There’s a very neat idea behind Dark Avengers, but it also ties into a particular period of Marvel continuity, which some might find off-putting. At the end of Secret Invasion Norman Osborn, formerly the supervillain Green Goblin, saved the world. In return, given his business and technical expertise as well as his new hero status, he was appointed successor to the disgraced Tony Stark as head of security agency S.H.I.E.L.D, which he promptly dismantled and replaced with his own organisation. Despite the heroism, it sounds nuts, doesn’t it? Why, it would be like placing Donald Trump at the head of your nation’s security.

The neat idea was extrapolating why just have your own security agency, why not have your own team of Avengers as well? Osborn collected assorted villains, had them masquerade as Hawkeye, Ms Marvel, Spider-Man and Wolverine, persuaded misguided and confused genuine Avenger the Sentry to sign up, and added God of War Ares and Kree immigrant Noh-Var. Osborn himself donned a suit of Iron Man’s armour spray painted in red, white and blue, and called himself the Iron Patriot. There we have Dark Avengers. Not that they called themselves such. As far as Osborn’s publicity went, these were now the Avengers.

Brian Michael Bendis’ portrayal of Osborn throughout the series is superb. He’s a power-hungry, egotistical, manipulative shitbag who revels in what he is. Just to be clear, we’re talking about Osborn here. After the introductory phase is complete there’s a slowing of the pace chapter that’s primarily Osborn on live TV dealing with accusations from a credible source. He’s answering questions from a list he supplied. It’s the type of superbly compelling dialogue-based drama that Bendis on form can produce like no other, with Mike Deodato an artist competent enough to portray Osborn’s body language faking sincerity.

There is a problem with the manner in which Deodato chooses to tell the story. Some panels are followed in tiers directly across a two page spread while others read more traditionally across and down a single page. It leads to confusion, particularly in a pivotal scene in which the Sentry is convinced to join this team of Avengers.

The main super villain of the piece is sorceress Morgana LeFay, whose had run-ins with the Avengers before. Here, though, they’re intervening on behalf of tyrant Doctor Doom. It’s all too rare that we see that he’s also an adept at Marvel style magic, but despite a clever twist to the conclusion the superhero fight comes a distant second to the accompanying material, which is more character based.

Dark Avengers Assemble can also be found with the following collection Molecule Man in the Dark Avengers Omnibus. Those interested in following the exact continuity should first stop off for Utopia, as Osborn attempts to form his own team of X-Men.