Jeff Parker and Neil Edwards combine to deliver "Dark Avengers" #190, the conclusion to Parker's work with the former Thunderbolts and their legacy. Set in a dystopian near-future where the Thing, Tony Stark and Doctor Strange are at odds with one another, this issue brings off-kilter depictions of familiar Marvel mainstays.
The comic itself is well and good but final page of this issue bears a letter from Jeff Parker wherein the scribe resigns himself to fandom, walking away from the characters in this book, waiting to see where they pop up and what they do next. That set me to thinking about how long I've been reading Jeff Parker's particular brand of Marvel goodness and how the man has managed to make me care about characters that were outside of my circle of awareness. Parker has brought adventures featuring Gorilla-Man and Jimmy Woo, Trick Shot and Troll, Red Hulk and Ragnarok and he's made those characters better for all. That's Parker's talent and his gift to the readers.
As for "Dark Avengers" #190 proper, it is what it is: the end of an era. Parker reveals that he had a chance to deliver a couple smaller tales or one grandiose one in this title and he elected the larger size. That, naturally, leads to a conclusion that needs to tuck in corners and trim loose ends. Parker does all of that, but not before he has some fun with his alternate timeline. With monsters (in figure and figuratively) all around them, Parker sets up a Hulk-Thing fight for the ages, with Skaar serving in place of the Hulk and Warlord Grimm in place of the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing. This is all bigscreen moments and over-the-top slugfest drama, making this an enjoyable comic-for-comics' sake.
Neil Edwards is right there in lockstep alongside Parker the entire length of this book. There is so much going on, however, that Edwards employs some Pym particles in his artwork, with small, tight, clean panels used to allow larger story beats to hit the large, loud notes. After all, Skaar lying on his back in a crater caused by his own impact is less dynamic than Warlord Grimm posing on three-quarters of the same page, shouting for blood into the readers' left hands. Edwards' inker, Terry Pallot, stays true to Edwards' linework, adding depth and shadow without overpowering anything. This duo has a partnership that is rare in comic books today, but deserves to be preserved as they simply make each other better. Joe Caramagna layers in the soundtrack through masterful use of various fonts and word balloon sizes and Sotocolor soaks the pages in hues that were created and propagated by comic books.
"Dark Avengers" #190, like most of Parker's work on the title (and "Thunderbolts" before it) is simply enjoyable. Sure, characters have a stake in the story, but the story doesn't lose focus on itself. Jeff Parker has performed admirably in his stint with Marvel and has drummed up attention for scads of underused characters, proving that every character has good stories in them, as long as there's a good writer at the helm of those stories.