DARK AVENGERS #184
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Neil Edwards
Release Date: December 12, 2012
There’s an unspoken danger about comic line re-launches (don’t call it a reboot!) that plagues books like Dark Avengers #184. It’s the assumption that new trade dress and the “Marvel NOW!” stamp on a book automatically makes it a good jumping on point. There have been a few new #1s that failed on this score (but many more that succeeded, some to a tremendous degree), but it’s not entirely rational for a #184 to meet the expectations of its younger brothers set while wearing an identical red bar across its cover footer. And not surprisingly, this issue did fail in that regard, although not for lack of trying.
Between the first page recap (a longtime practice by Marvel I actually consider a significant storytelling crutch) and the first few story pages, Parker does, in fact, lay out the identities of the team members and a rudimentary explanation of their current plight: returning from somewhere (?), the Dark Avengers’ ship was hit with some magic whammo by the Man-Thing and was shunted into an alternate universe. The problem isn’t the who in this case, but the why. Why are these people together and why are they impersonating the Avengers? I’m sure this may have been addressed in previous issues, but as a potential pick-up point sitting on the shelves next to what will assuredly be the highest selling title of the year, I feel like it’s a missed opportunity.
The world the Dark Avengers land in isn’t particularly compelling enough to distract me from the prior points, unfortunately. Parker has crafted a New York divided among super-powered warlords such as Iron Man and Doctor Strange, but with none of the creative surprise that Mark Millar exhibited years ago in depicting a United States under the same conditions in Wolverine: Old Man Logan. New York is still just New York with Iron Men flying around one neighborhood and eyeballs flying through another. A good deal of the narrative explanation is provided by a much less haughty Moonstone than I have every encountered, and a brain-controlled Hank Pym from the alternate world. The latter I can excuse for having a very monotone personality (particularly in regard to the danger his wife is facing), but I’m not sure what has turned one of the most conniving and brilliant anti-heroes of the last decade into a two-dimensional version of her own voice. The rest of the cast, with the exception of Skaar, remains very much unconscious for the bulk of the book, and I think to the story’s overall detriment. The tactical storytelling advantage to team camaraderie (or lack thereof) is lost.
Edwards is competent at depicting the script as it progresses, but I’m not seeing a wide amount of creative license with this bold new world the team has landed in. Backgrounds, when drawn, are fairly plain and most facial expressions are nondescript, even in the lead characters. There are a few panels of greatness in this regard, including one where the son of the Hulk gives Moonstone a bit of shout-spray to the face, but with no follow-up in dialogue or gesture, it’s almost a wasted effort. After experiencing so many great titles in the last two months from the House of Ideas and seeing my pull list shift in their favor for the first time in a decade, Dark Avengers unfortunately can’t come close to competing with its restarted brethren. The potential may have been there for something new and NOW!, but I’m not seeing it fulfilled in this issue.