I'm not sure how he accomplishes it, but Jeff Parker fits more into a single issue of a modern comicbook than pretty much any other writer I'm aware of. Maybe that's not fair, because it's not like a whole lot of complicated stuff actually goes down in Dark Avengers #177. One fight ends and another begins. But Parker does bring us the next chapter in two distinct stories, each with sizable casts, and both are excellent and manage to give every single one of their characters at least a small moment to shine in their respective roles. That feels like a major accomplishment in this age of intense decompression.
For the time-lost Thunderbolts, we get the resolution of the team picking up a similarly displaced Dr. Doom and then see them once again move through time without any control over where they end up. In other words, despite being only half an issue, it's a complete installment of this time travel saga, beginning when they arrive in one new era and ending as they land in another. And the fighting they do in the meantime is a blast, most notably when Troll and Mr. Hyde get to tear through Doombots like tissue paper. Meanwhile, we learn at least some of the details of the Dark Avengers' mission, and while their story is less action-packed this issue, Parker does a good job of giving each of his new cast members a chance to display their skills and/or personalities. Plus he builds up what promises to be a formidable villain with numerous powers and tricks in Sultan Magus. So still very much a full and entertaining story, even if nobody got blown up or magically transported to Hell.
Kev Walker and Declan Shalvey are always strong on this book individually, and splitting the art duties does nothing to deter that. They fit together seamlessly, both of them bringing a style that matches the series' tone: lighthearted, high-powered, balls-out superheroics. Probably the best visuals came in the scene with Man-Thing, solemnly surrounded by butterflies, but there is strong stuff on every page. I suppose my other favorite image was Luke Cage's not-so-subtle smirk as he said, "Dark Avengers...Dark Assemble." Not too difficult a joke to think up, but one that sticks the landing here in large part due to the strength of the art.
Dark Avengers is sort of two books right now, because despite its recent name change the story from Thunderbolts continues to progress and develop in interesting ways, even while a whole new team sets off on a seemingly disconnected mission. But both books are hilarious, hard-hitting, and gorgeous, and they each have compelling stories being well-told that make me eager to come back for more. Of all the titles Marvel has decided to double ship, this one may be the most fitting. And the most fun.