Whether by accident or design, Kieron Gillen has carved out quite a niche for himself writing the various gods of the Marvel Universe, be that a horse-faced alien, a genuine Norse thunder-deity, or, in this case, Ares, the hard-drinking, hard-fightin’ greek God of War.
Gillen easily picks up the threads of Ares’ character, which have been woven together since his original miniseries and beyond, into his appearances in both New and Dark Avengers. The one-line concept is pretty simple: Ares likes to fight, and he’s very good at doing so.
With that in mind, Osborn tasks Ares with training up an elite force of HAMMER agents. Cast in the role of drill sergeant, Ares sets to work. For the rest of the issue, the resulting scenes are never short of hilarious or awesome. Gillen knows how to turn a memorable image — an early splash of Ares firing a minigun with one hand and swigging from a beer with the other effortlessly encapsulates everything about the book and character — but it’s the endlessly quotable dialogue that makes the majority of the issue fun to read, particularly the moment where Ares begins waxing poetic about his own godhood in the middle of the canteen.
However, anyone who has followed Gillen’s work, both at Image and Marvel, knows that he’s good with dialogue, so that’s no surprise. Something that is a surprise is that although more used to stringing out lengthy character studies, Gillen manages to quickly turn a group of faceless grunts into a functioning set of individuals. Teams of mercenaries in comics are ten-a-penny, but trying to name — or, indeed, describe – the members of Silver Sable’s Wildpack or, say, The Jury is practically impossible. By the end of the issue, the members of Ares’ unit all have a name and gimmick, and you’ll probably have even picked your favorite.
Manuel Garcia’s work on the issue is appropriately gritty, having the appearance of a war comic rather than a superhero title. His sense of timing meshes perfectly with Gillen’s, and that alone is commendable — a script like this, built on dark comedy, could have quickly fallen apart without an artist that could carry it. There are moments where Garcia’s work occasionally feels rushed, and the lack of backgrounds on large portions of the book is barely-disguised by the coloring, but in fairness, there are no major missteps — the action and characters come across fine.
Ares, then, is an unlikely hit in just about every area. Despite inauspicious beginnings, “Dark Avengers: Ares” has had a better start than some ongoing series get, and at this point, the knowledge that it’ll only be three issues long just feels… unnecessarily cruel.