Thursday, February 19, 2009
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin in Latveria, 37 years ago. We see Morgana walk into a tent where we see Victor Von Doom as a little boy. Victor is sleeping. Morgana states that she is going to kill Doom as revenge for him betraying her trust. That Doom stole her knowledge of the black arts. Morgana says that the world will be spared Doom's future selfish villainy.
Morgana is about to stab Doom when she realizes that she cannot kill Doom in this manner. Morgana says that she wants Doom to see her and know why she is punishing him. That Doom has to know that it was Morgana's heart that he broke. (Wow. I have had some bad break-ups, but never have I had an ex-girlfriend like this one.) Morgana teleports away from the tent. Young Victor wakes up and looks scared.
We cut to the present with Norman Osborn addressing his first group of HAMMER agents. Norman goes on about how this is a new day and that they are all the first agents of HAMMER. That all of these agents were the best of the best when they were with either SHIELD or Hydra. (I must have missed the recruiting of Hydra agents for HAMMER. Interesting.) Norman shouts out "Long live HAMMER."
We slide over to Castle Doom in Latveria. Morgana and Doom are engaged in their magical brawl. Morgana says that the world will be spared Doom's selfish villainy. Doom tells Morgana to look around them. That Doom has already lost his kingdom. Morgana replies "No. Now you have." Doom yells that he will not tolerate this. Morgana comments how Doom is arrogant even in his groveling.
While Doom and Morgana battle, one of the HAMMER agents radios back to Avengers Tower that they are under attack.
We cut to the public unveiling of the Dark Avengers that we saw in the end of Dark Avengers #1. We shift back into the Avengers Tower where Norman instructs his team that they will never talk to the media again. That if they do then they will be sent back to the basement of Thunderbolts Mountain. Ares bristles and says "I do as I please." Norman asks if Ares wants to talk to the media. Ares responds "Not really."
Norman then continues and tells his team that he will not tolerate any macho bullshit. That if anyone engages in any testosterone button pushing then they are immediately off the team. No three strikes. No warning. Norman tells the Dark Avengers to get to know each other and become a team. And to learn from each other.
I think I would enjoy answering to Ms. Hand.)
Venom gets some attitude with Ms. Hand. Ms. Hand promptly tells Venom to shut up or she will replace him on the team with D-Man. Captain Marvel says that they need to do a sweep for Skrulls. Norman replies that Skrulls are yesterday's news. (Oh, thank you, dear lord.) That there are very few Skrulls left who have not been already captured.
Bullseye asks about Tony Stark. Norman says that they are not going after Stark. That Stark is a court of law matter. Norman says that kicking a man when he is down is hardly a way to win over the public. (Um, Bendis might want to give Fraction this info.)
Bullseye snorts about no caring about what the public thinks. Norman says that he cares what the public thinks and that all the members of the team should also care about public opinion. Ms. Marvel then suggests that they all go around the room and introduce themselves. Daken asks why they should do that. Ms. Marvel snipes that it was a polite way of her saying that she does not know who the hell he is. Ms. Marvel turns to Norman and says "Seriously. Who is this?"
We zip back to Latveria where Doom and Morgana are still locked in a magical duel. Morgana finally overpowers Doom and blasts him. Doom falls to the ground. One of Morgana's goblins then pounds on Doom.
We cut back to Avengers Tower where Norman is explaining how Daken is Wolverine's son. (Is it asking too much that Daken gets killed by Morgana in this first mission?) Ms. Hand suddenly informs Norman of the report from Latveria that the HAMMER agents and Doom are under attack. Norman is less than pleased and grumbles that helping Doom is not the ideal first mission. Norman then tells the team to suit up.
We see the Dark Avengers flying to Latveria. Iron Patriots says that it is time to see what this team can do.
We shift to Latveria where we see Morgana standing over Doom and about to stab him with her knife. Suddenly, the Dark Avengers are on the scene. Norman asks who they are dealing with. Ares replies that this is Morgana. Venom asks if he can eat Morgana. Daken asks Venom "Why do you always have to make it about eat—" Suddenly, Morgana's dragon bites the Quinjet in half.
Sentry then flies at Morgana at super speed. The Sentry grabs Morgana from behind and rips her head off. (Holy crap!!) The other members of the Dark Avengers are stunned by what they just witnessed. Sentry asks if what he just did was a good thing or a bad thing as he wipes Morgana's blood off his hands with his cape. (Nice touch.)
Ares says "Ha! Well, that is one way to end a fight." Norman then answers the Sentry and says "Good thing, Bob. Absolutely." Sentry responds "It was?" Daken asks what the hell is wrong with the Sentry. The Dark Avengers then check on Doom and see that he is still alive. Norman radios Ms. Hand and orders a clean-up team and an EVAC immediately.
Suddenly, the Sentry begins to glow and yells that something is wrong. There is a huge explosion and the Sentry has disappeared. However, we see Morgana back on the scene. Morgana says that she is not from their time. That even if they kill her here that she can simply come back from her time in the far past and destroy them. Morgana says that if they kill her again then she will come back during their childhoods and kill them then.
Ares demands that Morgana go back to where she has come from. Morgana gives her humblest apologizes for not recognizing Ares before. However, Morgana adds that she knows that Zeus does not care if his son, Ares, lives or dies. Morgana then utters a spell and takes control over Venom. Venom morphs into a giant demonic form and chomps Ares. The rest of Morgana's demons, goblins and dragons then attack the other Dark Avengers. End of issue.
The Good: Dark Avengers #2 was a great read. Bendis has completely surprised me with good back-to-back issues on this title. It is hard to believe that this is the same writer who has been giving us the terminally dull New Avengers title for the past couple of years. While the New Avengers is nothing more than a serious of spotlight issues, Dark Avengers is an actual bona-fide team title. And while New Avengers reads and feels more like a "non-team" like the old Defenders, the Dark Avengers definitely reads and feels like a true Avengers title.
