It’s the event comic you didn’t read this year. The one that spanned dimensions and time, pulling in various heroes and villains, all for a big showdown in Latveria with the Teen Brigade, Kristoff and the Last Defenders on one side, the Young Masters of Evil on the other and the In-Betweener in the middle. “Vengeance” has acted as a culmination of sorts for Joe Casey’s Marvel work and nowhere is that more apparent than in this issue where characters and ideas from almost everything he’s done for the company collide. There’s even a visual callback to the first issue by Nick Dragotta that shows that this comic is pulling in details from itself.
Up until this point, the various disparate elements of Casey’s Marvel career have been slowly moving together. Watching them all collide in one big fight is a thing of beauty, both because of the emotional attachment to many of these Z-list characters that Casey has made a longtime reader like myself care about, and because Dragotta draws chaotic fights amongst the best of them. The way that he shifts between fine, highly detailed line work and big, bold, thick lines that pop off the page is one of those things that makes a comic more enjoyable. Dragotta changes things up at the right times, a concept that fits in with what Casey is writing. This comic is too big to just be one thing and the art reflects that.
Two or three plots come together in this issue. The Young Masters of Evil keep on scheming and decide to take Latveria in the absence of Dr. Doom, while the In-Betweener’s internal conflict brings resolution to the overall conflict. Sort of. “Vengeance” is Casey working another one of his pet themes: the relationship between good and evil, order and chaos. Heroes need villains to be heroes; without them, there isn’t any good, no heroism, there’s nothing. The Teen Brigade needs the likes of the Young Masters of Evil even as they try to destroy them. The In-Betweener’s embodiment of that conflict, that relationship, is central to the book and where the resolution comes. Even when the Young Masters of Evil are stopped, seemingly defeated, one gets away and receives a message from the baddest of the bad and you know that it doesn’t end here.
The inherent understanding of what makes superhero comics work and exist is what makes “Vengeance” so interesting. This is a comic book that explains it all through characters like the Ultimate Nullifier, a pissed off 17-year old wearing Captain America’s shirt and carrying the flag for the next generation of heroes. The kids understand what’s going on more than the adults. This unnoticed, ‘mini-event’ is more on the ball than the big, line-wide events. There’s more at stake and a better sense of closure even as things are left open for the future.
For me, this was the comic that a longtime Joe Casey fan was waiting for. Going back to “Cable” and moving forward, he touches on almost everything he’s written for Marvel in one way or another. It’s rare that a writer can do that and it not feel like an exercise in playing with his own private toys. It’s not Casey pulling a box out of storage; he adds new characters to the mix, and tells a compelling, entertaining story with a fantastic artist on board. “Vengeance” is the best event comic Marvel published this year, hands down.