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Dark Anxiety

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As was the case with a lot of post-Secret Invasion books, the solicitation for Dark Avengers was wrapped in mystery. This was, of course, done so the climax of Secret Invasion, which at the time was yet uncompleted, would not be spoiled.

Marvel released more information about Dark Avengers after Secret Invasion ended, including a cover. But that cover raised more questions than it answered. Five characters are visible on the cover, back lit so they are mostly in shadow. But savvy comic book fans can make out that they appear to be Hawkeye, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, and a patriotic-themed Iron Man.

Of course, after the events of Secret Invasion, this line up didn’t make sense. Norman Osborn is now in charge of this team, not Tony Stark. Since Tony Stark is Iron Man, it makes it unlikely that armored fellow is really Iron Man. And Spider-Man would not work with Osborn, who is his arch-enemy Green Goblin. And Osborn wouldn’t have him either. Besides, the Spidey on the cover looks a little too “buff” to be Peter Parker anyway. And the Wolverine seems too tall and lanky to be Logan. And Hawkeye is in the New Avengers in the identity of Ronin. And that outfit on Ms. Marvel is one of her old ones, not her newest one.

And so on, and so on.

This created a mystery played out on message boards throughout the internet. Fans came up with theories as to who the team members really are and why they are wearing those costumes. Could Hawkeye, Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel be Thunderbolt members Bullseye, Venom and Moonstone? Could Wolverine really be his son, Daken? And who is the character they are now calling “Iron Patriot”?

The chatter over the cover almost guarantees that Dark Avengers will be another successful entry in the juggernaut that is the Avengers franchise. The Avengers have joined the X-Men and Spider-Man as Marvel properties that could support more than one title and have them all be successful. But it wasn’t always that way.

I am a longtime fan of the Avengers. It was the first comic book I ever bought and I have been following the series through thick and thin. I jumped on the bandwagon from before the heydays of the 80’s when Avengers, West Coast Avengers, and Solo Avengers were all on the shelves at the same time.   

I stayed loyal when the books were cancelled and Avengers was shipped off to Rob Liefeld during the “Heroes Reborn” experiment. I celebrated when Kurt Busiek and George Perez brought them back to Marvel proper. And I expressed doubts about Brian Michael Bendis’s “Avengers Disassembled” arc.

But it was that last arc that brought the Avengers to greater heights than it had ever achieved. That storyline begat New Avengers (the cover of its first issue is what the cover to Dark Avengers #1 is paying homage to) which begat Mighty Avengers and then Avengers: Initiative and, now, Dark Avengers.

This new series adds a new dimension to the franchise. The above mentioned heroes appear to be joined by Ares, Sentry and Marvel Boy to fill out the team. Each of these three has been considered if not villains then a serious threat to the heroes of the Marvel Universe. This adds to the mystery, and leads us to believe that the group will have more in common with the original Thunderbolts than the original Avengers.

As a fan, I am happy to see that the Avengers are getting so much respect from both Marvel and the fans. I hope this keeps up and the franchise enjoys years of success in the future. I can’t wait to see what comes next, and I’m sure I’m not alone. 

Also out this week:

Hellblazer #251:

I am old enough to get quite a bit excited about hearing the words “Peter Milligan” and “Vertigo” in the same sentence. While many younger fans will remember him from the awesomely weird X-Statix series from Marvel, he wrote on of my most favorite Vertigo books of all times—Shade, the Changing Man.

Now, he’s taking the reigns of Vertigo’s oldest continuing series, Hellblazer. And while I am still excited, my glee is tempered with a bit of hesitation. Not since Mike Carey left the book back in 2006 has any writer been able to last more than a year and a half. Andy Diggle made it just that long, with a two-issue fill in by Jason Aaron in the middle of that run. So, while I have every confidence that Milligan will be great, I just wonder how long he is going to last.

Peter Milligan (W), Giuseppe Camuncoli (A), DC/Vertigo Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Doctor Doom and the Masters of Evil #1:

While the bad guy status of the Dark Avengers is in some doubt, there is no question what side of the line the characters in this book are. I mean, calling yourself a “Master of Evil” is a sure statement to the fact that you want to be known as a bad guy!

