dark-avengers-14 Dark Avengers #14 by Brian Bendis, Mike Deodato & Rain Beredo

The characters demonstrate the expected dialogue ticks, the speech balloons are bloated fit to burst, and the most powerful people on the planet don’t kick anyone in the face or blow up any universes, but instead sit around having Important Conversations About Themselves. If you asked someone who didn’t like Bendis’s work to describe one of his comics this is exactly the sort of thing they would come up with. A move away from what the genre supposedly does best – ideas, iconography, adventure, action, scale – towards character psychology, character motivation, and character relationships.

But the superhero genre is a flexible beast, flexible enough for some to question whether it should be considered a genre at all, and in recent years Bendis’s best work has played a not insignificant role in highlighting this fact. If all superhero comics were like this I would have a problem but they’re not so I don’t. The fact is that Bendis does what he does well, on the whole he writes plausible people who behave plausibly and gives them plausible and fun problems to chew over. In the mighty Marvel manner he understands that one very effective way to build drama is from the characters up rather than from the plot down, an approach which is particularly useful here because it gives him a way to tackle the problem of water treading, a by product of this issue’s logistical relationship to the Siege miniseries.

This issue finds us splunked into Siege without a motor, cast drift on a plot-lite sea with only a lot of character-centric chat for company, but, given that the Siege is Bendis’s baby and that characters inevitably form the bulk of his plots’ atomic structures, it is inherently interesting. By way of an example, the tension between Norman Osborn the public servant, Norman Osborn the power hungry megalomaniac, and Norman Osborn the Green Goblin in waiting is a live and important issue. Victoria Hand’s suggestion that Osborn is working himself so hard precisely because he wants to force himself to snap and become the Goblin adds colour to what has gone before and considerable drama to the current proceedings, especially when you consider that later in the issue he finds himself trying to talk the Sentry down from destroying the world, and that next week he plans on invading Asgard.

I would argue that this sort of tie-in filler isn’t just a practical solution to the kinds of plot and scheduling problems faced by Siege, it’s key to getting the most out of the series. As I’ve noted above Siege is a Bendis scribed event, and as ever with Bendis most of the big moments, however epically framed, will be about the characters. That being the case quality time spent with the main players is worthwhile because it stands to bolster the big payoffs down the line.

A solid three and a half brains from me (z)


Punisher Max #4, by Aaron, Dillon and Hollingsworth

Rapidly losing brains, this one. The Mennonite and Franky Frank  face off (literally – it’s all faces this episode, where fists should be), and nothing quite works. Dillon’s art is overlit and poorly staged, never quite fixing where the combatants are in relation to one another, and none of the punches, shots and stabs ever feel like they connect. And since when does Frank Castle use a taser? Did he use a taser on Barracuda’s balls? No, he used jump leads and a car battery, like hard men have done since the dawn of hard time (the seventies).

Dramatically, the introduction of The Mennonite (still the best word to type in all the Marvel U, so points for that, if we have to) and his killer peacenik horses has got to count at this stage as a clear mistake. The narrative focus, the threat embodied by the Kingpin, what his ‘go for the family’ ethos means against Frank’s MO, has been thrown out of the window in an enervating slush of baby’n’bathwater soup. How can the Kingpin not have been a big enough baddie to fill out six issues of escalating tension and fat, full-bodied catharsis? I don’t get it, what am I missing? It shows nothing but a disappointing lack of self-confidence from the writer, and a total lack of being awake at work on the part of the editor who greenlit it, who didn’t anticipate the sudden loss of life from his shotgun-shot balloon of a comic.

There’s one bit of unintentional comic genius in this comic, which, if I allow myself to sober up, stops me from weeping at the waste of three (or is it nearly four?) fucking quid that I spent on this comic. Check out big Willy Fisk’s phone on page 6. The phone is emphasised on panel two, which is tehnically OK because there’s nothing else for that panel to do except to go ‘then the Kingpoin’s phone rings’. So it makes sense to emphasise the phone, to perhaps exaggerate its size, to place it on a piece of very small furniture whose convenient existence you just can’t quite believe in. Now, yes, it’s graphic storytelling, yes, I see. I see. I see a fucking big phone is what I see. A big phone for big fingers. A big phone for someone who is going to get laughed at by children. You ain’t taking over the local high school with a stupid big phone like that fatty. Time to upgrade, in all sorts of ways.

This comic gets  two brains: One for the funny big phone, one for the adult way in which someone gets called a cunt (To the MAXXX!). And one for ‘The Mennonite’, which is such a joy to type. But still only two brains in total. (b)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.