It's been six months since Noh-Varr disappeared from the pages of "Dark Avengers" after discovering the criminal nature of his teammates. Aside from an appearance in the Wolverine "List" issue, he hasn't shown his face since. Finally, answers about his whereabouts and activities since fleeing Avengers Towers are given in this week's "Dark Avengers" Annual #1 as Norman Osborn turns his attention to finding his little runaway Kree soldier.
I've had many misgivings about Brian Michael Bendis's use of Noh-Varr since he appeared in "Secret Invasion" #1, but the opening pages of this comic show that Bendis has a clear understanding of Noh-Varr as the alien struggles with what he should be doing on Earth. After trying to bring things down and then defending the planet, he hasn't learned as much about humanity as he thought and to see him question his future there is exactly what should happen. Bendis wisely uses the revelation that Osborn's Avengers are thugs and madmen as a wake-up call to the arrogant Noh-Varr, who likes to think he knows everything because he's from an advanced society but, it turns out, that distance makes it more difficult for him to understand humanity.
That sense of wandering continues throughout the issue, but is punctuated with a fight between Noh-Varr and the Sentry, who tracks him down on behalf of Osborn. To see these two characters go at it is very entertaining since it's the classic big man versus quick little guy dynamic, except, in this case, Noh-Varr is a better fighter than most and the Sentry is not very good at all.
All of which leads to a pretty big event in the life of Noh-Varr, one that's been a long time coming and won't surprise many, but is still done with skill, for the most part. If anything, the point on which this issue hinges is an attempt to integrate Noh-Varr into the Marvel universe where his teenage rebellion wouldn't fit -- if only because you don't expect the heroes to tolerate him carving swear words into Manhattan very long and he's not villainous at heart. This issue allows for him to take another step toward maturity, but not all at once, thankfully.
While the writing is good, the art is fantastic. Chris Bachalo is a great artist that continues to improve with each project. Here, action rarely looks like the page can contain it. Panels are cut off in seemingly wrong places, too soon almost, like Bachalo ran out of room after not planning properly, but the effect is that of quick jump cuts. It's very effective in conveying the speed and frenetic energy of the action, and of Noh-Varr inner search for a place on Earth. Adding to that are the colors by Bachalo and Antonio Fabela, which are very muted, a lot of grays and whites, but work perfectly in a comic spotlighting Noh-Varr as that must be how he sees Earth: drab, pale, almost boring compared to his home. This is a stone age civilization as far as he's concerned and it's reflected in the art.
Despite the added dollar price tag, "Dark Avengers" Annual #1 is a must for any fan of the title or Noh-Varr, and is a very good comic otherwise. And, as an added bonus, the final page of this issue may just turn out to be the most talked about page from Marvel this week.