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A Leader So Nervous In An Obvious Way: Norman Osborn stares down his inner demons as he begins to articulate his view of doing what is right.
cover art

Dark Avengers #16

(Marvel Comics; US: 12 May 2010)

In the wake of the Skrull invasion of Earth, and the finale to Marvel’s 2008 crossover event “Secret Invasion”, Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin himself, is the one holding the gun and the political power after defeating Skrull princess Veranke. A man in the right place at the right time, it was a fortunate moment for Osborn, and one that afforded him the political capital needed to reshape the world in his image.


So begins “Dark Reign”, the universe-spanning follow-up story arc depicting a world governed by a violent, manipulative, and mentally unstable madman. In the Dark Reign period, Dark Avengers became the title that showed Osborn’s questionable dealings and unholy alliances with super-villains, his quest for a military-state under his rule, and his secret plan for the elimination of certain super-powered “obstacles”.


The thematic heart of Dark Avengers is the concept of the façade, with characters literally masking their dark personas and identities with the likenesses of superheroes. And after the events in “Seige #4”, and the fall of Asgard and Osborn’s number one weapon, the Sentry, it is time for the façade to come down, for masks to be removed, and justice to be served.


With Marvel scribe Brian Michael Bendis at the helm of both titles, Dark Avengers and Seige display a unique cohesiveness that is rarely seen in “tie-ins”, and “Dark Avengers #16” is a fitting conclusion to both the Dark Avengers title and the “Seige” crossover event.


The issue opens with the juxtaposition between Osborn’s escort to Ryker’s Maximum Security Penitentiary and a flashback to the apprehension of the Dark Avengers amidst the rumble of what was Asgard. Yet, the typical superhero, photo referenced-looking action shots of Iron Man punching Moonstone, her Ms. Marvel façade now in tatters, and Luke Cage uppercutting Bullseye/Hawkeye are overshadowed by the issue’s more touching moments, namely Thor’s interaction with Ares’ son Alex after the death of his father, and Steve Rogers’ questioning of H.A.M.M.E.R. and Osborn aid Victoria Hand.


In Hand’s case, Bendis skillfully creates a dialogue between Hand and Rogers that highlights the dangers of blindly-following a war under the guise of patriotism. Hand says, “I was called to serve”, with her head hanging down, shamefully. “I, and millions of Americans, were very taken in by a very charismatic man with the promise of an agenda I completely and wholeheartedly agreed with”. Rogers understands Hand’s good intentions and offers her a chance at redemption with a spot in his new organization.


While Deodato’s art lacks the crispness and detail of prior issues and appears washy at times, the Hand scene is particularly appropriate and reverberates soundly with contemporary audiences in the wake of the Bush presidency and the successful campaign of Barack Obama. Although they possess very different agendas, both presidents display a persuasive rhetoric about what it means to be patriotic and American, and what it means to fight for freedom and safety. Hand’s situation echoes the legions of initial Bush supporters and Republicans who denounced the administration’s handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Living In the wake of the Skrull invasion of Earth, and the finale to Marvel’s 2008 crossover event “Secret Invasion”, Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin himself, is the one holding the gun and the political power after defeating Skrull princess Veranke. A man in the right place at the right time, it was a fortunate moment for Osborn, and one that afforded him the political capital needed to reshape the world in his image.


So began “Dark Reign”, the universe-spanning follow-up storyarc depicting a world governed by a violent, manipulative, and mentally unstable madman. In the Dark Reign period, Dark Avengers became the title that showed Osborn’s questionable dealings and unholy alliances with super-villains, his quest for a military-state under his rule, and his secret plan for the elimination of certain super-powered “obstacles”. 


The thematic heart of Dark Avengers is the concept of the façade, with characters literally masking their dark personas and identities with the likenesses of superheroes. And after the events in “Siege #4”, and the fall of Asgard and Osborn’s number one weapon, the Sentry, it is time for the façade to come down, for masks to be removed, and justice to be served.


With Marvel scribe Brian Michael Bendis at the helm of both titles, Dark Avengers and Siege display a unique cohesiveness that is rarely seen in “tie-ins”, and “Dark Avengers #16” is a fitting conclusion to both the Dark Avengers title and the “Siege” crossover event.


