Dark Ages #1 Review

Tom Taylor has shown through his work on DCeased and Injustice comic books that he knows how to tell great Elseworld stories. Now Marvel is giving Taylor the opportunity to do something similar with their universe in the form of Dark Ages. Not being connected to any particular Marvel Universe continuity will allow Taylor the freedom to tell the big event-level story he wants to tell, as he showed most recently with all of his work creating the DCeased Universe for DC Comics. What new Marvel Universe will be created from Dark Ages? Let’s find out with Dark Ages #1.

Writer: Tom Taylor

Artist: Iban Coello

Colorist: Brian Reber

Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: In New Jersey Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones get together so their daughters (May Parker and Dani Cage) can have a playdate. MJ notices that May is using her spider powers to climb on the ceiling and tells Peter to get her down. As Peter goes to get her down his and May’s Spider-Sense goes off to such an extreme point that it causes them severe headaches after detecting something dangerous coming to Earth.

Elsewhere, Ghost-Spider and Spider-Man (Miles Morales) Spider-Senses also go off to the point it is also causing them a severe headache for detecting something coming to Earth.

Elsewhere, Moon Girl discovers what is coming to Earth and immediately jumps on Devil Dinosaur and rides it to the Baxter Building.

In their respective offices Jean Grey and Professor Xavier (who looks to be the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters version) psychically discuss what they have detected coming to Earth.

In a desert Apocalypse looks to be pleased at what he hears is coming to Earth.

Back in New Jersey Peter tells Luke, Jessica, and MJ that while he is not sure what is happening he knows it’s bad. Peter changes into his Spider-Man costume and decides to go to the Baxter Building to discuss things with Reed Richards and Sue Storm.

Dark Ages #1
The Watcher reveals the origin story of the Unmaker in Dark Ages #1. Click for full page view.

Over at the Baxter Building Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur appear just as the first tremor is felt on Earth. Moon Girl reveals that she has detected that whatever is attacking and causing the tremors is coming from deep within Earth. Valeria Richards thinks that given the readings this is the end of Earth.

The Watcher suddenly appears and says what is happening is indeed the end of the world with Earth only having several hours left in its survival.

The Watcher goes on to reveal that ten billion years ago a living machine was created to protect the universe from entropy and consuming black holes. After some time the living machine was tainted by darkness and became a being known as the Unmaker, going wild unmaking galaxies. Eventually the Living Tribunal put a stop to the Unmaker, putting it to sleep and imprisoning it within Earth’s core.

Back in the present, The Watcher says that when the Unmaker fully awakens it will unmake Earth. The Fantastic Four go to work in contacting all of Earth’s heroes and putting a plan together. It is quickly decided that Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Invisible Woman, The Thing, and Vision would work together as a strike team to fight the Unmaker.

At the center of the Earth the Unmaker immediately attacks the team. Invisible Woman quickly creates a barrier to protect the team from all of Unmaker’s attacks.

At the same time, over in Wakanda, Black Panther and Shuri work quickly to respond to the people in trouble from all the tremors.

Guardian is also shown responding to a bunch of disasters in Vancouver, Canada,

In Atlantis Namor is left in shock as his kingdom is being completed destroyed by the tremors Unmaker is causing.

Across the United States the members of the X-Men, Avengers, Runaways, and Champions respond to all the disasters taking place, helping and saving as many people as they can.

Back in the center of the Earth, The Thing and Invisible Woman attempt a combo attack. Detecting this the Unmaker kills The Thin in an instant.

Scarlet Witch attempts to use her reality warping powers to destroy the Unmaker. The Unmaker turns Scarlet Witch’s attack on her an unmakes Wanda.

Pissed off Vision phases into the Unmaker’s head. This buys Doctor Strange the time to search the Multiverse and find the weapon needed to defeat the Unmaker. The weapon turns out to be a dimension where no electricity could function.

When Doctor Strange opens the portal to that dimension it causes an EMP wave that starts killing the Unmaker. The Unmaker fires a spear that pierces Invisible Woman’s shield and fatally strikes Doctor Strange. Before he dies Doctor Strange sends Invisible Woman through a dimensional portal to safety

Because Doctor Strange did not close the portal to the dimension where no electricity could function the EMP wave sweeps across Earth. This causes the entire planet to be sent into complete darkness as all power is lost in everything from SHIELD’s Helicarrier, Iron Man’s armor, Ant-Man’s size-changing belt, and A.I.s like Viv dying.

Spider-Man’s webshooters are also impacted by the EMP wave and causes him to fall hard to the ground. Spider-Man quickly gets back up and heads to find MJ and the others.

Peter takes of his Spider-Man mask as he only finds Jessica and Luke. Jessica tells Peter that MJ went back inside the building to help people evacuate but that the building collapsed.

As Peter, Jessica, and Luke desperately dig through the rubble May lifts a large wall that collapsed, showing that she has developed her super strength, and was able to save MJ, Aunt May, and another kid in the process.

Seven years later an older Peter finishes telling his story about what happened in the past. He ends by saying that now comes the apocalypse.

It is then shown that he was talking to Apocalypse, Iron Man who is using steam-powered armor, Miles Morales who has turned into Venom, Mr. Fantastic, Lady Deathstrike, Beast, and She-Hulk. End of issue.

The Good: Tom Taylor and Iban Coello waste no time in making Dark Ages #1 delivering an impactful event already. There is a lot that takes place that leaves you processing all the big and little moments spread across Dark Ages #1. Which is exactly how as a fan you want to be left feeling.

