The first nine pages of this comic are some of the strongest that Brian Michael Bendis has done in his time on the "Avengers" books and are a treat for anyone who's been waiting for Bendis to address the Sentry's mental problems and role in Norman Osborn's group. CBR's preview of the issue provides a large chunk of the scene and, as you can see, Osborn's handling of the Sentry is both chilling and, surprisingly, humane.
Obviously, Osborn's primary goal is to get the Sentry under his control, but how much is also a genuine kinship that Osborn feels for Bob? That ambiguity really gives the scene power, since it's unclear how much is Osborn being the manipulative bastard we all love to hate and how much is a mentally disturbed man seeing himself in another. Even if Osborn thinks it's all a ploy to get the Sentry in his pocket, is that the truth?
Not only that, but how much is Osborn deluding himself here? Warren Ellis demonstrated in his "Thunderbolts" run just how much self-control Norman Osborn really has, and a lot of what Osborn says here comes across as Osborn trying to convince himself again that he's in control. Really, this is Bendis at his best, using the multiple motivations and facets of characters to drive the scene forward. I almost wish the entire issue was these two characters talking.
Especially since the rest of the issue isn't anything special. The Avengers continue to fight against Morgana Le Fay and her magical creatures. There's nothing really wrong with the fight, or Osborn's interplay with Dr. Doom, but, really, after such a strong opening, a very typical fight plot comes off as boring and tired. With such interesting characters, their interaction is the main draw here, which Bendis does give us through some banter that just can't match the power of nine straight pages of crisp dialogue like the beginning of the issue.
Mike Deodato remains the perfect artist for this book since it builds off his work on "Thunderbolts," and his art revels in creepiness. Nothing looks 'right' in this world, whether it's the freaked out look on the Sentry's wife's face as she lies in bed or it's Norman Osborn inside of his Iron Patriot armor. Everything is askew, covered in dark shadows. The monsters that the Avengers fight looks monstrous and dangerous, like they will gut the 'heroes' at any moment.
Together, Bendis and Deodato are doing good work on "Dark Avengers" with the occasional great scene like the one between Norman Osborn and the Sentry that begins the issue. If future issues continue the dark, psychological interplay between these deranged characters, then "Dark Avengers" will be a must read each month.