He’s Making A List, He’s Checking It…- Andy Burns On Dark Reign: The List

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What happens when a megalomaniac becomes ruler of the free world? If it’s our world he scores two terms (rimshot!), but in the Marvel Universe he puts on a suit of armour, calls himself Iron Patriot, and attempts to dismantle some of our favourite heroes.

Welcome to the dark reign of Norman Osborn.

Though best known to comic and movie fans as the nefarious Green Goblin, Norman Osborn has been at the forefront of the Marvel U for the last few years as a supposed good guy, the leader of the government sponsored H.A.M.M.E.R. organization and the figurehead of his own group of Avengers, with one big difference. This one consisting of some fairly bad villains (including psychopathic hitman Bullseye and cannibalistic symbiote Venom) masquerading as their good guy counterparts. It’s been an intriguing concept and has helped give Marvel their own version Lex Luthor, an all powerful yet entirely human villain. It’s something I never thought I was missing as a fan until I finally got it.

I especially enjoyed watching Osborn attempt to settle some scores with The List, an 8 issue mini-series recently compiled into a hard cover collection. Each story is written and illustrated by a different creative team. While the usual script suspects (Bendis, Slott, Pak) all deliver their stories with the strengths they’re best known for, there is some stunning art in this series by creators I hadn’t yet seen and whose work really stood out. I’m specifically referring to artist Ben Oliver and colourist Veronica Gandini, who handle the Hulk issue of The List.Wow, their work is absolutely gorgeous. Perhaps it’s the minimal use of backgrounds that make the characters pop; I don’t know, I’m no art critic. All I know is that I was blown away looking at their work, and this comes from someone who hasn’t been reading Hulk for a while and who hasn’t bought into the whole Green Goliath has a kid thing.

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Apart from the work of Oliver and Gandini,  the most interesting thing about The List for me is that I found it, in certain ways, to be unpredictable, even when the outcome is definitely clear.

For instance, the first issue of The List finds Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye/Ronin) declaring “ I am going to kill Norman Osborn”. Now, I’ve been around these parts awhile. I’ve read a few comic books in my day. And here’s the thing – when a character says early on that he’s going to kill the big bad, it just isn’t going to happen. But of course, the hero is inevitably going to try, which is perhaps what the story is actually more about (along with a few pages of discussion between Barton and his New Avengers teammates about the moral choice of even attempting to murder someone in the first place).  What then becomes interesting is watching how our hero gloriously fails at his attempts. Check one off of Norman Osborne’s list.In fact, the fact that Osborne actually manages to achieve a few of the things on his list (kill this person, neutralize that person) is what ultimately makes The List somewhat unpredictable and worth reading. We’re watching characters that we’re familiar with fail or make choices that may go against their instincts because of one man’s power.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

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