The issue opens with the juxtaposition between Osborn’s escort to Ryker’s Maximum Security Penitentiary and a flashback to the apprehension of the Dark Avengers amidst the rumble of what was Asgard. Yet, the typical superhero, photo referenced-looking action shots of Iron Man punching Moonstone (her Ms. Marvel façade now in tatters) and Luke Cage uppercutting Bullseye/Hawkeye are overshadowed by the issue’s more touching moments, namely Thor’s interaction with Ares’ son Alex after the death of his father, and Steve Rogers’ questioning of H.A.M.M.E.R. second and Osborn aid Victoria Hand.


In Hand’s case, Bendis skillfully creates a dialogue between Hand and Rogers that highlights the dangers of blindly-following a war under the guise of patriotism. Hand says, “I was called to serve”, with her head hanging down, shamefully. “I, and millions of Americans, were very taken in by a very charismatic man with the promise of an agenda I completely and wholeheartedly agreed with”. Rogers understands Hand’s good intentions and offers her a chance at redemption with a spot in his new organization.


Deodato’s art lacks the crispness and detail of prior issues and appears washy at times. And yet this lack of crispness for the times we now collectively face. The Hand scene, by way of example, is particularly appropriate and reverberates soundly with contemporary audiences in the wake of the Bush presidency and the successful campaign of Barack Obama.


Although they possess very different agendas, both presidents display a persuasive rhetoric about what it means to be patriotic and American, and what it means to fight for freedom and safety. Hand’s situation echoes the legions of initial Bush supporters and Republicans who denounced the administration’s handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Living in an age of political deceit, military privatization and Blackwater Ops, Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers and the H.A.M.M.E.R. initiative represented an all-too-real threat to safety and freedom under the guise of patriotism. The “Dark Reign” and Dark Avengers storyarcs are timely, cautionary tales about the dangers of American political rhetoric.


“Dark Avengers #16” also excels in terms of plot development. The strong narrative pacing by Bendis and Deodato is exemplified by their ability to weave between the emotional action of lengthy character conversations and the physical action of Daken’s violent escape.  Shifting between moments of quick action and thoughtful reflection, the issue provides readers with a well-paced and plotted story that appeals to all types of comic fans.


Norman Osborn’s lock-up concluding the issue reminds us that sometimes the greatest of horrors are birthed from the greatest of intentions. Haunted by the specter of himself, Osborn struggles with his own failure to save the world, in terms that he understood ‘saving’. The final pages also highlight Deodato’s ability to make Osborn’s inner demons physically real and frightful, and make up for the mediocre pencils of the rest of the issue.


“Dark Avengers #16” is sure to please Marvel fans that expect justice to be served and the rightful heroes to regain their place in the cultural spotlight. It also asks readers to think about how patriotic rhetoric is manipulated by those who don’t always have the people’s best interests in mind.
in an age of political deceit, military privatization and Blackwater Ops, Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers and the H.A.M.M.E.R. initiative represented an all-too-real threat to safety and freedom under the guise of patriotism. The “Dark Reign” and Dark Avengers story arcs are timely, cautionary tales about the dangers of American political rhetoric.


“Dark Avengers #16” also excels in terms of plot development. The strong narrative pacing by Bendis and Deodato is exemplified by their ability to weave between the emotional action of lengthy character conversations and the physical action of Daken’s violent escape.  Shifting between moments of quick action and thoughtful reflection, the issue provides readers with a well-paced and plotted story that appeals to all types of comic fans.


Norman Osborn’s lock-up concluding the issue reminds us that sometimes the greatest of horrors are birthed from the greatest of intentions. Haunted by the specter of himself, Osborn struggles with his own failure to save the world. The final pages also highlight Deodato’s ability to make Osborn’s inner demons physically real and frightful, and make up for the mediocre pencils of the rest of the issue.


“Dark Avengers #16” is sure to please Marvel fans that expect justice to be served and the rightful heroes to regain their place in the American spotlight. It also asks readers to think about how patriotic rhetoric is manipulated by those who don’t always have the people’s best interests in mind.

Rating:

Dean Blumberg is a die-hard Red Sox fan, pop-culture junkie, freelance writer, and community college English instructor. He writes music reviews for www.10Listens.com. Contact him: deanblumberg AT gmail.com


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