Dark Reign: The List - Avengers - Untitled - Bendis, Djurdjevic, Morales and Gracia
Story - This may be an uncool thing to say, but I like Brian Michael Bendis. I think he's a great writer, he puts thought into everything he writes, he plans ahead, and he's one of the very few mainstream writers with a recognisable style, which is to be commended, not mocked, having distinctive dialogue is a good thing people. And saying this is going to make me even lamer, I even like Dark Reign. Primarily because it's being orchestrated by Bendis, and partly because it's such a great idea being executed very well by almost every writer in Marvel's stable, Bendis himself has been doing some of his best work in the two Avengers titles he writes (New and Dark), and has been subtly entwining them together, Norman and Clint's tit for tat Media battle being the most prominent example. And it is this battle of wills which brings us to Dark Reign: The List, a turning point in the Status Quo, and an escalation of Norman's will.
I've noted before how it can be quite difficult to review an Event book, simply because they are designed to make a reader forget their critical faculties and mark out like they were 10 again, and I must admit, some moments in this one-shot did do that, Ronin taking out Bullseye, Clint and Karla, BuckyCap saying he killed Hitler, and the ending... these are all great moments. But there is more at play here than just Clint Barton being a bad-ass, Bendis has stuff to say about his new status quo, and about the nature of heroism.
The plot of this one-shot is simple really, in the aftermath of the Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men crossover, all the mutants are trapped on an Island, kept there like prisoners, and this has pissed of the New Avengers and inspired Norman to begin tackling some of the other problems he faces as leader of the free world. I love how all these events are building up and flowing into eachother, it feels natural and unforced, it shows how commited Marvel are to Dark Reign, and that they have thought things out. The first 2 pages of this issue are basically a preface to this whole series of one-shots, Norman's list, and we get mentions of a few of the upcoming books, Hulk, Secret Warriors and Spider-Man. Personally I think that these one-shots are going to be great, and the good thing is, does Norman maybe have a point? Why is the Hulk just allowed to bounce around the desert? Is Nick Fury really a terrorist? Dark Reign is all about the line between hero and villain and how it has been blurred in our 21st century, post-Authority comics, and I hope The List tackles this. Plus the creative teams are awesome! Ahem.
Bendis continues to address the Line between hero and villain in the next scene, which stars the New Avengers, and continues a debate they have been having occasionally in the last few issues of the title, namely, should they kill Norman Osborn? Ronin says yes, Spider-Man says no, everyone else is sort of in the middle. This is a great back and forth, and it really makes you consider which side you're on. One thing I found hilarious was that this conversation mirrored several I have had online. Some readers have found that Bendis' somewhat kill-happy take on Clint Barton is at odds with the character's past, but Bendis acknowledges this, he has Spider-Man say how crazy it sounds, and then has Clint bring up something I myself have, about how they are on the edge, and it's new circumstances. It just goes to show how intelligent a writer Bendis is, he hasn't just thrown this together, he's thought about it and anticipated the Internet's complaints. Don't you see? You're playing right into his hands! You fools! Mwahahahahahaha. Cough.
This debate also contains a great moment where Captain America claims to have killed Hitler. I don't know where that came from, but it's awesome, I hope Brubaker or Bendis play with that in the future. There then follows a nice quiet personal scene between Clint and his wife, Mockingbird, having Bobbi back has been one of the best things to come out of Secret Invasion, and this was a great scene.
And then Clint does something stupid. Or awesome, depends. The rest of the issue is an extended action sequence where Ronin takes on Avengers Tower all by himself. This is full of great moments, as Clint takes on the Dark Avengers, first he chucks Venom (or Venmom, lame typo!) out of a window, then takes out Bullseye, who he has good reason to hate, since he's dressed up as Hawkeye these days. And his fight with Daken was very well done, he kicked him in the nuts, come on, that's just cool. And then there's Moonstone. Karla Sofen and Clint had a relationship back when Clint led the Thunderbolts, and I've been wanting to see it get acknowledged ever since she became the new Ms. Marvel, call it my one concession to continuity porn, and Bendis did a good job here, Karla has always been complex, and she actually seemed willing to help Clint before the cameras were on. And then there's Norman himself. These two have been going at eachother since New Avengers #50, so it's no surprise when Clint actually fucking shoots him. Shame about the personal forcefield. Shame about Ares too, who takes out Clint quick as his cousin Hermes, and with that, the issue is over, Ronin is under arrest.
This was a great chapter in the ongoing Saga of Dark Reign, it built on several running plot points, Norman and Clint's media war, the X-Men crossover, the divide in the New team, and went somewhere new. Is this a turning point? Norman has his list, and the New Avengers are without their leader. I can't wait to see where this is headed, how will Norman execute his List, and what are the Avengers going to do now? Bendis continues to weave these multiple threads with confidence, but there are some problems, the story does end rather abruptly, and I could have done with more information on what Norman's List will entail, but I did really enjoy this book, it contained some fantastic action sequences and character bits, and added to a tapestry very well. Bendis' dialogue fizzed well, as usual, and I thought his Spider-Man was better than usual. If you've been following Dark Reign, don't miss this.
Art - Cover artist Marko Djurdjevic makes the jump to full interiors with this issue, and he does a good job. It's not quite as beautiful as his cover work, but it's strong, kinetic stuff. To me, it felt like an amalgam of Mike Deodato's shadowy work on Dark Avengers, and Stuart Immonen's sharper edged New work, very fitting for a book which brings the 2 teams together. He even managed to make the Ronin costume look cool. I think his best work here is the shot of Clint standing on a Roof looking across at Avengers tower, a very strong image. Add to this the fact that he apparently drew all 26 pages in only 9 days, it's even more impressive, I suspect Mark Morales' inks were a big help, he's one of the best in the business. I love Djurdjevic's covers, and on the strength of this isue, would love to see what he can do if not rushed so much.
Best Line - It's either 'Security Lockdown!' or 'I, uh, I killed Hitler'