This week, darkness descends on the Marvel Universe with the much-anticipated debut of Dark Ages! Does the first issue of the event miniseries live up to the hype, or are readers in for a truly dark time?

We’ve got a review of Dark Ages #1, plus a Rapid Rundown of other new Marvel Comics titles for the week, all ahead in the latest installment of The Marvel Rundown!

Dark Ages #1 Cover
Dark Ages #1

Dark Ages #1

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Iban Coello
Color Artist: Brian Reber
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Artists: Iban Coello & Frank D’Armata

It’s been just over a year since Dark Ages was teased in Marvel’s Free Comic Book Day 2020 offering. At the time the series was listed as a Fall 2020 offering, but sprinkle in one pandemic and one distributor shutdown to the mix and here we are (and if you don’t remember that there was a teaser for this series in that FCBD title, you’re not alone — I had to be reminded of it myself). The first issue of the series arrives this week, and at this point I’m still a little torn about whether it was worth the wait or not.

Tom Taylor brings his thing for apocalyptic superhero alt-universes to Marvel for this title, imagining a universe in which all technology has failed. The first issue is pretty much all set-up, telling the story of how this world ended up the way it did, and it makes for a decently enjoyable, if not necessarily groundbreaking, superhero tale in the process. Taylor uses narration from Spider-Man to set the mood for the issue, as Spidey recounts how costumed heroes around the world rushed around, helping people and trying to figure out what’s happening, while the usual big brains came up with a plan that quickly fell apart. Some of that narration is pretty repetitive – we know this is happening “across the world,” there’s no need to say it multiple times in just a few pages – but otherwise it’s fairly effective.

Page From Dark Ages #1
From Dark Ages #1

It helps that Taylor’s wordsmithing is paired with a solid art team in Iban Coello and Brian Reber. Coello’s previous Marvel credits include Amazing Spider-Man and Venom, so a tale focused on Spidey with a heavy dose of darkness included is a perfect fit for him. His work has a loose, energetic feel to it, which suits the superheroics of the issue well, particularly the sequence in which a group of heroes battle the Unmaker at the center of the Earth. The battle and its fallout are brutal, and Coello’s linework captures the intensity and utter chaos nicely. Reber’s colors complement Coello’s lineart nicely, adding depth and texture to the characters and their goings-on. His largely muted palette suits the darkness of the tale well, and a few splashes of bright color highlight literally the figurative rays of light that pop up even as things go south for our heroes and the world.

Despite all that, though, there was something about Dark Ages #1 that didn’t quite capture me. Perhaps it was the feeling that, as mentioned earlier, the issue is pretty much all set-up for the real story that feels like it’s coming with the next issue. It could also be that I expected something more from Tom Taylor, who’s currently writing one of the best superhero books on stands in DC’s Nightwing.

Page From Dark Ages #1
From Dark Ages #1

I think, though, that it was the lack of anything particularly new or exciting about the story that left me wanting more. It’s entertaining in a way that’s comfortable, and there’s nothing wrong with a comic that’s comfortable — God knows we’ve needed comfort entertainment over the past eighteen months. At the end of the day this is a summer blockbuster, ‘turn off your brain’ comic, superheroes fighting against a primal force of darkness, and if you go in not expecting more than that you probably won’t have any issue with it. 

Dark Ages #1 is an extremely competently-made comic. The writing is overall enjoyable and the artwork is strong. Still, it’s missing that little extra something to set it apart from the rest of the pack. If all you’re looking for is a book about superheroes doing superhero things to varying degrees of success, though, you’re sure to get a kick out of this book.

Final Verdict: BROWSE.

Page From Dark Ages #1
From Dark Ages #1

Rapid Rundown!

  • Avengers #48
    • The Winter Guard’s plans have been revealed and… they’re pretty huge? They obviously won’t come to fruition since this is comic books but the tension is quite palpable, and Jason Aaron framing the story around Gorilla Man’s troubles was a really unique angle. I must admit that I hadn’t even heard of Gorilla Man before reading this run but this issue was a bit of a shot to the face as far as backstories go, given how tragic the character is. —HW
  • Demon Days: Cursed Web #1
    • With a story and art by Peach Momoko, you sort of expect to be bowled over by every page of this book… and you won’t be disappointed, especially on the pages that best channel the arachnoid inspiration behind this issue! Like the two previous entries in this series, this issue includes intriguing back matter that better explains the mythological yokai antecedents of the story (especially the bakekarasu, a creature introduced by Shigeru Mizuki in a 1965 comic). Bolstered by an English adaptation & dialogue by Zack Davisson and deft lettering by Ariana Maher, this unusual slow-burn series continues to play out like an interesting What If…?, with plenty of zags where you would expect zigs… Also, did I mention Momoko’s art? —AJK
  • Star Wars: The High Republic #9
    • About 200 years before the events of Star Wars, the Jedi Order was at the forefront of protecting the Republic from the Nihil, Outer Rim marauders, terrorizing the galaxy, and this issue showcases the Jedi Keeve Trennis’s attempts to infiltrate the Nihil and stop their reign of terror. From Starlight Beacon, their starbase located at the galactic frontier, we are treated to a new and varied cast of Jedi, upholders of the peace in this far corner of the galaxy. While this title does a good job at catching you up on the current status of the galaxy, the biggest barrier to this book is the sheer volume of other novels and comics that cover this newly-minted era of Star Wars. If you can bypass that then you’ll be ok as writer Cavan Scott and artist Ario Anindito drop a solid read, with great art about the Star Wars things we love; space battles, Jedi Councils, low res hologram communications, and refuges of scum and villainy, the only thing missing was a lightsaber duel — next time, team. —GC3

Next week, Ka-Zar returns, and Conan the Barbarian hits its 25th issue!


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