Written by Brian Bendis
Illustrated by Mike Deodato

Published by Marvel Comics

Mighty, New, Initiative, and now Dark, apparently the Avengers are franchising like they have the words Law & Order or C.S.I. in their name. However, Dark Avengers is not your father’s Avengers. This team consists of Captain Marvel, former Kree warrior; Sentry, a powerful “Superman” with severe mental issues; Ms. Marvel, the villainess known as Moonstone; Ares, god of war; Wolverine, Daken, the “real” Wolverine’s unstable son; Hawkeye, the Daredevil arch-nemesis, Bullseye; Spider-Man, everyone’s favorite villain, Venom; and is led by Iron Patriot, Norman Osborn, yeah, the former Green Goblin. This team is more Thunderbolts than Avengers.

“You will go out there and you will defend this world. You will keep it safe from those who would have it otherwise.”

The espionage group, S.H.I.E.L.D., once led by Nick Fury, has given way to H.A.M.M.E.R. and Norman Osborn’s vision. Finding targets and striking is the spirit of H.A.M.M.E.R., in order to make people feel safe (which makes as much sense as the idea of the Avengers involving avenging, even though they were more in line with the idea of the Defenders, except, well, that that team sucked).

As a division of H.A.M.M.E.R., the Dark Avengers are “a hardcore team” which is “what the world wants right now” (apparently in droves as the first four issues have sold out and gone back to press repeatedly). This is the kind of team that would swoop in and rip off an enemy’s head.

“Today, you—and me—we’re going to decide to live life to the fullest.” –Norman

Dark Avengers
wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if it didn’t revolve around fascinating characters in search of redemption. Even (or especially) villains can find redemption, if they truly want it. God works through people to put wrongs right, to fulfill his mission to reconcile creation back to him. And when I think about “villains” doing the right thing, I’m reminded of the following is a quote from C.S. Lewis’ “The Last Battle,” from the chapter “Further up and Further in.”:

“Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou shouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.”

“When you deny yourself your humanity. You create something else. You create a …” –Norman “… void.” –Sentry

Sentry, though not strictly a villain, is a perfect example. He fears his dark side, what he calls The Void. “The void is in me” he often says. We all have voids in us, deficits or a shadow self. We all struggle against an inner darkness which we fear may overtake us. We can’t live from a place of fear. We can’t be afraid to love out of fear. All we can do is love without taking one another for granted, pray for one another’s continued safety, and be there for one another when the bad times come. And they will come, no matter how much we may want to protect people from them.

Brian Michael Bendis knows how to weave old characters and new, continuing to build epic stories that will be long-remembered. And he’s made the (Dark) Avengers relevant and popular again, taking their place as the (off) center of the Marvel Universe. Dark Avengers has a countdown quality to it, like we’re simply waiting for this bad idea to collapse on itself and we’re making popcorn so that we can enjoy the implosion from the front row. It’s the coolest thing to come out of Dark Reign (though, I’m quite tired of storylines which wrap through the entire universe and having to buy a bunch of books in order to stay abreast of things).