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Review Date: 04/03/2009
 
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Dark Avengers #3
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Brian Michael Bendis: Writer
Mike Deodato: Art
Rain Beredo: Color Art

 
 

      
     Marvel's latest issue of Dark Avengers is out this week.  I had reviewed issue #1 a few months ago, and was impressed at the time with this new title line addition to the wider Avengers Universe; the Dark Avengers series is proving so popular among readers that I'm inclined this week to revisit the title with the current issue to see how the storyline is proceeding.

     The concept here is that Norman Osborn, the former villainous Green Goblin, has replaced Tony Stark, a.k.a Iron Man, as national security leader and has reconstituted the Avengers.  Unbenownst to the public, Osborn has installed many of the Marvel Universe bad guys in disguise as The New Avengers, with Osborn himself taking-on a red, white and blue Iron Man-like persona in which he calls himself The Iron Patriot.  The current issue #3 progresses the storyline through two sub-plots.  In the first, Osborn conducts a lengthy, therapist-like conversation within Avengers headquarters with a mentally-deranged Bob Reynolds, a.k.a The Sentry.  Over the course of the first nine story pages, Osborn helps The Sentry take the first tentative steps out of his insanity and back toward the world of a functioning superhero life.  The second sub-plot balances the Osborn/Sentry conversation with fast-paced action adventure, as The Dark Avengers team-up with Dr. Doom in a desperate battle against the rapidly time-traveling sorceress Morgana Le Fay, who is intent on destroying Dr. Doom and anyone who stands in her way of succeeding.

     When I reviewed issue #1, I felt that veteran Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis had really hit upon a unique and enjoyable take on the ever-changing Avengers world.  I'm pleased to report that the current issue #3 indicates that Bendis is really hitting his story-telling stride as the series progresses.  The 9-page Socratic dialogue between Osborn and The Sentry is as mesmerizing as any high action sequence, as Osborn conducts an engrossing intellectual high-wire act, carefully balancing his bad guy cunning skills with his new supposedly good guy Avengers leadership role in gently trying to lead The Sentry back to the real world of sanity. 

     The remainder of the issue gives us 13 pages of classic hero-villain battle action.  Again, Bendis gives us a special story, here, by going beyond a traditional superpowered fight sequence to weave-in a very complex story element of Morgana Le Fay time-tripping her way back to attack the new Avengers in the same battle again and again, actually repeatedly re-working the timestream from the safety of her castle base in 690 A.D. whenever she repeatedly dies in the present-day battle, to come back at the Avengers and Dr. Doom in a new and deadlier manner.  Bendis and artist Mike Deodato provide a terrific final four-page story sequence that brings the battle to a climax with a twist that left me with a wonderful feeling of anticipation for next month's issue #4 in this ongoing adventure.

     I actually felt breathless after reading this comic, as Bendis's script combined with Deodato's classic Marvel action artwork to give the reader a full throttle adventure.  The combination of story and artwork here flows in a cinematic manner reminiscent of the best story and artwork that veteran Gene Colan gave us in the Silver Age heyday of Marvel story-telling.  My obvious thumbs-up here includes a recommendation not only to read issue #3 for its own enjoyment, but to get on-board now at the early stages of this new Avengers series, for a ride that has the potential to be looked back at in the future as a classic series, if the first few issues are any indication of where Bendis and Deodato are capable of taking this storyline.

 
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Solomon Grundy #1
Publisher: DC Comics
Scott Kolins: Story, Art & Cover
Michael Atiyeh: Colors

 
 

          
  DC Comics has reanimated (pun intended!) this month perrenial zombie villain Solomon Grundy in his own seven-issue mini-series.  For the uninitiated, Solomon Grundy was created as a DC character back in the Golden Age 1940's.  Grundy is the evil zombie of 19th century Gotham City financier Cyrus Gold, who was murdered back in the 1890's and dumped in nearby Slaughter Swamp.  50 years later, Gold gets reanimated as the swamp-based, superpowerful and mindless evil zombie.  He derives his name from the children's nursery rhyme ("Solomon Grundy, born on Monday...) as it is one of the few memories he retains from his previous lifetime.  Originally a foe of the Golden Age Green Lantern, DC also featured Grundy over the decades as an opponent of Batman and Superman.  My personal Silver Age memories of Grundy were as a featured foe of Batman in those years.

     Issue #1 mainly serves as an origin issue to kick-off this new mini-series.  The Phantom Stranger sets the creepy mood by serving as the backstory narrator, starting the story by giving us the origin of Slaughter Swamp as a breeding ground of evil originating from an ancient demonic battle at the site.  Hence Gold's body absorbing the evil and turning into said bad guy zombie.  The creative team next walks us through Grundy's early conflicts with the original Green Lantern, with the bulk of the remaining issue pages giving us a modern day heavy action battle in and around Gotham between Grundy and our old Jack Kirby Fourth World friend The Demon Etrigan.  The issue ends with a tantalizing reference to another DC zombie-style villain who most likely is about to make a major entrance into the plot in the upcoming issue #2.

     To be honest, I've never been a fan of this DC character; the characterization of Grundy in the Silver Age always seemed to me to be a poor man's's/weak DC attempt to counterpoint Marvel's Hulk, with too much creepiness, dark melancholy and violence built into the character for my personal enjoyment.  But I was attracted to review this latest incarnation of the character to see how the creative team interprets this old DC standby in 2009.

     While not a great comic, I definitely give it a thumbs-up if you personally like this type of story theme.  Writer/artist Scott Kolins does an admirable job of giving us Grundy's backstory as quickly and usefully as possible, thus leaving most of the issue to focus on kicking-off the new mini-series story with the Grundy/Demon battle in Gotham.  There are enough small inclusions of other characters in the issue #1 plot, such as The Phantom Stranger as narrator, the original Green Lantern as traditional foe, The Demon and the surprise last page new villain, to give writer/artist Kolins the potential for one or more intriguing and detailed sub-plots to unfold as the mini-series progresses for six more issues.

     So while I'm not a personal fan of flying body parts, reanimation and demonic zombie stories, if you are a fan, this is a very good quality effort to tell such a tale and have some story fun by combining some of the DC stable of superhero characters into the mini-series mix.

 
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