Sunday, August 23, 2009

Blogathon 38: New Avengers: Dark Reign

[Discussed in this post: Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1, Dark Reign: The Cabal #1, Free Comic Book Day 2009 Avengers #1, and New Avengers #48-50.]

The "Dark Reign" is upon us.

Secret Invasion: Dark Reign is the final Bendis/Maleev book I'll be discussing and it's not that bad. It's mostly known for the odd manner in which Maleev depicts Namor -- basically, a skeevy-looking guy who may or may not be deathly ill. It's odd because Maleev did a much better Namor in the New Avengers: Illuminati special. This is the other side of that special. Whereas that explained the Illuminati, this one explains Norman Osborn's Cabal, which features Namor, Doom, the Hood, Loki, and Emma Frost. Osborn's reasoning is good: as the new top cop, he's going to make deals with these people to keep them in line -- and, when they've got a problem, come to him and he'll solve it nice and legal-like. Osborn in a pretty good spot and doesn't want to lose it because one of these people. In the course of his talk, he threatens them with a mysterious figure that I assume is the Sentry since he's on Osborn's pocket (but wasn't known to be at the time this was released). The issue ends with him killing the Swordsman -- and that scene bothered me because of Bendis's dialogue where the Swordsman talked like a regular criminal when he normally spoke in a more dignified, aristocratic fashion. Bendis's ability to write, like, three different voices rears its head again. A decent one-shot, but mostly set-up.

Dark Reign: The Cabal is a one-shot with five stories featuring the non-Osborn Cabal members. The only story that I dig is Jonathan Hickman's Doom one that has Doom thinking about a year from then where he and Namor take down their fellow Cabal members. It's a nice little window into Doom's head. The Hood story by Rick Remender shows off his ruthlessness. The Matt Fraction Emma Frost story is a good introduction to the character and her past. The Namor story is odd and I'm not sure what it's point was other than they need a Namor story. The Loki one relates to Thor and was unnecessary.

The Free Comic Book Day 2009 Avengers issue is pretty good. By Bendis and Jim Cheung, it has the New Avengers and Dark Avengers work together to stop Ymir the Frost Giant from taking over the world. There's some fighting and words and it's a fairly fun comic that introduces the currect status quo: the bad guys are in charge and have their own evil Avengers, but the good guys are still around and are trying to take them down. Here, though, they need to work together. Cheung does some fantastic art here. Aries gets the chance to shine a bit.

New Avengers #48-50 has the team deal with the new status quo by reforming post-Secret Invasion at Captain America's house. The new line-up: Cap, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel, Ronin, and Mockingbird. Iron Fist sticks around during these issues, but he's out of here after this. But, before they can get to the business of saving the world and maybe getting rid of Norman Osborn, they need to find Danielle Cage. Issues 48-49 deal with this and includes a lot of city-scrounging... it gets to the point where Luke even goes to Osborn and agrees to sign up with him in exchange for help. Osborn provides help in a horrific way by feeding Skrulls to Venom until one of them tells him what he wants to know. After getting the baby back, Bullseye kills the Jarvis Skrull and Luke is Osborn's... until he comes into the office with the Wrecker's crowbar and lays a beating on Bullseye and Venom and tell Osborn where he can stick their deal. Luke Cage is the man.

Of course, Osborn one-ups him by revealing his Avengers team that day. That leads into issue 50 where they try and bait Osborn's group into a confrontation where they'll use a power drainer to take them down easily. The thing is, Osborn outsmarts them and sends the Hood's crew instead. The New Avengers still win and that issue ends with Clint recording a message denouncing Osborn that gets played on the news.

Billy Tan's art in these issues is just ugly pap. I cannot stand it. Issue 50 has a series of guest artists who do single pages where Bendis has one of the Avengers narrate. Bryan Hitch does a nice double-page spread; Steve Epting does Cap's page; Alex Maleev (okay, he shows up again!) does Spider-Woman; Steve McNiven does Spider-Man; Leinil Francis Yu does Wolverine; Michael Gaydos does Luke Cage; David Aja does Iron Fist; David Lopez does Ronin and Mockingbird; and Greg Horn does Ms. Marvel. I like how they got artists with some association with the specific characters to do the pages.

Post-Secret Invasion, the status quo isn't all that different for the New Avengers: they're still outlaws, the line-up is mostly the same, and they just can't be stopped. Oh, and they're still fighting the Hood. And they'll fight him in the next arc, but that won't be for a few posts.

In 30 minutes, we'll meet the Dark Avengers.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]