Dark Avengers #13
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist/Cover artist: Mike Deodato
Colors: Rain Beredo
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US
This comic book is flawed in many ways. Its connection to Marvel’s latest event book isn’t entirely clear, as there’s no mention of the invasion of Asgard or events directly depicted in the single issue of Siege we’ve seen thus far. Furthermore, this plot — which focuses on the Sentry — doesn’t provide the reader with nearly enough information about the events building up to this superhuman nervous breakdown and the unique nature of the character in the Marvel Universe. Despite that lack of exposition and context, Bendis nevertheless offers up an interesting script in that the notions he explores here touch upon a connection to the divine, the inevitability of corruption and power going hand in hand, and the fragility of the human psyche. Conversely, Bendis might be offering a critique of Superman as an icon of the super-hero genre and how such an impossibly powerful and good figure would be damaged and dangerous.
The Sentry’s just been shot in the face and killed by his wife, wielding an apparent weapon of cosmic destruction, and as she tries to deal with the shock, she confesses to her late husband’s computerized headquarters/sidekick CLOC that she knows the Sentry’s true origin. Robbie Reynolds wasn’t some innocent soul who happened upon a brilliant scientist’s secret serum. Instead, he was really a junkie who consumed a serum that somehow allowed him to tap into limitless power, that might even have transformed the unstable young man from a street punk into a god walking the earth. And what happens to gods who are killed? Well, they rise from the dead, of course, and this resurrection could spell doom for every living thing.
Overall, Deodato’s art is appropriately dark, given the psychological and unstable nature of the main character’s mind and power. At times, the darkness intrudes on the storytelling rather than enhances it, as it’s difficult to discern some details. I appreciated the black-and-white approach to the Sentry flashbacks, as it reinforces the dire nature of the plot and served as clear cue to distinguish from now and then. Deodato successfully conveys the Sentry’s confusion and anguish and his wife’s intense fear and shame, allowing this extreme story of divinity and cosmic power to resonate somewhat on a human level.
Given how important one’s previous knowledge of the Sentry’s history was to the appreciation of this script, I turned to the text blurb on the opening page for extra information. I didn’t find what I was looking for, of course, but I was reminded of just how ugly the font used for that text is. These “battle-damaged” capital letters are unpleasant to the eye and not terribly easy to read either. This isn’t a problem that’s unique to Dark Avengers #13, as several Marvel titles as of late have employed the same typeface for their “previously in…” blurbs.
What’s interesting about this story — despite its failings in terms of accessibility and suspension of disbelief — is Bendis’s suggestion that the most divine and devastating developments in the Bible/Torah are manifestations of metahumanity, or vice versa, that super-hero mythology is equivalent to the parables of Judeo-Christian scripture. The latter is intriguing, while the former idea is a somewhat unsettling one. To suggest the Sentry is a broken man who accidentally came into possession of messianic power seems like an attempt to bring an unnecessary gravitas to a story that doesn’t merit it. It’s thought-provoking in either case, and I did appreciate how the writer’s decision to touch upon the notion of divine manifestation set this super-hero yarn apart from the usual fare one finds in the genre.
Another possibility in terms of Bendis’s intent in this issue is a deconstruction of the Superman archetype as one that doesn’t hold up to certainty. the central tenet of the Sentry’s story here is that since power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Sentry has repeatedly been depicted as a Superman stand-in in the Marvel Universe, so Bendis’s take on him here could be interpreted as a criticism of the impossibly good and ethical Man of Steel. Again, it’s an interesting notion, though I find the notion of the firm dedication to goodness that Superman represents to be a comforting quality, even if it’s unrealistic. Certainly, an unwavering sense of what’s right isn’t the most incredible thing about a man who’s faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive.
There’s one thing that this Siege tie-in has over many other event books and Avengers comics before it, and that’s the fact that it doesn’t appear as though Marvel bothered to craft a rarer variant edition of this publication. An online search for cover art yielded only the one cover image (found at the top of this review). I have the distinct impression that the events of this tie-in issue will prove to be integral to the larger event, so it’s refreshing that Marvel sidestepped the variant-cover trap for once.
So judging from the ads for the second issue of Siege and this issue of Dark Avengers, the real story behind Marvel’s latest event is about the Sentry’s meltdown, or his and Norman Osborn’s simultaneous meltdowns. Honestly, while I found some of the questions and concepts that Bendis explored in this comic book to be intriguing, my ultimate hope for Siege — other than the restoration of a lighter, more heroic in the Marvel Universe — is for the elimination of the Sentry as a character. I think he’s run his course, and keeping him around any longer as a catch-all deus ex machina probably won’t make for fun or interesting super-hero comics to come. 5/10
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.