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After Secret Invasion, Iron Man, who had previously taken over S.H.I.E.L.D. from Nick Fury, was upstaged by Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin, who was given control over super human affairs as "top cop" in the Marvel Universe. Osborn disbanded SHIELD, remade it as H.A.M.M.E.R., and decided to hand pick his own team of "public image superheroes", crafting what would be known as Dark Avengers as the result: super-criminals who assumed the codenames and costumes of heroic predecessors. The team, with the majority of the members carried over from Osborn's time leading the Thunderbolts, included:
- Hawkeye (the psychotic assassin Bullseye, aka Lester),
- Ms. Marvel (the arch-manipulator Moonstone, aka Karla Sofen),
- Captain Marvel (the alien terrorist Marvel Boy, aka Noh-Varr),
- Wolverine (Logan's amoral snake-of-a-son, Daken),
- Spider-Man (the original Scorpion, aka Mac Gargan, at the time the 3rd incarnation of Venom),
- Ares (himself something of a darker version of Hercules) and,
- The Sentry (a god-like being who is also his own worst enemy), the last two as themselves.
The team were disbanded along with H.A.M.M.E.R. after the events of Siege, when Osborn was imprisoned for his crimes during Dark Reign. Another team of Dark Avengers was put together after the events of Fear Itself, when Osborn was broken out of jail, and the new team was formed and funded by a combination of A.I.M., Hydra, the Hand, and Osborn's restarted H.A.M.M.E.R. Their goal was to overthrow the current status quo in the super community, namely, the self-appointed authority of the Avengers. And, like last time, Osborn would lead them. However, two in the group already had mutiny on their minds and they were defeated by The Avengers. The second team included:
- Hawkeye (Hawkeye's criminal brother Trickshot, aka Barney Barton),
- Ms. Marvel (the super-powered misandrist Superia, aka Deidre Wentworth),
- Scarlet Witch (the sociopathic geneticist, June Covington),
- Wolverine (the undead swordsman, Gorgon),
- Spider-Man (a South American chimera god, Al Apec),
- Hulk (Hulk's half-alien son, Skaar) and,
- Thor (Thor's Axe Crazy clone, Ragnarok).
This series provides example of...
- Ax Crazy: Almost all of them, but especially the Sentry and Norman Osborn.
- You know you're in trouble when most of your team is either on meds or seeing a therapist. You know you're in REAL trouble when the actual licensed therapist on the team is herself an amoral puppetmaster and sociopathic killer.
- Badass Normal: Bullseye. Compared to the rest of the team, he's very underpowered but still amazingly talented at what he does and completely lacking remorse.
- Victoria Hand also qualifies. Although not superpowered at all, she's rarely intimidated by the likes of Moonstone, Venom or Bullseye, and actually called Osborn out on his erratic behavior a couple times. She was also not intimidated by Banner and his son Skaar.
- Breath Weapon: June Covington can exhale Deadly Gas.
- The Chessmaster: Osborn, though he's not as good as he thinks he is.
- Costume Copycat: Norman has several team members (Moonstone, Venom) adopting the identities of more well-known heroes who wouldn't cooperate (Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man), trusting that the remaining paranoia of Skrull imposters will prevent the originals from objecting — or doing anything about it.
- Spider-Man actually takes advantage of this by posing as Venom.
- Depraved Bisexual: Daken personifies this trope.
- Depraved Homosexual: Averted with Victoria Hand who manages to be one of the few halfway decent people on the team (along with Noh-Var and Ares).
- Eviler Than Thou: Venom took the time to answer some letters during his Dark Reign tie-in.
I know I'm not the nicest guy on the Earth, but try to compare me with the rest of my team. Daken has to kill four people per day to count it as good, Bullseye once killed a kitty that got struck on a tree just to prove he can, Norman seduced his son's girlfriend, and Ares is the fricking GOD OF WAR. Next to them I'm looking like Tom Hanks.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Venom.
- Improbable Weapon User: Bullseye's entire schtick is that he can use seemingly harmless objects, such as paper clips, to kill using his freakishly accurate aim.
