SPOILER WARNING: The following contains spoilers for "Dark Avengers" #1, on sale now.
In the wake of the Skulls' Secret Invasion, the citizens of the Marvel Universe are feeling scared and vulnerable. They want heroes to reassure them. Mighty heroes! They want the Avengers!
People should be careful what they wish for, because now that he's head of the U.S. Government's superhuman law enforcement programs, it's Norman Osborn's job to field an Avengers team, and he's more than happy to give the people what they think they want.
In our latest installment of THE OSBORN SUPREMACY, CBR's look at Marvel Comics' ongoing Dark Reign saga, we speak with writer Brian Michael Bendis about his and artist Mike Deodato's new ongoing "Dark Avengers" series, issue #1 of which is in stores now.
It's not just the citizens of the Marvel U that want the Avengers. Osborn wants a team too -- to be under his total control. To achieve that dominance, Osborn's taken costumes of Avengers members like Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye and put them on his own people, like Venom, Moon Stone and Bullseye.
"The Avengers represent legitimacy. It's the superhero franchise," Bendis told CBR News. "Norman feels the Avengers need to be a team of unapologetic ass-kicker-y. Plus his team serves a dual purpose: he gets to have these colorful mascots of freedom, but at the same time -- whew! Is he pissing off all the right people! He gets to mock Spider-Man. And if god forbid Mac Gargan does something stupid, Osborn can blame it on Spider-Man. 'Spider-Man's out of control! That fucking Spider-Man!'"
In building his team of Dark Avengers, Osborn only considered candidates who possessed what he felt were exemplary traits. "Norman's team is made up of people who are outstanding at what they do," Bendis remarked. "These are bad-ass, hardcore get-it-done types. They'll close the door and take care of business and he's dressing them up to make them something that the people want."
To play the parts of Hawkeye, Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel, Osborn went with people he knew, but for his Wolverine, the villain selected someone he wasn't too familiar with: Daken Akihiro, who, as readers of "Wolverine: Origins" know, is Wolverine's estranged and much more violent son. Daken may be assisting his father with his overarching mission in "Origins," but he's hated Wolverine for most of his life and isn't above putting on a costume to make life miserable for dear ol' dad.
"Daken is one of the best things to come out of 'Origins,' and what better way to piss off his father?" Bendis said. "He's an iconic and legacy character attached to a number of cool things in the Marvel Universe, but he really hasn't had a lot of face time with it. So we can really roll up our sleeves and see what we've got there and help create a character.
"I'm not taking anything away from Daniel Way, his creator, but I am saying once a character gets rolling it's interesting to see him interacting with different types of characters. You take him out of the Wolverine book to see what he's made of. It's much like with Wolverine, when you took him out of 'Hulk' [where he first appeared], he became something else."
During Secret Invasion, Osborn learned of the existence of Noh-Varr, a.k.a. Captain Marvel, formerly known as Marve Boy. The Kree youth was instrumental in helping the heroes of Earth in the final victory against the Skrulls, and that's part of the reason why Osborn wanted him for this Avengers team. "Noh-Varr is the one Norman knows the least about, but what he represents is Norman can put an alien on the team, whose one of the Anti-Skrulls," Bendis explained. "It's like, 'You hate Skrulls? Well this guy kills Skrulls for a living! He came to our planet to kill Skrulls!'"
To help his Dark Avengers with military strategies, Norman went straight to the source of all martial disciplines and recruited Ares, the God of War. "Ares is going to be a big part of this book," Bendis confirmed. "He's really going to step up and use his War God brain."
The Dark Avengers' other heavy hitter is the Sentry, one of the most formidable figures in the Marvel Universe when it comes sheer power. The Sentry working for Norman Osborn is a scary proposition, but even more frightening is the fact that Osborn has somehow found a way to calm the Sentry's mental instability. "What's going on with the Sentry is a big part of the book," Bendis stated. "If you get the Sentry all calm and ready to go, that's got to shake up the rest of the team a bit."
The most important member of the Dark Avengers, though, at least in Osborn's mind, is himself. As issue #1 demonstrated, Osborn modified and repainted one of Tony Stark's Iron Man suits and used it to become the Iron Patriot. "Norman is not well. He has exhibited the tendency in the past to put on a costume and fly around like an idiot," Bendis remarked. "But think about it, if you inherited a box and inside was all the Iron Man armors, wouldn't you put one on? And Norman was a weapons designer, people forget about that too."
In "Dark Avengers" #2, Osborn's team gets their baptism of fire courtesy of the sorceress Morgan le Fay, but future issues of the series will see the so-called Iron Patriot working towards a larger goal. "Norman absolutely has an agenda and it will become clear very soon," Bendis teased. "Even in issue #2, there's a lot of unrolling going on, but first they're going to have take care of this Morgan le Fay pain in this ass who's attacking Latveria. Osborn is like, 'The first thing I've got to do is defend Doctor Doom?' There's a lot going on in this book. We've got an Annual coming out later in the year, and we'll have a lot of tie-ins to 'New Avengers' as well. The series isn't only about the Dark Avengers. The Cabal is also going to show up a lot in this series. Norman's back story is going to be about the secret power brokering of the Cabal and all that's required of him. If it seems like Norman is biting off a lot right off the bat, it's because he is. That's absolutely the type of guy Norman is, but he may be quickly digging a hole for himself.
"Future stories will feature bigger threats and I'm really looking forward to a lot of the personal interaction between the characters. We've got some characters who haven't had a lot of face time with the rest of the world recently, like the Sentry, the new Captain Marvel, and Daken. We'll also watch Norman struggle to keep the power he's gained and maintain control over the team. And you'll see some team members rise to the occasion of being Avengers while others completely crash and burn."
Another element that Brian Bendis plans to explore in "Dark Avengers" is how doing good and being heroic can affect villainous people. "I think some of the team have never experienced what it felt like to do something good and then have the response of someone saying, 'Thank you,'" the writer explained. "I don't think really anyone has said thank you to these people. It's like, 'Thank you? Really? I like this better than that other feeling.'"
Bendis loves the feeling Mike Deodato and the rest of his artistic collaborators have given "Dark Avengers. "I'm very proud of our art team and now people can see why Mike Deodato is the perfect artist for this book," said Bendis. "I got the benefit of him working on a number of these characters with Warren Ellis on 'Thunderbolts' and now here he comes with all these fully fledged ideas on how he wants to represent them in this new kind of story."
The writer also is very grateful to everyone who picked up a copy of "Dark Avengers" #1. The writer knows that with its $3.99 price tag, "Dark Avengers" is a more expensive book, but he's working overtime to make sure readers get their money's worth from every issue. "One of my great joys from writing 'Secret Invasion' was the fact that it was one of those stories that if you were digging it, it forces you to go back and reread many of your 'New Avengers' issues," Bendis said, "And what I've done here is create something similar. A few issues down the line, you'll want to go back and reread things to see how quickly things went a certain way.
"Also, this book will have a relationship with 'New Avengers' and some of the other titles in the Marvel Universe that will hopefully make it center stage for things that are going on. I have no control over the book's price but what I can deliver for your cost is a book that puts you at ground zero in the Marvel Universe."
"Dark Avengers" #1 is on sale now from Marvel Comics.