Dark Reign: The Cabal #1 Review

I bought five comics this week and since I'm reviewing the other four for CBR proper, why not do a brief review of the fifth for you folks? There will be some spoilers, so watch out.

If you look at the credits to Dark Reign: The Cabal #1, you'd think this a fantastic work with stories written by Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction, Rick Remender, Kieron Gillen, and Peter Milligan -- plus art by the likes of Adi Granov, Daniel Acuna, Max Fiumara, Carmine di Giandomenico, and Tonci Zonjic. If you know who all of these people are, you'd probably have your expectations high like I did.

Big mistake.

This is a slight work, one where nothing of consequence happens and no real insight gained into any of the five characters focused on here.

The Hickman/Granov Doom story is my favourite of the bunch, and it's nothing more than Doom thinking about how he wants things to play out with the Cabal: with him dispatching of the rest of them. It's well told and goes for a nice fake-out by not revealing exactly what's going on until the end. Granov's art has a lot of small touches that I really enjoy, like Hawkeye having a target on his forehead, or Osborn's armour that resembles his Goblin look more than his Iron Patriot look -- and how each are easily explained away as how Doom pictures things a year from then.

Fraction and Acuna's Emma Frost story is really just a recapping of her past framed through the explanation of how she survives everything that's thrown at her. If you know Frost's background, this is all very tedious and unremarkable; if you don't, I imagine this will fill you in.

The Remender/Fiumara Hood tale isn't that bad, but it's fairly obvious, and focuses on an aspect of the Hood's life that hasn't really been addressed by Bendis yet. There's one part that doesn't really mesh with what we've seen: Parker takes off his hood when visiting his family... not sure how that fits with the current idea that the cloak is possessed and in control. The lettering in this story is larger than the rest of the issue, and is a little distracting as a result. Not stylised in any way that suits the story, just different. Fiumara's art isn't as strong here as I've seen it in the past, but still dark and odd enough to work.

I'm not entirely sure what the point of the Namor story is. Actually, the Namor story by Gillen and di Giandomenico kind of sums up why this book doesn't work: it's centred around these five people recruited by Norman Osborn to be in his Cabal... but, beyond that, there's no focus. Only two stories really have any connection to the Cabal at all with the Frost one also having a panel or two that references it. For a book sold on this central premise, it doesn't really hold itself together. The Namor story, for instance, is simply the story of a mutant Atlantean whose parents are fighting over custody of with Namor in the position of deciding the case. It could possibly be setting up the "Dark X-Men" story, but that's unclear. It's just a Namor story that could appear in any anthology... Lovely art, though.

The final story is completely unnecessary except as a possible teaser to buy Thor with Loki visiting Doom to set up the Asgardian move there. Of course, if you've been reading Thor, this reads as obvious and makes Straczynski's more subtle set-up seem weaker. We know Doom and Loki are working together -- this just beats the reader over the head with that fact.

Peter Milligan writes this and it's one of his 'misses.' Not really bad, but nothing here that you could really call good. The set-up and dialogue all play out exactly as you'd expect. It's an ad to buy Thor -- and not a very good one. Zonjic does draw a very creepy female Loki that would make Olivier Coipel proud. Why isn't Zonjic doing fill-in art on Thor?

Dark Reign: The Cabal #1 is an anthology with a theme that never quite gels, which wouldn't matter if the stories were better. Really disappointing from such a talented roster of creators.

Not recommended

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