This issue isn’t really about Norman Osborn and the Dark Avengers. They appear, sure, on plenty of pages, but they aren’t the focus. The focus is split between Victoria Hand and Owen Reese. One is Osborn’s second-in-command and other is a supervillain turned “Secret Wars II” punchline.
In the opening sequence from “Dark Avengers” #11, we actually learn more about Victoria Hand than we’ve learned before. She was a S.H.I.E.L.D. accountant who risked her career to tell Nick Fury that he was wasting his time on this endless cycle of S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. A.I.M. vs. Hydra battles. She was right, of course, but Fury didn’t want to hear it. If he wanted bitching, he’d go on the internet, after all — “it’s like the internet is stalking me,” he says, in one of his more out-of-character, Bendis-y moments.
But other than that jarring bit of dialogue, it’s an effective sequence, and it shows that Hand may have ended up with Osborn, but she did so out of integrity. Out of efficiency. Not because she’s evil.
And Owen Reese, surrounded by friends like the Beyonder and the Enchantress — both of whom are figments of his imagination here, brought to life with his nearly-omnipotent powers — all he wants is his little corner of the world to live in. His little crazytown, his little magical kingdom, the one that Osborn’s Dark Avengers just accidentally invaded.
This isn’t the usual “Dark Avengers show up and fight some dudes” kind of story. Reese, the Molecule Man, can tear people apart at the atomic level and rebuild them any way he wants. The “battles” in this issue are psychological, sometimes occurring between panels, sometimes shown with Greg Horn artwork to differentiate them from the “real world” of Mike Deodato. And while they reveal a bit about the internal demons of the Dark Avengers, what they mostly reveal is that Owen Reese is a sad, lonely, conflicted little man.
If the Dark Avengers can survive this encounter, they could certainly take advantage of someone like the Molecule Man. If they survive.
Bendis and Deodato have done a solid job on this series since it launched, and this is another fine installment. Nothing extraordinary, nothing particularly shocking — unless you take the Molecule Man’s fantasies for reality — but well-told. And more dominoes are placed in the Dark Reign lineup, ready for their inevitable fall.