I have to hand it to "Dark Avengers" this month. On a strictly analytical level, I can look at "Dark Avengers" #14 and say, "This feels like a book that is stalling for time." It's pretty clear by now that the story of Norman Osborn's Avengers will come to a close in the "Siege" mini-series. So when things start heating up this month in "Dark Avengers," it's easy to write off the issue as saying that nothing big will happen. But I must admit that I'm impressed; it's still a tense, creepy issue.
Now that Brian Michael Bendis has turned the Sentry into an outright ball of nasty just waiting to destroy everything, "Dark Avengers" is certainly heating up. In some ways, this issue is a bit of a tease; being set before "Siege" actually kicks off, you know there isn't any lasting damage on the horizon. But the Sentry hovering over New York with black bolts of energy rolling in like a thunderstorm? It's the sort of spread where you look at what Mike Deodato drew and can't help but think, "Uh oh."
And while there aren't any big moments, plot-wise, for our main characters, we do get extra pieces of motivation parceled out to us. Osborn's sudden realization of the one piece of the puzzle that he was missing is a nasty moment. It works partially because Osborn realizing that he's miscalculated is a moment where things are all about to come crashing down around everyone. It also works because Osborn thinks he now knows how to bring everything back under control, and it's a decision that makes him a truly evil man. Osborn's never been nice, but this is the sort of step that the heroes wouldn't be willing to take.
Deodato's come a long way over the years since he first showed up (and sported a Junior at the end of his name). I've found myself appreciating his page layouts, with diagonal tilts that don't come across as gimmicky, or a slightly different take on the nine-panel grid to make it stretch across two pages without confusing the reader. He has a good sense of pacing, too; it makes the confrontation between Victoria Hand and Moonstone that much more entertaining thanks to the way it's drawn.
Between last month's issue and this one, I almost hate to admit that I'm starting to think I might actually miss "Dark Avengers" when it's gone. The series has been wildly variable, but in 2010 it's finally come into its own. As a part of the "Siege" crossover, this issue performs its function admirably.