Dark Avengers #2 is exactly what I expect from a comic book with the word "Avengers" on its cover. I expect a story that actually involves the entire team and not just one or two characters. I also expect heavy hitter villains and missions that are large in scope. And, of course, you also need some quality action scenes. Bendis delivers that very formula of Avengers goodness in Dark Avengers #2.
I was impressed with how well Bendis juggled the entire roster of the Dark Avengers. This has been a serious weakness of Bendis over on New Avengers were we have rarely gotten a mission that involves the entire roster. Bendis allows ample panel time for the entire team and treats all of the characters equally. To this point, there has been no blatant playing of favorites on this title. Sure, Norman gets the most panel time, but that is to be expected. After all, Norman is the headliner on this title.
Dark Avengers #2 was a well paced issue. The story is certainly not moving at a fast pace, but it is a steady pace. Bendis has displayed nice focus on this title and moves Dark Avengers #2 along with a clear direction and purpose in mind. Bendis puts the finishing touches on the set-up work for this title with the first half of this issue. Bendis formally introduces the first agents of HAMMER and re-iterates HAMMER's purpose within the current Marvel Universe. Bendis then clearly lays out the ground rules of the Dark Avengers as well as their mission statement.
Norman obviously wants the members of Dark Avengers to be teammates, to get to know each other and to learn from each other. In short, Norman wants his Avengers to capture the same type of chemistry and relationship of the classic Avengers teams. This is a much more complex and intriguing direction than I was expecting with the Dark Avengers. I like that Bendis appears intent on molding the Dark Avengers into a real team with the chemistry and cohesiveness that all of the other Avengers before them. Dark Avengers will be a much more compelling read if this team is played in a more nuanced manner than just having them be a team of psycho villains.
Now, I am not expecting characters like Bullseye or Venom to ever become heroes. And I would not want that since they are wonderful villains. However, it would be interesting to see if at some point characters like Noh-Varr (Captain Marvel) or Moonstone (Ms. Marvel) end up evolving into true heroes.
Bendis delivers some solid dialogue. It is nothing spectacular, but it gets the job done. Without a doubt, Norman gets most of Bendis' best crafted dialogue in this issue. Bendis sprinkles just enough of his trademark humorous dialogue into the issue. And while at times the reader has to wonder if Bullseye would roll out so many funny lines, the humor is largely not overdone and is well placed.
The humor helps to lighten what would otherwise be way too dark of a title and helps to soften the villainous edge of some of the team members. The humor also prevents the Dark Avengers from being more of a parody of your typical modern day drum and gritty super hero title.
Bendis pulls off some excellent character work on Norman Osborn. Norman is really the only character that has much of a well fleshed out personality. Bendis presents the reader with such a textured and complex take on Norman's character. This is not your one-dimensional raving lunatic. Instead, Bendis portrays Norman as a man who is all about control.
Norman employs a direct and blunt personality that exudes confidence and control. I like that Norman will not tolerate any dissension and that there will be no strikes or warnings given to the members of the Dark Avengers. Bendis writes Norman very much like a Lex Luthor type CEO.
Bendis makes sure that Norman has some depth to his character. Norman is able to see the bigger picture as is evidenced by his concern about public opinion of the Dark Avengers as well as his consternation over Doom being the Dark Avengers' first mission. Bendis is doing his best to make Norman an intriguing villain with many layers to his personality.
Morgana is a fine choice to play the role of the heavy hitter villainess in this debut story arc. Morgana is certainly a classic styled Avengers villain. Bendis does a nice job with Morgana's character and is able to convey her feelings of being hurt and spurned without her becoming melodramatic.
This was a great use of the Sentry and an excellent way to hint to the reader what we can expect from the relationship between Norman and Bob. Clearly Norman is going to use Bob's mental illness to his advantage in crafting Bob into his perfect weapon who is loyal solely to him.
Bendis ends Dark Avengers #2 with a good hook ending. We have Morgana re-appearing and then possessing Venom and then attacking the Dark Avengers. In the final page our heroes certainly appear to be overmatched. This ending hooked me and has me believing that the next issue should be another exciting read.
The Bad: I appreciate that Bendis has made an effort to lay a solid foundation and to properly educate the readers on HAMMER, the Dark Avengers and the new direction in general of Dark Reign. Having said that, I think Bendis has given us more than enough foundation for HAMMER. I hope we don't have to go through yet another introduction scene where the writer has to explain HAMMER, its purpose and its origin. I feel like I have read that scene ten times by now.
Outside of Norman Osborn, the character work is a bit thin. The rest of the roster need to have their own individual personalities developed more. At this point, other than Norman Osborn, the rest of the Dark Avengers talk in a standard issue "Bendis speak." Hopefully, as this story progresses, Bendis will be able to further develop each character's own unique voice and personality.
Overall: Dark Avengers #2 was a good read. This was an exciting issue that felt like an Avengers title. Bendis has hooked my interest in the Dark Avengers. I like how Bendis is handling Norman Osborn and the general direction of this team. And I am impressed at how Bendis appears to be committed to making sure that Dark Avengers is a true team title rather than a series of spotlight issues.
I think that while New Avengers and Mighty Avengers might be polarizing for Avengers fans that Dark Avengers is the title that will appeal to both sets of fans. Dark Avengers has the grittiness and darkness of New Avengers combined with the epic adventures and team action scenes that you get in the more classic Mighty Avengers. I'd certainly recommend giving Dark Avengers a try no matter which other Avenger title you like the most.