Kicking things off with Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones getting together to have a playdate for their daughters, May Parker and Dani Cage, was a great tone setter. In this scene alone Taylor and Coello are able to establish that Dark Ages takes place in its own unique universe. That is something that is further showcased throughout Dark Ages #1 with Miles Morales and Spider-Gwen in this universe, the Fantastic Four back at the Baxter Building, and X-Men working from the Xavier Mansion. All these little details help flesh out how Dark Ages exists in its own continuity that is a merger of a lot of classic and modern-day elements from the Marvel Universe.

Dark Ages #1
The Unmaker quickly kills The Thing and Scarlet Witch in Dark Ages #1. Click for full page view.

Taylor establishing that Peter Parker, May Parker, Miles Morales, and Gwen Stacy were some of the firsts to detect Unmaker’s awakening because of their respective Spider-Senses was a great way to use these characters. They are immediately made important in how the heroes of the Marvel Universe respond as they are the first to act on saving people. It also sets up how the Spider-Man Family will play a key role in Dark Ages as their Spider-Senses are as important as Jean Grey and Professor Xavier’s psychic powers in this age without machines.

This also goes for how Moon Girl as the actual first person to detect Unmaker, beating out the likes of Reed Richards and Professor Xavier, instantly elevated her character. The best part of this is that Taylor doesn’t treat this as a thing that’s not normal. Taylor shows respect for Moon Girl’s status as one of the smartest, if not the smartest, people on Earth. Adding in Valeria Richards confirmation of what Moon Girl discovered was a nice touch to keep things moving forward so we don’t see Reed question things since he trusts his daughter.

The heroes immediately uniting and creating a strike team consisting of in Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Invisible Woman, The Thing, and Vision was great vision. This team immediately has a feeling of being some of Marvel’s heaviest hitters. More importantly it was a balanced team that showed how the heroes placed great thought in having a balance when going up against such a big unknown in the Unmaker.

Speaking of, Taylor did a fantastic job with bringing in The Watcher to present all the necessary information to build up the Unmaker as a world ending threat. The entire flashback that explained Unmaker’s existence and the connection to the Living Tribunal was excellent use of Marvel’s history. The fact that the Living Tribunal could not destroy Unmaker spoke to how powerful of a threat that just woke up within the Earth. It made you wonder if the heroes that formed the strike team would even be able to survive such a clash.

The answer we got just further elevated how Dark Ages #1 established itself as a big event. Seeing The Thing and Scarlet Witch easily killed by the Unmaker provide a sense of shock. As the reader you feel how devastating the Thing and Scarlet Witch’s deaths were to Invisible Woman and Vision. Seeing Vision launch a kamikaze like attack by phasing himself into the Unmaker further elevated the danger of the situation our heroes fighting Unmaker and those saving people around Earth were in.

This made Doctor Strange tapping into the greater Marvel Multiverse in order to find an answer in how to defeat the Unmaker an even bigger character move. It showed that there was nothing in this Marvel Universe that could stop the Unmaker. Doctor Strange only answer being launching an EMP wave from another dimension furthered the desperation that was felt by our heroes.

The Unmaker having enough power to still kill Doctor Strange was an unexpected move. This leading to how the events of this issue launched the Marvel Universe into a new dark age because Doctor Strange did not close off the portal to the dimension that transmitted the EMP wave was well handled.  This provided a strong explanation for why we will now be in a Marvel Universe without the use of its normal technology. At the same time we are left with questions on if the Unmaker is truly gone and what happened to Invisible Woman since she was sent away by Doctor Strange.

Dark Ages #1 also did a good job at showing us how when the time comes the heroes will unite to save and protect people to the best of their abilities. We see that with how quickly the Avengers, Champions, Runaways, and X-Men work to save people around the world. These heroic actions make the disasters we see take place in Wakanda, Atlantis, and around the world hit even harder. Which in turn made the devastating on how the EMP wave that Doctor Strange released had severe ramifications for the entire world, including heroes reliant on technology like Iron Man and Viv Vision.

Dark Ages #1
May Parker saves her mother, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, much to Peter Parker’s relief in Dark Ages #1. Click for full page view.

This all led to the seven year time jump creating a lot of questions as to what will happen next in the Dark Ages event. We see from the final pages that Peter Parker, Apocalypse, Iron Man, Miles Morales, Mr. Fantastic, Lady Deathstrike, Beast, and She-Hulk are at least alive. Based on the different appearances of these characters and Peter’s dialogue it does appear that Apocalypse will be a major antagonist in this series. But given that Apocalypse was with the assembled heroes and villains at the end of Dark Ages #1 even that is brought into question. Whatever happens next in the story I’m fully invested in finding out.

Iban Coello did an excellent job making Dark Ages #1 look like a big event through his artwork. Coello does an excellent job presenting Unmaker as a big deal from the moment you see it. The entire design for Unmaker just invokes a sense of dread sweeping over Earth. Which sets the stage well for everything we see happening across Earth and inside it. The artwork captures how devastating everything that happens is with how Coello draws various character reactions throughout Dark Ages #1.

The Bad: Nothing.

Overall: Dark Ages #1 is a fantastic example of how you kick off a big event. Tom Taylor and Iban Coello do not waste any time setting up the big conflict and the ramifications of the decisions made by certain heroes. It all works to create a universe that fans will be fully invested in finding out what will happen next. This is a must have comic book for all Marvel fans.

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