Everyone knows that DC and Marvel superhero comics are pretty terrible these days. Even more people than everyone knows that big-time crossover events are even worse, the lowest common denominator among the lowest common denominators of comics. And who isn’t tired of the “darkening” of these comics where often evil triumphs, moral ambiguity is about as much as you can hope for, and ethical relativity rules the day. These are KNOWN THINGS in the main ways.
But, you know, this Dark Reign thing? It’s kind of awesome.
If you told me a couple years ago I’d be really into a big superhero crossover engineered by Brian Talkypants Bendis I’d have laughed at you behind your back and probably written mean things about you as well. I’m not a good man. But you know what? It kind of works!
Let’s not get crazy . . .I’m not reading everything. But I’m enjoying the hell out of the central premise . . .OK, hold on. Every time I bring this up or see this story being discussed, the same point comes up. The “How the hell does Normon Osborne get that much power and nobody’s freaking out?” thing. I get it, I do. But: a) if it is a flimsy start, oh well, the story it’s produced is compelling, interesting, and fun; b) George W. Bush and Cheney got elected and then re-elected. Michael Jackson went from hated joke to martyred hero. Do not discount the power of media spin. I buy him getting this position enough to enjoy what comes afterwards without worry, especially with the canny little photo-ops and interviews we’ve seen so far . . .Norman, a tear in his eye, talking about his days when he lost control, and how science and the American justice system have brought him to a place where he can make up for it. It’s not that far-fetched, especially in a world where dudes shoot lasers out their eyes.
Another complaint I remember from early on was “OH COME ON! DR. DOOM AND NAMOR WOULD NEVER AGREE TO THIS!” or sometimes “DR. DOOM AND NAMOR AND EMMA WOULD NEVER AGREE TO THIS!” This was normally said by the guys that sit around thinking about how awesome Dr. Doom is, which is a dumb thing to do I have to say. Well recent story developments show that HEY GUYS WHAT THERE WAS A PLAN FOR THIS ALL ALONG. The writers, and I know we’re really not used to this, had an idea and new what was going to happen later. Those annoyed by Eurotrash Namor (heart heart heart) will hopefully be won back by recent HOLY SHIT JESUS CHRIST Namor (heart heart hear as well).
Anyway, it’s a simple but good premise. “OK, the bad guys are in charge, the public is mostly behind them. Now what?” It’s open enough to be adaptable to any comic or situation or even tone, but specific enough that it’s not just, I dunno, “zombies are being mean.” The books I’m reading are the ones written or co-written by Bendis, who seems to be the main architect behind it. The Dark X-Men stuff with Fraction is clearly a part of the long-term X-Men plan . . .more evidence of actual editorial planning. And now New Avengers, Dark Avengers, and Secret Warriors almost serve as a thrice-a-month inter-relating saga, all of it pretty damn good (ugh except for that dang Deodato art). Things continue to build to a head. Norman’s clearly getting closer and closer to the brink of totally losing it. The Sentry’s arc is actually going somewhere. Marvel Boy, well you know something’s going on there when he disappears after finding out what Norman’s Avengers really are.
(Here’s a digression. I like that Bendis is very good about playing in the playground. He’s using a lot of stuff thrown out there by recent guys . . .Night Nurse, Sentry, the Hood, and he’s using it interestingly. I think I prefer this to the Geoff Johns style of using stuff from thirty years ago. Seems more alive, if a shared universe really is this magical quilt then keep adding to the new pieces, don’t just layer on the old.)
Is it dark? (HAR) Well, yeah, sometimes. But only in the “close of the second act” kind of way, where you know something awesome and redemptive is eventually going to put things right.
I dunno what good my words are anymore, but take it from someone who by all rights should probably hate this . . .it’s pretty damn good. I eagerly look forward to my Marvel books these days. (This new FF is starting strong, too . . .not really related, just thought I’d say.) New and Dark Avengers, Secret Warriors, Brubaker’s Cap stuff, even unrelated stuff like this Immortal Weapons thing . . .there’s a lot of good stuff out there, and I, for one, am happy about it.