Tony Stark’s SHIELD is gone, Norman Osborn’s HAMMER is now the major peacekeeping force in the Marvel Universe. And as the name implies, the once and future Green Goblin believes in peace through force. So it’s time for a new version of the Avengers, comprising heavy hitters loyal to him.
Carol Danvers won’t play ball? No problem, bring in an alternate Ms Marvel. Wolverine, Spider-Man and Hawkeye too moral to join the team? Have bad guys take their roles. Throw in Ares (will fight for food) and Sentry (as dumb as his haircut), alternate universe Kree warrior Marvel Boy (promoted to Captain Marvel) and the all-new, all-cynical Iron Patriot and you have a group ready for their close-up.
Our first sight of them comes with this issue’s cover, a homage to New Avengers 1, and what a rubbish idea that is. We get it, these are the Dark Avengers, Marvel, how about you just show us them? There is a nice shot of the team early on in the book, as Norman – inside the Iron Patriot armour – introduces his Avengers (with an annoying three exclamation points) to the world, and it’s typical of Mike Deodato’s artwork here – striking and dramatic with impressive use of shadow. He’s perfect for a book that is basically a continuation of his work with Warren Ellis on New Thunderbolts. There’s intrigue on every page and Deodato captures the atmosphere superbly, aided by colour artist Rain Beredo. And when we get extra splash pages, Deodato ensures the moment is worth it.
I was going to have a moan about the ridiculous lack of material on Carol Danvers’ costume, but given how tightly Deodato draws Marvel Boy’s costume over his crotch, you can’t say he isn’t an equal ops cheesecake artist.
Brian Michael Bendis has crafted a terrifically entertaining script. He starts in the far past with a villainess due to be spotlighted next issue, moves to the present and the introduction of the team to the world, then goes back over the previous week as the group comes together. The interaction between Osborn and his lackeys, and those who refuse to toe his line, is note perfect – he even makes me like the previously sanctimonious Maria Hill. And while Osborn ‘briefing’ his new deputy, the colourfully haired Victoria Hand, could be seen as Bendis at his wordiest, it shows just how meticulous a planner Osborn is; if there’s an an angle, he has it covered. In an issue full of spiffy moments, I loved the subtle nod, involving Dr Doom, to the Iron Man film.
The only off-note is the terribly specific effect of a pill Osborn gives Venom, but the scene helps move the story along and isn’t too jarring in a big splashy comic book. The major plus of Dark Avengers is that I can relax and enjoy Bendis’ strengths rather than fretting over the fact that he’s not writing the Avengers as the shining team they should be – no one is pretending this bunch are role models. Like Maria Hill, I look forward to watching Osborn ‘crash and burn’. The difference is that I’m likely to live to see it.