By Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato (artist), Rain Beredo (colorist)

As you may know, I’m not exactly the biggest fan of Bendis. I was, but that was back when he was writing stories like Jinx, Goldfish, and Torso. Back when he had something to say.  Since assuming complete control of the Marvel Universe, I’ve felt his work has been largely self-serving and contrived, less about entertaining the reader and more about petty wish-fulfillment and making readers care about Luke Cage, Ms. Marvel, Spider Woman, and the insufferable Jessica Jones.  Similarly, I think his event stories are shallow things consumed with retconning decades of continuity in order to drag the Marvel Universe back to the kinds of stories he grew up reading in the 70s and 80s– the kinds of stories that he is so clearly still in love with.

Spinning out of the epic yawn that was “Secret Invasion,” “Dark Reign” isn’t so much of an event story as it is an event idea being explored across multiple titles.  That idea being that the U.S. government is both stupid and lazy enough to give Norman Osborn aka the Green Goblin, control of its Superhuman Initiative and the remains of S.H.I.E.L.D. Whatever. I’ll set aside my grievances for now and tell you instead that in spite of my problems, I actually quite enjoyed Dark Avengers.

Following the events of “Secret Invasion,” this issue sees Osborn taking a cue from the Thunderbolts and leveraging his newfound political power to put together a new team of Avengers, one comprised exclusively of hand-picked members he feels can work for and with him in pursuit of his new world order.  The people he picks to join his team are deliciously twisted, and I got a kick out of watching them interact with Osborn, not quite believing the offer he was presenting them with. Deodato’s art is reliably bold and aggressive, and while I was sorry to see him leave Thunderbolts, I’m more than happy he found his way here.

I’m prepared to stick with Bendis on this title for awhile.  Definitely check it out, and remain cautiously optimistic with me as we see where he goes with this.

Grade: B-

-Tony Rakittke