Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dark Reign: The List - Avengers #1 Review

Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Marko Djurdjevic

Where to begin with Dark Reign: The List - Avengers #1? I could be snarky and make fun of the ridiculously long title used, but there was just so much more wrong with the issue from a characterization standpoint that I'd just be wasting time on trivial matters going into something like that.

Let's start with the most obvious problem with the issue - when did a Skrull replace Clint Barton? What? There were no Skrulls in this issue? That's actually supposed to be Clint "I condemned my wife for letting the person that raped her die because heroes don't kill" Barton? The same person that took over the Thunderbolts and forced the Beetle to go to prison because he was the only person with a known murder on his record and made it a point that heroes don't kill and if they wanted to be respected and taken seriously, he had to turn himself into the authorities? The same, well, you get it by now I hope.

I can't take the premise of this issue or the characterization of Clint Barton seriously when he's written like a stark raving lunatic. Norman Osborn, for how eeeeeevil he's supposed to be, hasn't done anything overly evil since he took power. In just about every characterization I've seen, outside of the odd miscue, he actually thinks he's helping people in his own twisted way and, the sad thing is, he's right - he is helping and doing a pretty good job of it all. The only bad thing you could pin on him is the whole Masters of Evil going free stuff and it's more like they are under his thumb than actually some wide spread menace.

My point? Clint knows Osborn was a bad guy and wants to kill him for no other reason than he was a bad guy. He points out absurdities like how Spider-Man didn't murder him when he was 15 years old and in high school (protip - he did inadvertently kill the Green Goblin after Gwen died - it didn't stick. He also killed him again in Revelations after Ben Reilly died by throwing a bag full of pumpkin bombs into his chest and immolating him - it didn't stick.) and raised ridiculous questions like "would you kill Hitler if you could?".

Everyone in the room should be able to see that Ronin was unhinged and off his rocker and did something to stop him and/or turned him over to the police themselves if he was behaving like this and making the Punisher look sane. Hell, this is a guy that went off to kill the Scarlet Witch for killing him (he got better) and ended up having sex with her and not telling anyone where the most dangerous being on the planet was hiding out. He's not the poster boy for a hero under Bendis's pen in the first place and if he's going to bring him back to be some half cocked killer, they should just kill him off again.

Once Bendis establishes that Ronin is quite insane, he goes ahead and proves it by taking it one step further. Clint's masterplan to kill Osborn? Break into Avengers Tower guns blazing and keep shooting til he finds Osborn. Yes, you heard me right. His plan involves making a lot of noise and shooting stuff. In the process, Bendis makes Venom, Bullseye and Daken all look like chumps. Venom, I could see with the sneak attack sonics, but Bullseye gets shot up (yes, again) without connecting with a single hit and Daken is punked out like a wannabe Wolverine when he's been shown to be cold, calculating and equal to or better than his father in everyway.

In the end, the only really good thing in this issue was Norman Osborn and Moonstone. Bendis has been pretty solid with Osborn throughout Dark Reign and continued with it here. I'm not sure why he needs the SHIELD/Nick Fury-like forcefield as he's super strong, has an Iron Man-like armour and near-Wolverine-like regenerative abilities, but it made Hawkeye look dumber than he already was, so it works for me.

In the case of Moonstone, finally, finally (!), someone remembers she and Hawkeye dated and were an item in Thunderbolts. Moonstone has been a good character, but written like a total villain since Ellis took over Thunderbolts. I liked it, but kind of missed how she was a conflicted and more compelling character prior to her post-Ellis incarnation. Seeing their relationship acknowledged was the high point of the issue for me.

On the artwork side of things, Djurdjevic did a great job, everything looked nice, but it felt like something was missing. I can't put my finger on it. I get an almost Alex Ross-like vibe from it, like it's a bunch of static images that work better on their own than having an actual flow or dyanmic to it. It's hard to describe. Pretty, but lifeless at the same time. His Thor work looked much better to me and didn't have the same feeling, despite this work being cleaner and looking more polished.

Verdict - Avoid It. Unless you just want to see Hawkeye act completely out of character, rant and rave about killing people and go off half cocked to kill Osborn and get captured in the process, there's nothing worth seeing or reading here. Story feels forced to propel this List "event" forward.

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