By Kevin Mahadeo
This fall, Norman Osborn plans on making a list, checking it twice and delivering an unhealthy amount of Dark Reign madness directly into the lives of super heroes both naughty and nice in DARK REIGN: THE LIST, a series of eight interconnected one-shots heralding the next major chapter in the Marvel Universe's current saga.
"[Norman] composes a To-Do List—a list of things, not necessarily people to be targeted, but situations that have to be dealt with or addressed in one way, shape or form," explains Marvel Editor Tom Brevoort about the concept behind the one-shots. "In the course of each of these stories, different characters will become involved, not because they've specifically been targeted but because a particular objective on Norman's list falls within their sphere of activity."
The idea formed during one of the many Xbox Live sessions between writers Brian Michael Bendis and Matt Fraction and spins directly out of the events of the crossover between DARK AVENGERS and UNCANNY X-MEN beginning in July. The fallout from that story spurs the Norman to address what he views as serious concerns throughout the Marvel U. Although a different writer and artist team lend their capable hands to each of the eight one-shots, all feature the overarching theme of Osborn's agenda by representing one element on the former Green Goblin's list.
"It's a way of doing an event that's not the kind of crossover that we've done for the last couple of years," says Brevoort. "Events still work and people are still interested in them, but we've been doing them all in the same way with the same kind of style. So, maybe that's a little played out and we should switch things up a little bit and try to hit the same kind of notes and do the same kind of universe-changing stories, but do them differently."
Bendis starts things off by assembling his Avengers teams in DARK REIGN: THE LIST—AVENGERS, joining with artist Marko Djurdjevic. The issue features both the Dark and New versions of the titular team in a story that brings the growing tensions between Osborn and the renegade group of heroes from slow simmer to roiling boil.
"It has the New Avengers faced with the hard decision of really doing something about Norman because dramatic things are happening in the Marvel Universe and they feel if they don't do something right now, they'll never be able to," teases Bendis. "It's a very big Clint Barton story."
Fraction also gets in on the action with his merry band of mutants, teaming with legendary X-Men artist Alan Davis for DARK REIGN: THE LIST—UNCANNY X-MEN. However, as the writer's one-shot flows directly out of the DARK AVENGERS/UNCANNY X-MEN event, he refrained from revealing more than the fact that this particular item holds extreme personal interest for Norman and invokes the most Goblin-like behavior from him in quite some time.
The recently christened Write Stuff writers all contribute to the one-shots as well, penning issues directly related to their respective ongoing titles. Jonathan Hickman and artist Ed McGuinness break the secret on Nick Fury's band of rebels in the DARK REIGN: THE LIST—SECRET WARRIORS one-shot. Unlike the other one-shots' protagonists, this special sees Fury teaming
with Norman on an item of mutual interest for the two. Rick Remender and John Romita Jr.'s DARK REIGN: THE LIST—PUNISHER turns the tables on Frank Castle's campaign against the Dark Reign by making the hunter into the hunted, as Osborn sends all of his resources against the rebel with a cause.
Andy Diggle begins his upcoming run on DAREDEVIL with DARK REIGN: THE LIST—DAREDEVIL, bridging the gap between DAREDEVIL issue #500—current writer Ed Brubaker's last—and issue #501—Diggle's first—with the help of artist Billy Tan. The final scribe with the Write Stuff, Jason Aaron, teams with artist Esad Ribic and pens DARK REIGN: THE LIST—WOLVERINE; however, although the clawed Canadian owns top billing, the focus of the issue falls onto the Weapon Plus facility from writer Grant Morrison's run on NEW X-MEN.
"It just made sense to me that if Norman knew about Weapon Plus he'd want to get in on it," says Aaron. "It's not trying to fit a square peg in a round hole."
The final two one-shots focus on the highly understandable threat of the Hulk and Norman's oldest and greatest foe, Spider-Man. Greg Pak and Ben Oliver bring the smash to DARK REIGN: THE LIST—HULK, tying into the newly re-launched INCREDIBLE HULK ongoing and featuring Green Genes' bashing baby boy, Skaar. Web Head writer Dan Slott swings the gears of DARK REIGN: THE LIST—AMAZING SPIDER-MAN with artist Adam Kubert as Peter Parker finds himself running out of walls to crawl as Norman's crazed gaze falls upon the amazing arachnid.
While the series of one-shots all share the common theme of Norman's checklist, and can be each read independently of the other, they also further the continuing stories of the project's related ongoing titles. Expect THE LIST—PUNISHER to drastically alter the PUNISHER series, THE LIST—AVENGERS to create a new status quo for both Avengers titles, another brand new day for Spider-Man and so forth and so on. But even with all that change in the individual books, the biggest change comes over the Marvel Universe as a whole, as Brevoort hints toward Norman's ever-loosening grip on his sanity and a mysterious ninth item on the list.
"In many, many titles we've seen Norman in power and Norman's influence," says Brevoort. "But what you really start to see is, as much as Norman's in a position of power and a position of authority, he's
starting to feel the pressure. It's a big job. It's a lot to deal with. There are many wolves at the door in all different arrangement. Norman's got a long history of being totally psychotic, particularly when he's under pressure. So, when these books start coming out you're going to see more of the Green Goblin in him peering out from behind his eyes and showing itself now and then. Really that's the largest story of that character—him struggling with this thing inside him and this situation he finds himself in and this driving ambition that pushes him to get more and more and more.
"Really, all those stories are building to something further done the line. There's a ninth item on Norman's list, but we're not going to talk about that quite yet. One the one hand, it's a capstone to Dark Reign. On the other hand, it's a bridge between Dark Reign and something else. There are eight specials, but Norman's got nine items that he's going to be dealing with. By the time we get to the end of this, the ninth thing will become apparent and that will lead into something else."
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For more on DARK REIGN: THE LIST, check back here tomorrow and then every day for the next two weeks as we'll be speaking with all the writers involved with the project!
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