Dark Avengers #1–6 by Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato
I rather liked Warren Ellis’ 12-issue run on Thunderbolts, which is effectively what the Dark Avengers are: the Thunderbolts masquerading as the Avengers. Bendis has always admired Ellis as a writer, so working on the same concept was probably a lot of fun for him. He even got the same artist as Ellis in Deodato, just to keep things consistent. And it is actually rather fun – Bendis seems to enjoy writing an evil but intelligent Norman Osborn, and the book is full of dialogue that is enjoyable to read. The characters drive the interactions, and there is some interesting stuff going on, such as the relationship between Osborn and the Sentry, as Osborn manipulates the mental instability of Bob Reed.
With such a strong central concept to work with, and interesting characters to use, it seems a very odd choice for the first ‘action’ story to be about Morgana attacking Dr Doom – it seems completely out of place for the tone of the book, and the introduction of magic into the setting creates an odd mixture. It just doesn’t feel right, especially with a villain in Morgana who can die but effectively come back to life by a waving of the hand (or visiting the past or something). Not that the action is handled badly; on the contrary, Deodato does a great job on the book in all aspects, from the many pages of talking heads to the monsters and the big pages of superhero (or, rather, supervillain as superhero) action. Admittedly, he does like to draw his curvy ladies and their curvy posteriors (and why does Morgana have high heels in the past?), but he is a perfect choice for this title and is a very talented artist, doing a great job of drawing people’s facial expressions to tell the story, even if he does draw Norman Osborn as Tommy Lee Jones.
For me, the draw here is the dialogue. The characters talk to each other; Bendis must love writing the dialogue for Osborn, because he writes pages and pages of it, particularly with the Sentry, but also with Victoria Hand, Osborn’s new Deputy Director. There is also humorous stuff – Bullseye, on arriving in the Avengers Tower: ‘You know, it’s too bad I killed my mother in high school … she would have loved this. Joking. She wouldn’t a’ cared.’, or saying to Osborn: ‘Hey … what’s with your hair anyhow?’ – which is something I like to have in my comic books.
There are two strange things about this book: firstly, it is obviously a limited series (even before knowing that it ends at the culmination of the Siege storyline); because the team is tied directly to Osborn, it cannot survive when he is eventually taken down. I’ve got no problem with that – even good ideas can run out of steam – but it feels strange reading the book when it’s set out as if it’s an ongoing series. The other strange thing is reading this book and seeing the connection to the New Avengers trade I discussed yesterday; there are scenes in both books that reflect each other, something Bendis has been doing a lot of late (particularly when he was writing Secret Invasion, The New Avengers and The Mighty Avengers at the same time). It reminds me of a time when Marvel books were more connected but it’s not something I’m used to seeing in the ‘trade paperback’ age of comic books. However, I thought this collection was a good read with good art, and I want to read more.