dec082313I’m only happy when it Reigns.

WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
ART: Mike Deodato
COLOR ART: Rain Beredo
LETTERER: Cory Petit

Morgana Le Fay nearly stabs lil’ Doom in his cot 37 years ago, but decides punishing a grown Doom will satisfy her more since he’ll know the reason for it (she’s mad ’cause he boned her for mystic secrets). With a compliment of demons, she ambushes the Doc in the ruins of present-day Latveria, roasts his escorts, and defeats him in a duel of magical power.

Meanwhile, Norman orates to H.A.M.M.E.R. initiates, recruited from the husks of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra. Afterword, he meets with the Avengers to lay the new team’s ground rules. They get a call from the last surviving agent in Latveria, and it’s off to save Victor Von Doom. The fight ends quickly because The Sentry YANKS MORGANA’S MOTHER-!@#$ING HEAD OFF. Round two, however, begins when Sentry vanishes and Morgana stands in his place, saying that if they kill her in the present she can always return from her own time. Oy, the paradoxes.

With the same artist and half the characters, I think most readers expected Dark Avengers to follow the lead of Warren Ellis’ Thunderbolts run. What surprises me is how much like an Avengers book this feels. Though flavored with Ellis’ sense of irony, Dark Avengers never relies on it, and instead occupies itself playing with bigger toys on a grander stage, with higher stakes and flashier action. Thunderbolts had sensationalist moments, but its sharp satire and cynical bite imparted greater depth, making it the thinking person’s shock fest. With Dark Avengers, the fewer brain cells you bring to your reading chair, the better.

Mike Deodato’s art serves as a beautiful blunt force trauma of ocular awesome concussive enough to make plot holes easier to ignore. My inner Comic Book Guy wants to rage against the worst. Time travel logic. EVER. because good fantasy requires internal consistency, but the shear prettiness lets me accept that one reads Dark Avengers to see photorealistic psychopaths in leotards throw down with dragons and decapitate skanky witches, not to analyse it to pieces.

Brian Michael Bendis does bring some intelligence to his characterization of Norman Osborn, at least. Stormin’ Norman spent most of his Thunderbolts career behind a desk, popping pills and allocating authority, which led to an unstable unit. Now on the front line, he takes charge with such directness and force that he could plausably keep this team in line. We’ve seen Osborn as an individual fighter and a master schemer slash organizor. But as an effective leader of men (and Moonstone … and Sentry)? Let us call this character development.

“‘You know, it’s too bad I killed my mother in high school. She would have loved this.”

3 out of 5. Dark Avengers carries some inexplicable charm. Flaws that usually kill my enjoyment (a lack of depth, poor logic, decompression) just don’t seem to matter next to the joy of brutal antiheroes tearing into medieval monsters against a backdrop of pink lightning. Take it no more seriously than it takes itself, and you’ll find $3.99 worth of fun.

And since you’ve already been spoiled by my review, I’d like to share the greatest splash page ever:

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