07th Sep2021

‘Dark Ages #1’ Review (Marvel Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Tom Taylor | Art by Iban Coello | Published by Marvel Comics

I almost didn’t pick this up, as all the advance blurbs I had seen seemed to be promoting yet another ‘event of the month’ type thing. There’s only so many times you can go back to the well when it comes to universe/ world/ reality shaking events. The trouble with continually raising the ante is at some point there is nowhere left to go. What hooked me in was the fact that Tom Taylor was writing it, always a positive, and the cast of characters looked interesting enough to carry pretty much any storyline. Plus, I’ve always loved any story featuring The Watcher. Yep, I know, I’m weird. So I’m going in to this with an open mind, albeit with a dash of weary cynicism. Let’s see what Taylor and Coello have for us.

New Jersey is as good a place to start as any, with Luke Cage and Jessica Jones dropping in on Peter Parker and MJ for a catch up. A nice little fun start that doesn’t last long. Peter’s spider-sense suddenly goes off the charts, as does all other spider-powered characters, and Moon Girl, currently the worlds smartest person it seems, realises what’s happening. Time to talk to Reed Richards. Other powerful minds, such as Jean Grey and Professor also sense the power that has awakened, while others such as Apocalypse eagerly embrace its feeling of power. Peter decides to also make his way to the Baxter Building, which is pretty much the default place to head for when there is any form of Earth-threatening event. Even The Watcher has decided to visit Reed. So much for his pledge of non-interference.

As The Watcher has popped in just to tell everyone the world is ending, everyone would probably prefer him to keep quiet a bit longer I’m guessing. The Watcher has a story to tell, and it’s not a happy one. Ten billion years ago, a sentient machine was created, The Unmaker. Designed to perform tasks to keep the Universe safe, such as destroying black holes, it was ultimately corrupted by so much negative energy. It was ultimately challenged and sentenced by The Living Tribunal, and imprisoned at the Earth’s core. Now it has reawakened, and you have to assume is pretty pissed. If Earth wants to stay alive, it’s going to need its brightest and best to keep it that way. Time to assemble the A-Team.

Well, a strike team of A-listers at least. The Vision, also a living machine. Scarlet Witch, who can remake reality. Dr Strange, because you always need a Sorcerer Supreme. Invisible Woman, force field guru. The Thing, for when fisticuffs are needed. Decent team for sure, but when you only get one shot at this, no Hulk? no Iron Man? no Sentry? Thor?. Things don’t start well, as The Unmaker’s efforts to escape the Earth’s core result in earthquakes across the world. You know what this means? Destruction montage! not just that, but cameos from a whole bunch of characters fighting the chaos. Runaways, Champions, X-Men, and Avengers. With all these guys helping out, happy endings are just around the corner. Why did we worry?

Actually, not so fast. Is that really the end of Atlantis? Did Ben Grimm just die? Did Wanda get a taste of her own medicine? I think the term is pyrrhic victory, when you win but as such huge cost the victory is barely better than a defeat. The Unmaker was stopped, but the result was a worldwide EMP blast that took out all electricity and technology. Everything. Then we realise that Peter Parker has been narrating these events to us, events that occurred seven years ago. The world has had to live with no more technology, no more technology. Everyone has survived, just. As things start to stabilise, it’s time for Apocalypse to make his move.

Looking at this as a reviewer, I thought it almost a textbook example of how to launch a major event storyline. Well structured and paced, nice story beats, and an ending that means you will be back next issue. Purely as a reader, I thought it entertaining enough, but just lacking the spark that makes it an essential read. Rather than the later direction of the story being a big surprise, I just shrugged and thought OK, they are going with that. It’s probably a crowd pleaser of a storyline, though feels a little too much like the big DC storylines of recent times, such as DCeased. No surprise, as Taylor wrote that too. Coello’s art is excellent by the way, equally enjoyable with those intimate moments, and those big epic widescreen shots.

As Simon Cowell would say ‘I liked it, but I didn’t love it’

**** 4/5

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