Sunday, March 01, 2009


Chad Nevett and I discussed Andy Diggle's "Thunderbolts" and Brian Michael Bendis's "New Avengers" this week, trying to determine if either book carried on the Warren Ellis legacy with any kind of quality. The first part of our discussion can be found HERE. The second part, in which we shift into looking at "Dark Reign" in concept and execution, is presented, for your reading pleasure, below:

Chad Nevett: An idea we're dancing around a bit, but needs to be addressed: does the current "Dark Reign" story actually work? I thought the attempt by Osborn to make himself look great was awful, "New Avengers" ended with Clint Barton going on TV and calling Osborn an insane supervillain, and there is the little problem of it being public knowledge that he WAS the Green Goblin... does this actually work or is it asking readers to suspend their disbelief too much?

Tim Callahan: I think that it's so ridiculous it actually works. And we should remember that the citizens of the Marvel Universe haven't read nearly as many Marvel comics as we have, so even though Osborn may have been known publicly as the Green Goblin, is that something that people think about often within the Marvel Universe itself? I mean, by showing that the superheroes constantly sayin, "um, he's the GREEN GOBLIN, people, he's evil and insane!!!" Bendis and company don't pretend that everyone in the world is ignorant, but it's also a matter of the way the average citizen views the superhero/supervillain situation differently, perhaps. So I think it's believable on two levels: (1) that the average Marvel non-superperson probably just thinks about the efforts of the costumed characters as these abstract events -- they can't be expected to keep track of who's turned evil this month, or who's reformed, or who's really caused trouble for whom. The Daily Bugle has called Spider-Man a "menace" for, what, ten billion consecutive issues? So when they see Spider-Man fight Green Goblin, doesn't that make the Goblin a "hero"? and (2) In fearful times, people don't care as much about the past behavior of their leaders -- they just want someone who will be tough and get the job done.

Maybe it's the Canadian in you that sees it as unbelievable, but in America, we've had KKK leader David Duke elected to public office, and I think Bendis mentioned in a Word Balloon interview (and I'm paraphrasing), "Look at history and tell me that we don't elect horrible people all the time."

What I enjoy about Dark Reign is that Osborn is so unstable and all of his ideas are doomed to failure. But that makes it all the more fun to watch. It's not that he's incompetent, it's just that he can't see how out-of-his-mind he truly is.

CN: Oh, I buy it as a highly entertaining premise, and that, you're right, he is good at what he does. The idea of how people living in Marvel's America see things is certainly interesting. Bendis has stressed the concept that just because we're familiar with everything, that by no means equates to the characters being aware of everything or everyone. I've liked that element of his writing quite a bit.

Even still, this is a man with a serious criminal record and shady past... would people really want him in charge of national security? Are you Americans THAT messed up? I think referencing the horrible people elected works but only to a point as this was an appointed position, obviously meant as one final slam against Bush and his insane appointments, but would Obama actually keep him? That's what "Thunderbolts" attempted to answer, but the plot was so transparent that I couldn't buy that either. It's like they've written themselves into a corner and their only solution is to go even bigger and more ridiculous in the hopes that it's so unbelievable that no one really notices (within or without the Marvel universe). In a way, Marvel's use of real life political figures hurts the premise, for me, at least. (Actually, I find that idea in and of itself quite stupid since the Marvel universe is such a drastically different world, I have to question how events could line up there and here to produce, consistently, the same presidential election results. For some reason, that bothers me.)

Since this seems a very cynical, satirical take on how easily misled people are, other people have raised the point that it doesn't actually fit with the current political climate in America where Obama's election was a cause for celebration and hope, while "Dark Reign" seems filled with cynicism and hopelessness. Your thoughts as the token American of this discussion?

TC: It does seem shockingly out of step with the times all of a sudden, but I've never really liked the way Marvel tries to mirror the "real world" anyway. Or maybe I have, but I don't anymore -- it became quite tiresome during "Civil War" and I thought the political subtext of "Secret Invasion" was the worst part about it. So if Marvel is out of step, that's really okay with me, as long as they're telling interesting stories. And "Dark Reign" is so far, so good.

But I have a history of liking the way Bendis projects begin and loathing the way they end, so there's that.

Yet, as a company-wide status quo, I'm all for "Dark Reign." Let it unfold, as ridiculous as it might be, I say.