The series involves one of the biggest villains in the Marvel Universe, Doctor Doom, employing a wide variety of rogues and scoundrels to complete tasks that might be too big for him alone. If it’s an adventure that Doom needs help for, you know that is going to be a great series.

What’s more, it looks like this tale will be set outside of present day Marvel continuity, which makes it idea for Marvel novices to pick up.

Paul Tobin (W), Patrick Scherberger  (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Frank Frazetta’s Moon Maid:

Coming of age is tough. So is deciding between good and evil. Imagine how tough it would be if both events happened at the same time? That is the predicament that is facing the Maid of the Moon of Kyra. An equinox arrives soon after she becomes a woman, offering a tough dilemma. Her actions will lead her down the path of righteousness or wickedness, depending on what does. Where does her destiny lie, and is she able to do anything about her fate?

Image continues building stories around famous works of Frank Frazetta’s art—this time the nearly naked Moon Maid. The creators added a little more clothing to the character, but have they provided her with a good story as well? 

Jay Fotos (W), Tim Vigil (A), Image Comics, $3.99. One-Shot.

Supergirl #37:

DC has a reputation as of late of mishandling its characters. One of the prime examples of this is Supergirl. She seems to have been brought back without much of a long range plan, as evident in the way she has bounced from status quo to status quo of the first few years of her series.

But now, thanks to Sterling Gates and the “New Krypton” event, it appears that finally DC has a vision for the character they can stick with. If you have given up on the title, now might be a good time to come back, as Supergirl now must deal with the mysterious Superwoman and her connection to her family. Kara is looking for answers, but she might not be able to handle the truth she finds.

Sterling Gates (W), Jamal Igle (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Simpsons Comics #150:

The Simpsons has become the little TV show that could. Spun-off from its beginnings as animated skits for The Tracy Ullman Show, many pundits didn’t give the program much of a chance to last even one season. But the show proved the pundits wrong, becoming a licensing bonanza, helping establish FOX as a major network and, if it lasts just one more season, becoming the longest running series in the history of television (it already holds the title for longest running sitcom).

Taking this into consideration, it’s no surprise that the comic book tying into the TV show would be able to reach the 150 issue mark. That is a plateau not even many superhero comics reach, and it’s unheard of for any licensed, family-friendly comic. But Simpson Comics could quite possibly last for another 150 issues. I tip my hat to them in honor of their great achievement.

Ian Boothby (W), John Delaney (A), Bongo Comics , $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Moon Knight #26:

Marvel must have signed some kind of trade agreement with Mexico. The Punisher just wrapped up an arc set in the country, and, as of last issue, Moon Knight is hiding out down there, too. And a case dealing with a millionaire’s kidnapped daughter send both of the vigilantes on a collision path. Will the two be able work together? Or will the Moon Knight become Frank Castle’s next victim?

This series is an acquired taste. It has taken grim and gritty to the point of dirty and grimy. But, when it works, the series is a fascinating look at vigilantism and the mind set of a character like Moon Knight. This arc proves a perfect jumping on point. Adventurous readers should consider adding this issue to their weekly purchases.  

Mike Benson (W), Jefte Palo  (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Mysterius the Unfathomable #1:

Wildstorm is an interesting imprint. Part of their output is standard superhero fare. Their books are perhaps a bit edgier than DC proper or Marvel, but they’re close enough. But then, some of Wildstorm’s output would seem right at home at Vertigo. These type of books are daring and push the boundaries. An exmple would be Ex Machina.

This title seems to fit into the later category of Wildstorm books. It features a mentalist that is not that far removed from the world of John Constantine or Madame Xanadu. From the previews I’ve seen, it appears to be a book that challenges clichés of that type of character in an off-the-wall sort of way. I don’t know why it is at Wildstorm instead of Vertigo, but fans of the later imprint might want to give this one a shot.  

Jeff Parker (W), Tom Fowler (A), DC/ Wildstorm Comics, $2.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY and is expecting his first child with his wife Jennifer. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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