Waiting for the Trade – Dark Avengers

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Seige: Dark Avengers
by Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Deodato and Chris Bachalo
Collects Dark Avengers Prime 13 – 16 and Annual #1
Why I Bought This: This was another of my library rentals since as a rule I don’t buy Bendis books. In this case I did buy Dark Avengers vol. 1 when it came out because, credit where it is due, villains masquerading as the Avengers in the heroes’ costumes is an intriguing concept plus Morgan Le Fay was in that story and I’ll buy most anything Arthurian. I then borrowed volume 2 in the library and while I liked it much less because Sentry is just a terribly written character all around, I was still curious enough to want to the read the final volume that finishes the series off.
The Plot: Sentry loses his grip on his sanity with a little help from Norman Osborn and Bullseye in the lead-up to Seige.

Chapter 1 – The latest Captain Marvel, Noh-Var of the Kree, is pondering the conundrum that is humanity. He meets a female college student and they flirt when Sentry arrives to bring Marvel back to Avengers Tower/Osborn. They fight with Marvel mostly getting the better of Sentry. He then escapes and contacts the Supreme Intelligence, who gives him a power upgrade and places him charge of protecting the Earth for the Kree. C.M. meets up with College Chick and they flirt some more.
Chapter 2 – Bendis draws parallels between Moses and the Void (Sentry’s evil alter ego). Osborn gives Sentry a formula that causes Void to emerge. In flashback we see that Lindsey (Sentry’s wife) killed him 3 days ago and we get a retcon of Sentry’s origin that makes him a junkie that traded off heroin for super-power formula. Void emerges from Sentry’s dead body but Sentry regains control before Void can kill her. Sentry to attempt to kill himself by flying into the sun but Void prevents it.
Chapter 3 – Victoria Hand is trying to help Osborn manage his stress. Then she laser pistols Moonstone for having sex with Bullseye on the Avengers table in front of everyone else. Void begins to attack NYC but Osborn (as Iron Patriot) is able to talk him down with the understanding that he’ll kill Lindsey in return for Void’s loyalty. Osborn than gives Bullseye that assignment.
Chapter 4 – During a meeting of the Cabal, Osborn and Doom having a falling out and he sticks Void on Doom. Doom however is a Doombot and when he explodes little metal insects flood Avengers Tower forcing an evacuation. Bullseye takes Lindsey to safety on a separate quinjet and then murders her and dumps the body in the ocean. Sentry contains the Doom-swarm. Bullseye informs him that Lindsey committed suicide and in grief he lets Void out fully. Victoria Hand realizes the truth.
Chapter 5 – In the aftermath of Siege Cap arrests Osborn. Bullseye and Moonstone attempt to escape but Bucky-Cap and Power Man stop them. Daken (Dark Wolverine) manages to kill a soldier, steal his uniform and escape. Thor informs Aries’ juvenile son that his father died in Siege. Cap talks with Hand and decides she’s not guilty of any crimes and reinstates her to SHIELD. In his cell, we see Norman talk to a hallucination of the Green Goblin.
Critical Thoughts: While this had some good moments, most of this forgettable and irrelevant as it builds to yet another event story.
The focus of this volume is on Sentry and I find Sentry to be a ridiculous character, who often fails at the basic rules of narrative story-telling. As such I could care less about his origin being retconned (especially as I never read the original version). His powers are basically whatever Bendis feels like pulling out of his ass that day, and nothing about his powers has ever been remotely explained in a coherent manner and this new origin does nothing to change that.
I also want to add that in Lindsey’s telling of the origin, she makes a point of saying how Bob is no Captain America, and really few people are, thus she says surprised more super-powered beings fail at being heroes. This is meant to be a modern, realistic, cutting edge take I suppose and it seems like a cool concept until you think about it for more than 10-seconds. Plenty of super powered beings go insane when they get superpowers. We call them super-villains. And they probably outnumber the heroes 4 to 1 considering that any character that has his own book has a rogues gallery of 10-20 foes minimum with some of the most popular heroes having probably faces hundreds of villains by now. And there’s a plenty of super-powered being who don’t become heroes or villains like the Morlocks or Dazzler when she was a disco singer or Doc Samson who works as a psychiatrist. And there’s plenty of heroes who don’t live up to Cap’s standards too, we’ve just never wasted as much time reading about them as we have Sentry.
I also think for those who’ve read the first two volume’s the story of Osborn’s slow breakdown into madness again as the pressures of running HAMMER and the Avengers loses all momentum. That was probably the best subplot in volume 2 and here he’s barely present while we spend all out time with Sentry. I think that’s a wasted opportunity since I think most readers would agree that Osborn is a far more interesting character than Sentry.
As for some of the positives in this, I thought the banter between Captain Marvel and college chick was well done. This is the sort of quiet moment dialogue Bendis excels at. (My main criticism of Bendis’ Avengers work is that as Marvel’s premier super team an Avengers story needs a lot more punch to it than he usually provides and he usually doesn’t have anything else to offer but this type of quiet writing). However, in this case the college chick comes across as instantly likeable and would make a fine supporting character if this latest C.M. ever got his own title. Of course this Captain Marvel doesn’t come off as remotely interesting so I doubt he could carry his own title, and clearly Marvel agrees as they already given the name away again. I’d add that Captain Marvel gets a power upgrade in this story yet I couldn’t tell you either what his powers were at the start of the story or what they are now, because again Bendis doesn’t care about those sorts of details despite them being a keystone feature of the super hero genre. I’m also not quite sure why the Supreme Intelligence is alive as he was killed in Annihilation and then his soul was eaten in the sequel; or if I completely buy the Kree appointing a protector to the Earth.
I’ll also the Bullseye murder scene is quite creepily done, and has a lot of tension despite the inevitable payoff. I also liked Cap’s interview of Hand in the epilogue, again the type of quiet moment dialogue Bendis does well.
Grade C-. There’s a few good moments and images here but as a whole this isn’t telling a story I care about (i.e. why Sentry sucks at life); and it’s telling that story at the expense of a more interesting one (Osborn’s loss of control) that was set-up in prior volumes. We also don’t have the dynamic of the Dark Avengers villains having to be shred the masquerade and actually be heroes to face down a worse threat than themselves that we saw in the first two volumes, which is what made this book work earlier. Really if you want to see the four most interesting characters on this team descend into madness Warren Ellis’s Thunderbolts vol. 2 tells that exact same story 1,000 times better, so pick that up instead.