- It's Personal: Osborn saw fit to threaten Luke Cage's wife and child. Bad move... or possibly a very good one, since Cage went into Unstoppable Rage mode the next time they met, while Osborn was able to keep his cool.
- Karma Houdini: In the final issue, Everyone gets what they had coming, everyone except Daken who escapes scot-free.
- In fairness, Daken's story is still unfolding in his own title; whether or not he'll receive his comeuppance is still up in the air.
- Victoria Hand appears to avoid punishment, but being assigned to the New Avengers certainly isn't a pleasant role for her.
- Love Is in the Air: Daken's mind-control pheromone powers make resisting him next to impossible.
- Manipulative Bastard: Osborn, Daken.
- Only Sane Man: Ms. Hand is clearly the only sane person out of all of these guys. Not that that's hard mind you, but still...
- Marvel Boy and Ares try as well. Venom thinks he's one but...no.
- Poisonous Person: June Covington.
- Powered Armor: Iron Patriot
- Psycho for Hire: Bullseye and Daken.
- Venom may or may not be. His relationship to Osborn was originally contractual in the Spider-Man books. By the time they joined the Thunderbolts, Venom had a more casual relationship with Norm than the other T-Bolts. It's possible that Venom may be legitimately loyal to Osborn, for not treating him as a "second stringer".
- Redemption Equals Death: Ares realises that Loki has been on Osborn's side, not Asgard's, and charges him. Then Sentry rips him/his ribcage (hard to tell, probably a good thing) in half
- Serial Killer: Lester, Venom, and Daken to varying degrees.
- Don't forget Osborn. As the Green Goblin, he fit the bill better than anyone.
- June Covington, known as Toxie Doxie.
- "Shut Up" Kiss: In Dark Wolverine #84, Daken and Bullseye.
- Sliding Scale of Anti-Heroes.
- Ares: Type IV
- Noh-varr: Type III
- Sentry: Type I, turns to Type V when the Void takes over.
- Ms Hand: Type III or IV.
- Most of the second team think they're Type III, and actually making the world a better place. YMMV on whether they're right or not.
- Smug Snake: Daken's "greatest fear" is that he's one of these. During his Siege tie-in, the Fates identify him as the bringer of Ragnarok and attempt to sway him to their side by first showing him illusions of his "greatest desires" - like killing Iron Patriot and a world in chaos - and then, after he tells them that no one controls him, by showing him his worst fears: He tries to manipulate the loyalty of his team by saving their asses and telling them they're awesome, but Hawkeye instead tells him he can go to hell and Iron Patriot is the one to rouse everyone back up. Daken does not respond well to this.
- Osborn as well. He's smart, but nowhere near as smart as he thinks he is.
- Well, arguably, he is exactly as smart as he thinks he is, maybe even smarter. He has Super Intelligence after all, or chemicially enhanced genius-level intelligence at least, and he was highly intelligent even before that. Its just that he's so selfish and messed up and genuinely mentally ill that he fails to put it to proper use. He's his own worst enemy.
- Osborn as well. He's smart, but nowhere near as smart as he thinks he is.
- Stupid Sexy Daken
- Token Good Teammate: On the first team, Ms. Hand, Noh-Varr, and possibly Ares. Two of them eventually turned on Osborn.
- On the second team, Skaar.
- UST: Between Daken and the rest of the cast, most notably the Love Triangle developing between him, Karla, and Lester. Well, more like a lust-hate-obsession triangle, but still.
- Villain Protagonist: The entire cast.
- Xanatos Gambit: Daken pulls off a nice one in his own title when he successfully manipulates the Fantastic Four into facing off against Osborn, weakening Osborn's own position while earning the Fantastic Four's trust. He comes out smelling like a rose, while Bullseye, who rightfully suspects what Daken is up to, comes off looking like a paranoid maniac.
- Yawn and Reach: Hilariously, Mac tries this on Daken, but chickens out at the last second. Daken responds by reaching between Mac's legs... and taking a handful of popcorn from the bag Mac has sitting on his lap.