Friday, August 5, 2011

Siege: Dark Avengers (comics)

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato, Chris Bachalo
Collects: Dark Avengers #13-16, Dark Avengers Annual #1

I am not a fan of the Sentry. At all. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I'm not a fan of Superman analogues in general, unless they're particularly well done. But the Sentry in general grates on my last nerve for multiple reasons.

Why is this relevant? Because this collection essentially focuses on The Sentry more than it does the titular team of "Dark Avengers".

Before the main Siege tie-in, we have the Bendis penned annual. In this, we catch up with Marvel Boy, whom Bendis sets up for the future, digging into his thoughts and his worries. It's illustrated by Chris Bachalo.

In general, I really enjoyed it. I'm not sure how accurate it is to whatever the character was like before Bendis used him, but he's likable here and to me that's what matters. Overall, aside from the tangential tie of what Marvel Boy was doing after he bolted from Osborns team, it doesn't have a lot to do with that book or the rest of the volumes contents. It doesn't matter, though, because it's a well written, enjoyable one-off, which is what more annuals should be.

Then there's the main arc, which focuses on the aforementioned Sentry. The character sucks, frankly. It's one thing when you look at his original purpose in his original miniseries. The problems started when he was brought into the regular Marvel Universe proper. There are a lot of reasons he sucks, but the big thing is that he's so powerful - the power of a million exploding suns or something - he not only doesn't really fit into Marvel all that well, but he presents a lot of problems for a narrative.

Some of Marvels biggest stories involved some big threats the heroes - essentially the underdogs - had to outwit and overcome. The Sentry presents a problem in that he's so friggin powerful a major event or the like either boils down to him swooping in to save the day or him having a really bad day and deciding to stay in his room. His insanity is typically used as a crutch to solve the dilemma of his power - oh my god I'm so powerful should I get involved in this fight oh no the Void waaaaah - which is a necessary measure to preserve some measure of suspense and in short, the character becomes very annoying very fast.

This tie-in and Siege in general end up being sort of a last hurrah for The Sentry, so Bendis takes the oppourtunity to dick around with some things and pull the trigger on Sentry losing his mind. The result is easily the most interesting story Sentry's been in for a while. Actually, barring the original miniseries and Age of the Sentry, it's probably the only interesting story he's ever been in.

Bendis sets up Sentry for his fall by essentially twisting what we know about him. Think "everything you know is wrong", only with a dude with the power of a god. Through his wife, we find that The Sentry was never really the paragon of virtue we thought he was. In fact, he started out nothing more than a thief and a junkie who got lucky when he was looking for a fix. Or was it really luck? The formula that made him the Sentry came with its downsides and lurking beneath the shiny surface lay a bunch of lies and deceit.

Is it the most interesting read this year? Not really. But it's more interesting than the typical Sentry centerpiece.

It's all essentially a lead-in to Siege, setting up the big moment near the end of that event. In that way, it adds a measure of depth to the event. Sure, it's not really required - given the characters history, it's no surprise when he loses his nut in Siege whether you've read this or not - but it gives you more of the hows and the whys of it all. So, in all, it stands as a pretty effective tie-in, enhancing the event without being necessary to understand it. Mark Millar - who penned Civil War - could take a few notes.

The last issue of Dark Avengers stands as an epilogue, not just for Dark Avengers and Siege, but for Dark Reign as a whole. Obviously, the heroes won the day - because geez, what else was going to happen? - so this wraps up Osborns reign and sets up the next step. Some expected things happen, a few aren't quite so obvious. Here we see Steve Rogers - who's to follow Osborn as the seemingly omnipresent man in charge as Osborn did to Stark before him - beginning his moves to bring things back.

Osborn, for his part, tries to justify everything to himself and tries to justify his vendetta against the heroes. We see the Green Goblin - or, to be literal, himself - to be his greatest enemy, fumbling everything he worked to achieve. Does he have a point or two buried in his madness? Maybe. But he's still the guy who dresses up in a goblin suit and throws pumpkin bombs at people. The fact that he was put in power to start with makes the people in charge look moronic.

The actual Dark Avengers issues are pencilled by Deadato. Do I need to tell you how good he is? His work is realistic, maybe even a bit darker and grimier. Look, I'm no art critic. But I know good work when I see it. Deadato's style definitely suits this story, one that wipes away the shiny finish and the pain on the Sentry to reveal the rust and rot below. All I can say is that when you go to read this book, you can rest assured it's going to look pretty. Just the names Chris Bachalo and Mike Deadato will tell you that much.

The Score: 7.5 out of 10

It's no slam dunk, must read comic book. It is what it is; a tie-in to a Marvel event. But it's still a pretty respectable one, especially considering the focus is the Sentry. I've read better tie-ins, but I've read worse ones as well. I'd say this is one of the few tie-ins worth your time if you decided you just got to have some supplemental material for Siege. It actually adds a thing or two to the proceedings.

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