Dark Avengers #16

As expected, with “Dark Reign” over, “Dark Avengers” comes to an end as well, with most of the members of the team arrested at the end of “Siege,” including the book’s central character, Norman Osborn. This issue fulfills a dual role of acting as a final issue for this team of villains-posing-as-heroes and as an epilogue of sort to “Siege.” This is the definitive conclusion to “Dark Reign.”

Brian Michael Bendis shows off his skills by sticking to smaller scenes that demonstrate each character. Moonstone and Bullseye making a break for it only to be captured with relative ease, Daken killing a soldier and taking his place to escape, and the final scene with Osborn in jail all cap off the 16-issue run of this series well, providing readers with a conclusive image of the characters. Bendis knows these characters and they act accordingly, including Osborn’s issue-ending rant that’s full of self-delusion and self-pity, and ends with a sinister twist.

But, the two best scenes in this issue involve Steve Rogers and Victoria Hand, and Thor and Phobos, Ares’ son. Victoria Hand has been something of a point of view character in “Dark Avengers,” a patriot that genuinely believed that Norman Osborn could make things better, and how Bendis treats her is illuminating of himself as a writer and Steve Rogers as a character. She’s not evil, but she has done wrong, so what should be done with her?

Phobos and Thor, meanwhile, share the bond of godhood and Thor presents Alex with his father’s helmet and axe. This is a bittersweet follow-up to the issue devoted to Ares and his son from earlier in the series, and gives a final word on the god of war. Bendis keeps the scene short and doesn’t go overboard with the dialogue, thankfully, allowing what goes unsaid to carry things.

While Mike Deodato and Rain Beredo do the art of this final issue, it’s some of the pair’s weakest work on the title as Deodato’s line work looks rushed and less finished than any previous issue with Beredo’s colors at their most overpowering. The colors look like computer graphics, almost CGI-esque, and, paired with the photoreferenced elements of Deodato’s art, create very ugly, artificial visuals that run counter to Bendis’ writing. It seems counterintuitive that art meant to look as realistic as possible would look the most artificial, but that’s how it appears here. Those elements were always a part of the book, only much more subdued, never this strong. Osborn’s final rant, especially, suffers as he looks more cartoonish and flat that ever when the speech calls for something more natural and looser.

Everyone knew “Dark Avengers” wouldn’t last forever and it goes out strongly with nearly every character getting his or her moment, and Bendis contributing a final goodbye essay to close things out. For fans of the book, this issue is satisfying and the right way to close the book on Norman Osborn’s Avengers.

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