One issue from the finish line, Jeff Parker gets to have some ludicrous fun as he prepares to bring this title to a close. What I most like about Dark Avengers is that its total isolation from the rest of the Marvel U means the stakes are relatively low, but in a way that's freeing. Because all of the bad guys are just alternate reality good guys, and the primary good guys are real-world bad guys, it's easy to avoid getting overly wrapped up in plot details and, instead, let yourself go along for a wild and entertaining ride. Not that the details are missing or contradictory or anything, but Parker embraces and celebrates how little this title "matters" by being as zany as he pleases. Tony Stark is a brain in a floating bubble living inside his Iron Man suit. The Thing wants Reed Richards dead more than anything, but refuses to do it himself because they're best friends. Dr. Strange's torso literally eats Iron Fist. It eats him.
If there is a problem here, it's that the supposed main cast of the book mean almost nothing. Moonstone, as she has always been, is an exception. Her confident personality and leadership shine though, and she continues to be the only character whose fate concerns me. Even Skaar, while I am warming to him, could definitely get left behind in this dark world and I wouldn't miss him. The rest of the team continue to underwhelm, even though the fight they're in is highly enjoyable. They could be any collection of super-people right now, doubly true because they're teamed up with a group of heroes from another reality. There is, however, some solid work done with Ragnorok, who finally wakes up so he can tear Iron Man apart and then, briefly but effectively, expresses a lack of self-identity. It's an interesting route to take with this character, who has always been the poor man's Thor and, now, seems to want to step out of that shadow and make a name for himself. And it looks like he might get that wish when, at the end of the issue, he grabs the Mjolnir of this world's Thor and transforms into...something or someone amazing. It's possible I am meant to recognize the character he becomes, but I don't, yet I'm no less interested to see what he does next. It could've been quite the gripping final page if it wasn't punctuated by a seriously anti-climatic panel of some A.I.M. ships floating around. But one weak beat at the end doesn't ruin what is generally a good time of a superhero action frolic.
Neil Edwards is still on pencils, and seems to be having as much fun as Parker. I especially enjoyed the stretched-to-his-limits Reed Richards, flopping around as Skaar reluctantly pummels him. The best of the issue's many brawls, though, was Ragnorok vs. Iron Man, a great contrast between a man who just regained his life and one who long ago abandoned his in favor of becoming robotic. Plus it's so gratifying to watch the most dickheaded version of Iron Man ever get torn apart like tin foil.
I also really liked the effect of having the Dr. Strange vs. everyone and Skaar vs. Richards fights each take up half of a page, above and below one another. It allowed you to either read each page as a whole or read directly across the top line and then the bottom line as you choose, which was a cool and simple thing to do. Unfortunately, the panels had to be very small, and some clarity was lost in the Dr. Strange fight. I'm fairly certain, after reading it something like 6 times, that USAgent deflect a blast of Strange's by tossing his shield the right way after covering it in webbing. This makes the blast hit and kill Clea, so Strange wigs out, but it doesn't matter because by then Ai Apaec has had enough time to jump onto Strange's body and fill him with fatal poison. Why the shield needed webbing, though, is still unknown to me, and I'm not 100% on Strange's powers being rerouted to take out Clea. That's really just a best guess.
But hey, that's just the top half of two pages, and even then the characters are consistent and detailed, it's just that their actions are a tad unclear. Overall, the issue is just much fun in its pictures as its words. Not the smoothest ride in the world, but no potholes too deep to get out of, either. I'll definitely miss this series when it ends next month, because even without caring that deeply about all of the characters, I love the larger story. And it feels like Parker and Edwards do, too, that they're enjoying their time in this bizarre reality. It's a playful comic hanging out beyond the borders of continuity, and the world needs more of those types of books, not less.