It’s Reigning men! 

WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
ART: Mike Deodato & Will Conrad
COLOR ART: Raine Beredo
LETTERER: Cory Petit
At a Cabal gathering, a flustered Norman Osborn asks Namor to publicly denounce the Atlantean terrorist cell and lead a retaliatory extermination. Namor indignantly refuses, egos clash, tempers flair, and the meeting dissolves. Norman then asks the Sentry to let his Void personality take over and destroy the Atlanteans in their underwater base, despite having previously convinced him that there is no Void. Norman orders that one Atlantean be spared and paraded through the streets to symbolize the populace’s safety. The press release claims that this individual, the lone survivor of a “suicide bomb,” will receive due process and questioning. The reality? Munches and crunches for Venom.
Back at base, Norman snaps at Moonstone over Marvel Boy’s apparent departure, and retreats to the armory, where he collapses into gobliny madness.
Critics label Dark Avengers as a rehash of Warren Ellis’ Thunderbolts on a larger scale, as if any part of that statement suggests something other than damn incredible comics. Ellis struck gold with this formula and it’d be criminal to kill it after a paltry twelve issues. The concept of a government-sanctioned team of morally ambiguous and not-so-ambiguous bastards and psychos exacting brutal order under the command of a mentally slipping Tommy Lee Jones flat out works. It’s genius. And with issue #6, Brian Michael Bendis finally perfects the flavor.
Not that the writer merely mimics his inspiration without adding anything new. For one, we get twisted interaction between Norman and Sentry, with the latter character not sucking for the first time ever. I knew Norman and Bob’s therapy session from issue #3 was a crock. Norman doesn’t want to help Bob overcome his demons; he wants to suppress them until he needs a decapitation or a mass execution. Norman and Sentry have similar brands of crazy, but Norman has experience in harnessing his insanity and the diabolical cunning to control Sentry through that understanding. Bendis has created nothing so fascinating as this relationship in his entire career writing the Avengers.
The Cabal also keeps getting more and more interesting. The mix of huge personalities makes for entertaining drama and subterfuge, and having this group in place sets up something sinister for the Marvel Universe once Osborn burns himself out. I like how Angelina Jo Loki stays silent, but speaks volumes through facial expressions. Her amused contempt at Emma Frost asking, “are we dismissed?” as if gods and kings were Norman’s to dismiss, makes for an excellent, subtle little beat.
Bendis has fed prisoners to Venom once too many, and he wastes a few pages on Sentry swimming aimlessly, but otherwise this is the best recent Avengers issue.
4 out of 5.
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