In the Marvel Universe there has always been the question of what to do with the super powered bad guys once they are apprehended. Ordinary prisons do not hold them for long and soon they are back on the streets causing their own brand of mayhem. Through the Thunderbolts program the government takes these prisoners and puts them to good use, going on missions too dangerous for the government’s usual covert action teams. If the super powered prisoners are ever lost there are more villains to take their place. In Dark Avengers: The End is the Beginning, Jeff Parker shows that not just any villain is worthy of gaining the chance to be a Thunderbolt, some are just too dark and set in their ways to be of any help.
Dark Avengers: The End is the Beginning collects the stories originally presented in the Marvel Comics series “Dark Avengers” issues 175-183 by Parker and artists Declan Shalvey, Kev Walker and Neil Edwards.
The Thunderbolts program is designed to help reform super villains by giving them a taste of heroism. In exchange for their services these villains receive shortened sentences or the chance to get out from behind the prison bars. In charge of this program is the Avenger Luke Cage. His job is to oversee the program and make sure the villains are doing their jobs. When the Thunderbolts team goes missing, the secret government agency known as F.A.C.T. recruits a new team of super powered operatives, a group of villains that just got arrested trying to kill Cage, his family and every other Avenger. They were the Dark Avengers and now they are to be the newest Thunderbolts.
Each member of the Dark Avengers wears a costume and has powers similar to that of an Avenger. Once the Dark Avengers’ goal was to destroy Earth's Mightiest Heroes now they are forced to serve the Thunderbolts program. Cage, who had been planning on retiring, decides to stick around to keep these villains in check much to F.A.C.T.'s chagrin.
Dark Avengers: The End is the Beginning covers the end of the last Thunderbolts team who had gone missing in time and the beginning of the new Dark Avengers team. The story itself is a study in heroism. Some of the Thunderbolts alumni have gone on to become valued heroes. Through the adventure Parker explores what makes each individual villain different and how they view this opportunity to change their ways.
With a large cast of two teams running through the story arc Parker is able to give each character their own voice. Parker adds depth by showing what sacrifices some are willing to make and the necessary changes some will never understand. The diverse groups have built their own camaraderie which is something that drives the story.
For the first few chapters the art duties alternate with Walker handling the scenes with the Thunderbolts and Shalvey handling the scenes with the Dark Avengers. Their art styles are similar but also provide enough of a contrast to the different groups they are drawing. This technique of alternating the artists gives the story of each team a distinct feel.
The book wraps up with art by Edwards which captures the same feel of the preceding artists’ two styles. Edwards’ art brings the differing looks of the teams together into a cohesive wrap up to their adventures.
Dark Avengers: The End is the Beginning is a good look at how each squad differs from the other one. Parker shows why the Thunderbolts were successful as heroes and the Dark Avengers will struggle. Parker wraps up the Thunderbolts story by giving each character a proper send off. At the same time he establishes who the Dark Avengers are. They are irredeemable and act accordingly. What does the new status quo for the series mean for these anti-heroes forced into a life of self sacrifice? The alternating artwork at the beginning of the story arc provided a good contrast between the teams. Edwards comes in and nails down the closing of the story by giving the book a unified art feel as the stories came to a head.