Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Dark Reign: My Verdict

Before I embark upon this revision dodging Blog, let me first make it clear that I am in no way 'against' Marvel. I am about as close to a 'Marvel Zombie' as it gets and have loved a lot of what has come out of the company over the last few years (Civil War included).

Dark Reign was a great idea. Letting the villains 'win' is an often underused plot, particularly in the Marvel Universe. While it has been done before (Kurt Busieks' excellent Kang Dynasty story arc among others) this is the first time it has been truly attempted on a company wide scale, with the vast majority of Marvel's books tying into the central story. Did it work? In my opinion, not really...

The story started off brilliantly. Norman Osborn was a great choice of villain and it seemed fresh and interesting to see him in a position of such great power. The cabal were also great fun. I wasn't around for the 90's Acts of Vengeance crossover so I loved seeing some of Marvel's most well known villains (and the Hood) interacting with each other. The group had a great dynamic with the charismatic duo of Doom and Loki often upstaging Osborn.

The tie-ins were generally excellent as well. The Thunderbolts in particular worked very well in their new niche as Osborn's black ops squad. The Dark Avengers were also great as a grittier, modern day reworking of the original Thunderbolts concept and for me marks a high point in Bendis' modern day writings. It was cool seeing a total reversal in Tony Stark's fortunes in Matt Fraction's Invincible Iron Man as well. And as I detailed in an earlier post Dan Slott's Mighty Avengers served as an excellent tonic to the moodiness of the rest of the Marvel Universe, while still tying loosely into Dark Reign.

So where did it go wrong? For me, Dark Reign was almost doomed from the start. Even in the early months as Osborn's fragile sanity began to collapse it became clear that it was a case of when, not if he would be deposed. Osborn was ultimately an unconvincing figurehead for the cabal. There were some hints that Doom would take over but they came to nothing and he now appears to have been shunted off into his own corner of the Marvel Universe in Doomwar. The inevitability of Osborn's collapse robbed the story of much needed feelings of hopeless and dread.

The tie-ins gradually decreased in quality as well. Thunderbolts seemed for the latter half of Dark Reign to be in a constant struggle to validate its existence, with even fan favourite writer Jeff Parker unable to give the title a point. Mighty Avengers collapsed as well, Slott's bizarre insistence on 'redeeming Hank Pym reaching ridiculous levels by the books increasingly silly conclusion. Dark Avengers was a very well written core book but suffered from Bendis' lamentable insistence that every team that he writes needs to be dismantled within a handful of story-arcs. The Dark Avengers seemed to have barely got started before they had been jettisoned (a shame too - it's probably been my favourite Marvel book for the duration of Dark Reign).

And Siege. Ah...Siege. Hyped as a story seven years in the making Siege has been acclaimed as the best 'event book' since House of M started the trend. I agree, it's been a solid series, but as a conclusion to a status quo as promising as Dark Reign was it seems little more than a predictable four issue long slugfest. I won't even go into the effect it's had on Thor, one of my favourite books. Kieron Gillon has done an admirable job under difficult circumstances but Siege has sadly made the title's plot seem irrelevant.

I would like to reiterate, this was not a post intended to bash Marvel. I actually thought they got a lot right during Dark Reign and it let to some enjoyable stories . For me though, it fell some way short of being classed as a classic era of Marvel Comics. If you enjoyed it more than I did...I'm happy for you, and I would love to hear why, leave a comment!


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