has some interesting ideas in mind for this title.