da5Singin’ in the Reign!

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


Norman Osborn sits for a television interview, making sure the interviewer received the list of approved questions. Norman responds to Clint Barton’s public accusations from New Avengers #50 by explaining that he was the Green Goblin at one point because of a chemical imbalance he was born with, but he has since sought and received help and stands cured. Since his recovery, he claims, other individuals have donned the Goblin identity, meaning he did not actually commit most of the crimes associated with the villain. Norman goes on to say that the aborted Skrull invasion gave humanity one big second chance, of which his own redemption is a part. He refuses to reveal the identities of his Avengers, citing their need for privacy. An Atlantean attack on Los Angeles cuts the talk short.

Brian Bendis intersperses this interview between vignettes of the Avengers’ down time. As Iron Patriot, Norman talks Sentry down from a near-episode. Ares smacks Bullseye into shape (highlight of the issue!) and goes home to find his son, Secret Warriors member Phobos, missing. Moonstone seduces Marvel Boy, who begins to learn that he didn’t join the team of heroes he expected.

Finally, Dark Avengers tackles the question of how Norman sells his position to the American public. This should have happened six months ago. To those of us intimately aware of Osborn’s history, his speech rings like a hollow string of lies, but I can see how his half-truths and manipulated words might deceive a Marvel Universe man-on-the-street. It’s unfortunate, actually, that we never see that lay person’s perspective. I’d gladly trade the redundant Sentry sequence or Marvel Boy’s uncharacteristic naivety for a few pages of citizen reactions. Still, this issue moves the contrived Dark Reign premise into the realm of comic book plausibility.

Though informative and necessary, the issue feels too slow. It lacks the psychological layers characteristic of great Norman Osborn stories, and Osborn’s complete control over himself and his situation deprives it of urgency. Norman Osborn should be fighting against loosing his marbles when on camera, even if he does have the network in his pocket. Bendis presents him as a straightforward crafty politician with a silver tongue. It’s solid writing, but I miss the intensity Warren Ellis brought to the character.

Visually, the comic wastes Mike Deodato’s talent. I understand filling a page with talking heads against a black background in perfectly square panel grids simulates watching the interview on TV, but keeping that up for half an issue makes this the first Dark Avengers not worth buying for the art alone. Also, the habit of reusing art from panel to panel has to stop. Sometimes it serves a legitimate storytelling purpose, like when Norman spends a beat mentally preparing for his interview, but when I see the same shot of the back of his head repeated seven pages later, it makes the book look cheap. I realize Marvel wants to make sure their top-selling title comes out monthly (more or less), but they need to find a better way than putting out a half-assed product, especially one for which they charge a premium.

Deodato does manage to squeeze in a few pages truly worthy of him. The stunning Atlantean onslaught comes to mind, both for its beauty and because of the implicit ramifications within the story. Bendis and Deodato are demigods of the artform when they let loose. They just need to try a little harder to bring Dark Avengers up to par with their best work.

“You don’t hit me.”
“I slapped you. If I hit you, you’d be broken.”

3.5 out of 5. A well-earned character-driven issue that addresses some burning questions.