Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Declan Shalvey
Colourist: Frank Martin Jr.
Letterer: Virtual Calligraphy’s Joe Caramagna
Previously…: Norman Osborn, imprisoned for his attack on the floating city of Asgard, was rescued by remnants of HYDRA, the Hand, and AIM. As their new leader, Osborn recreated his team of Dark Avengers. Unfortunately, they failed in their attack just as their prior incarnation had, and they and Osborn were returned to prison.
Luke Cage has been heading up the Thunderbolts program since Osborn’s siege of Asgard, trying to put wayward villains back on the path to redemption. He has been hindered at every turn by FACT, the Federal Advisory Committee to the Thunderbolts, and now that Cage has lost an entire team of Thunderbolts when they escaped through time, Cage has decided to step down as leader.
With the renaming of the Thunderbolts series to Dark Avengers, Jeff Parker has a double job ahead of him here – keeping loyal Thunderbolts readers entertained, and making sure those new readers who have appeared because of the lure of the Dark Avengers aren’t lost or confused. This issue is effectively Thunderbolts #175, despite the name, and it does in fact read this way.
I’m not 100% sure that Parker manages both these points, to be honest. Coming in as a previous Thunderbolts reader, I can clearly see that Parker’s Thunderbolts plotlines haven’t been neglected, with everything ticking over as before with Cage trying to track down the wayward Thunderbolts, and cast members Songbird and Mach V still present and accounted for. The Dark Avengers slot into the plot seamlessly, despite the possible worry that they would be forced in to allow for the title change, and as a loyal reader, I was perfectly happy with this issue.
However, I don’t know whether Parker will have achieved the other half of his job, introducing the new readers to the Thunderbolts status quo and keeping them engaged. I think he may have set up enough compelling plotlines such as the first scene in Sharzhad, and the mysteries of where the Thunderbolts have ended up in time, but whether this will be enough to boost numbers will only become clearer in time.
Parker does however deliver on is action. The majority of this issue is a full on battle between Cage, Songbird and Mach V, and the Dark Avengers, illustrating their respective power sets to those who aren’t sure, and getting across their maniacal personalities. It’s clear that even though these characters are new, they are as deadly as the older incarnation of the team.
Declan Shalvey continues to prove that less is more, with his distinctive style adding to the battle scenes nicely. I was especially impressed with his Dark Spider-Man, who is spindly and creepy, which is only added to by the fact that he has six arms instead of the usual two. The opening scene is a little dark, but given the setting and the time of night, I think this is more to do with the colouring by Frank Martin Jr. than anything else.
So, the Dark Avengers begin again, and this is a strong start that (I hope) ticks all the boxes for new readers and old alike. It’s clear that the title change hasn’t stopped Parker and Shalvey’s momentum with the Thunderbolts cast, and the Dark Avengers seem to slide into place nicely. If you’re a new reader to Dark Avengers, let me know in the comments if you enjoyed the issue, I’d really like to know how easy it was for you to get into the title, and if you’ll be sticking around for the next issue.
GO Rating: 3.5/5