Thanks once again to the fine folks at my local library, I have had the chance to check out the beginning of Marvel’s “Dark Reign” from its focal point, Dark Avengers. Specifically the trade of the first six issues, titled “Assembled”.
The first issue is spent just assembling the new team. In case you haven’t heard, the Dark Avengers are sort of a reverse Thunderbolts, a bunch of criminals dressed up as heroes but still distinctly evil. Two members of Iron Man’s Mighty Avengers hold over, the war god Ares and the Sentry, a character too messed up in the head to go anywhere else. In addition, we have Spider-Man (really the Venom symbiote wearing Mac Gargan), Hawkeye (the assassin Bullseye), Ms. Marvel (former Thunderbolt Moonstone), Captain Marvel (Noh-Varr, the former Marvel Boy), and Wolverine (Logan’s son Daken). Led by new head of HAMMER Norman Osborn in his guise as the Iron Patriot, they are the new generation of Avengers.
Never do we really get an explanation of why Norman decided to go this route. He may have had to work for it, but other Marvel books clearly show that he could have formed a team of less famous but more stable (and manageable) actual heroes. He could probably still keep Moonstone and Daken around with little or no trouble and avoid the high probability of Venom or Bullseye going crazy. But clearly the concept is more important than the reasoning, as we quickly move on to the team’s first (secret) mission: to save Doctor Doom from a crazed Morgan Le Fey.
Now as far as I know the last time we saw Morgan was in the first few issues of Kurt Busiek’s Avengers relaunch in the late nineties. That story gave us a near pitch perfect story starring every Avenger on the roster facing an epic time-warping threat. Here we get some demons and an unkillable woman hellbent on Doom’s destruction. She does a lot of damage, the Avengers kill her repeatedly, and a few issues are wasted on what is basically an extended fight with the team’s own idiocy. I suppose this is supposed to show the team’s inability to work together, but all it shows me is that anyone who bought this wasted $12 for these three issues.
Issue five is straight forward Bendis at work. Norman goes on television for an interview about his history as the Green Goblin and the identity of his Avengers. The other team members interact, mostly like twelve year old schoolboys, with the exception of Noh-Varr and Moonstone, who retreat to her bedroom. Noh-Varr learns that the other “heroes” are really villains and leaves.
Issue six closes the trade with the Sentry murdering an entire legion of Atlantean dissidents. We get another brief meeting of Osborn’s Cabal and hints that Osborn’s Green Goblin persona is pushing for control once again.
Writer Brian Michale Bendis likes his decompression, but I have to say that I would feel gypped if I spent $4 an issue for this at their LCS. Even with my library grab, I feel like I am not getting as much story as this trade should have. The story here seems pointless and far from the flagship of an entire line of titles. If this was my only view of Dark Reign, I would say “:No thanks”. Even though Mike Deodato produces art far and away better than anything he has done before, this book still falls flat on its face. Not Recommended.