You know what bothers me more than Obama just going along with the Osborn appointment? The way Mockingbird has all of a sudden just popped right back into Avengers action as if almost nothing has happened. It's bad enough that Hawkeye insists on wearing the Ronin costume -- which gets a nice wink in "New Avengers" when it's referred to as "Echo's" costume -- and using non-arrow weaponry, even though his primary use as a crimefighter is in his bow skills, and Clint Barton's reintroduction to superheroics was pretty understated, but Mockingbird? She returns from space after being thought dead for years, and she just kind of tags along like not much has happened? And the other Avengers just go along with it? I know Bendis gives her a bit of internal dialogue on the matter, but her inclusion with the rest of the gang seems so forced.

Do you have similar annoyances about that?

CN: I don't care enough about Mockingbird to be annoyed by it. Also, I figured that will be handled in that mini starring the two of them that I have no intention of reading. But, when you mention it, it does come across almost as "One of the gang has a new girlfriend that tags alone everywhere with them!" That the others go along with it is the thing that stands out the most, actually. She has nowhere else to go, nothing else to do, but, yeah, there should be a few moments where people stop and wonder about her. And, now that I think about it more, it does seem stupid that those questions will be answered in a mini-series that a fraction of New Avengers readers will buy. It seems stupid to do things that way. At least give some mention and expand on it elsewhere if you must, but, otherwise, it makes the better selling, more popular book look weaker. And, I know, the strategy behind this is to make people buy the mini-series in bigger numbers, but that isn't going to happen. It just flat out is not going to happen, so deal with it in another way.

One thing that really annoys me is when Bendis tries to overlap stories as he did here and in Dark Avengers #2, except they don't overlap at all. First, there's the art issue where Mike Deodato and Billy Tan draw two very different scenes, then there's the problem of the scenes playing out in two very different ways... how exactly does that work? In Dark Avengers, the conversation continues on and they go deal with Dr. Doom's problems, but in New Avengers, Spider-Woman shows up. What, did the group have two identical conversations that just happened to diverge at one moment?

TC: Maybe the cosmic battle was so difficult for human brains to comprehend that it became fragmented into dozens of different versions of the story.

Oh, wait, that's Countdown and Death of the New Gods.

No, I know: Superboy punched the wall of Bendis's house.

I don't know, really. I read that bit in "New Avengers" and honestly couldn't remember whether Spider-Woman showed up in "Dark Avengers" or not. Bendis's comics have all started to blend together into one chatty chat-fest in my brain. Maybe that's what's supposed to happen, thereby preventing us from asking any questions at all.

And I'll be reviewing that Hawkeye/Mockingbird spin-off for CBR this week, so I'll let you know if it's any good. Maybe it will get five stars, and you'll be compelled to buy it. (Maybe not.)

CN: I feel compelled to buy nothing... except for Secret Warriors. That book is damn good.


Drew said...

here, here! Secret Warriors is a very good book! But Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing is a better title.

Chad Nevett said...

Oh, damn right.

Anonymous said...

Actually the Dark/New Avengers issues do overlap decently. In the Dark Avengers issue the scene stops right when Ms. Moonstone Marvel says "seriously who are you" and cuts forward to Latveria and then the DA preparing to go to Doom's aid. In New Avengers the scene continues on after Moony's comment, with Spider-Woman crashing their party. And then after Osborn sics Hood and the gang after the NA, they go to Latveria.

My issue however isn't the scene overlaps but rather that Bendis is still writing such mediocre stories.

Chad Nevett said...

If you read Dark Avengers #2, it does cut away, but when we return to Avengers Tower, the dialogue obviously picks right back up from the previous scene-Osborn saying that Daken is Wolverine because he says he's Wolverine.

James said...

These are super-people! A Spider-Woman can come crashing through the window and they'll just pick up where they left off like it ain't even a thing.

I really like that (so far) we only see Mac Gargan "Venom"-up* in the pages of New Avengers, where he is a villain. In Dark Avengers he stays in his slimmed-down Spider-Man form, meaning he stays on-message to the readers of that book as well as Norman's public.

*intentionally - I know La Fey does it to him at the end of DA #2

Anonymous said...

Chad: Huh, sorry for the confusion then, I don't own the issues so I didn't really have any hard reference. It's amazing how Bendis can contradict himself sometimes, like how SPider-Woman has her powers back but during the SI tie-ins it was shown that she was abducted before she could undergo the power operation.