Sunday, August 23, 2009

Blogathon 39: Dark Avengers

[Discussed in this post: Dark Avengers #1-6.]

It wouldn't be too wrong to call Dark Avengers "Thunderbolts Lite," since that's how it reads. "Warren Ellis already wrote this book and it was better then." A harsh way of putting it, but it's true. Sure, Bendis tries to dress it up with a few new characters and the idea that they're the Avengers now, but it isn't as good as Ellis's Thunderbolts and suffers from that comparison constantly hanging over its head -- spurred on in a big way by Mike Deodato doing the art here. I understand the impulse: he knows the characters, it provides some continuity from one book to the next, he's a great artist -- but it also acts as a constant reminder that, while good, Brian Michael Bendis is not in the same class as Warren Ellis. Bendis may be one of his generation's best mainstream superhero comics writers -- but Ellis may be his generation's best mainstream superhero comics writer. And he does evil bastards better than anyone else.

That said, Dark Avengers is fairly entertaining and has some very, very good scenes. Bendis's Sentry stuff gets better here. Issue three begins with a fantastic discussion between Osborn and Reynolds as Osborn gains his trust by sharing the similar conditions they have. What is really interesting about their discussion is that Osborn sounds more Doctor Samson than Osborn -- and I like that. Bendis understands just how Osborn would adjust his approach to the Sentry... and it's a weird mix of honesty and bullshit. He's obviously playing the Sentry, but you also get the sense that he's being sincere on some level. It's very powerful stuff and Bendis at his best. Later in these issues, after Atlantean terrorists attack US soil, Osborn sends the Sentry to kill them all except one -- and the scene is beautiful because, part of what made their initial dialogue so effective is Osborn's insistance that there is no Void... but, here, he asks for the Void. Not by name, but through implication. The Sentry's eyes go dark and he utters the fantastic line "I thought you said there was no Void."

This is the point where I admit that I forgot something waaaaaaay back in Mighty Avengers: The Return of Ultron: Ultron killed Lindy and the Sentry went Void -- black eyes and just harsh and brutal... and he brought Lindy back to life. Something similar happens here when the Sentry is killed in Latveria and comes back to life in New York. Bendis seems to be advancing this plot and it's interesting.

The main villain here, Morgana le Fey shows up in a very dumb way for a very dumb reason, but it provides some entertaining fight stuff, including Doom and Osborn travelling back in time. Or the Sentry ripping her head off. Nothing too special, but good.

The make-up of this Avengers group is a good one. I don't like the inclusion of Noh-Varr as Captain Marvel for a few reasons: him becoming Captain Marvel was an idea hinted at by the Illuminati and to have Osborn be the one that carries it out is just a little too cute for me. Bendis doesn't really do anything with him except have him have sex with Moonstone and then act all surprised when he realises they're all criminals. Kind of a waste. He'll return, but nothing here changes my opinion that Bendis doesn't really know what he's doing with Noh-Varr.

The interactions between team members isn't any sort of improvement on Ellis's work with them. Even the inclusion of new character add little. Though, Aries slapping Bullseye for acting like a child is great -- and telling him that if he hit him, he'd be broken. Aries is a character that Bendis has a lot of fun with and it shows.

All in all, Dark Avengers is a decent read, but is stuck in the shadow Warren Ellis's Thunderbolts.

We're slowly running out of books, people! But, fear not, we've still got a few to get through. In 30 minutes, Captain Britain and MI:13: Hell Comes to Birmingham.

[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.]