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Dark Reign

Ares: Preparing for War

The god of war battles his way into the spotlight with DARK AVENGERS: ARES #1

By Marc Strom

Who would possibly make a better drill sergeant than the god of war?

According to Norman Osborn, no one. And now readers will get to see what happens when the H.A.M.M.E.R. director places some of his best soldiers under the surly Olympian's tutelage in DARK AVENGERS: ARES #1, from the creative team of writer Kieron Gillen and artist Manuel Garcia.

As for just why he would agree to train Osborn's troops, Ares has a special interest in molding these soldiers to his will.

"He thought it'd be amusing," quips Gillen. "Well, that's what he'll say if you asked him, if he said anything at all. And there's a part of that which is true. [But] the main answer's a little deeper. Perhaps Ares' most defining positive characteristic is his relationship with his son, Alexander. He's got a wide paternalistic streak. As such, part of him really likes the

DARK AVENGERS: ARES #1 black and white preview art by Manuel Garcia
idea of passing on knowledge and shaping people in his image. Being instrumental in warping a military force-yeah, Ares thinks that could be worthwhile."

Given Ares' character, readers can imagine that he may rub the soldiers under his command the wrong way. But in the end, Gillen notes that Ares feels more of an affinity for them than for anyone else.

"You may have noticed, but Ares can be somewhat brusque with people," the writer remarks. "There's a lot of that. He's the drill instructor from hell when he wants to be, and he's that a lot. And across all the years, he's always felt most at home with soldiers. He's a soldier. Hercules is a fighter, Thor is a warrior, but Ares is a soldier. These things matter.

"We have a small cast of soldiers-a core group he's training first-who we follow through this. They all look at Ares in their own ways. Some are a little more in awe of him. Some view him with open contempt."

As fans know, Norman Osborn has a long history of insanity, and though Ares and the former Green Goblin have struck an alliance for the moment, one never knows what the future holds in store.

"[Their alliance is] as steady as any Ares has struck in his long life," posits Gillen. "He really just views Osborn as the latest of a long line of mortals who are 'In Charge.' He currently offers Ares the best opportunities for what he enjoys doing. If the Dark Reign came to an end tomorrow, he'd probably expect to remain an Avenger. The move from [Tony] Stark to Osborn was a minor thing for Ares. The move from Osborn to anyone else would be equally minor. These are just mortals. They come and go, and soon their bones will be picked clean by time. So [they're] on steady ground as long as Osborn doesn't do anything that Ares finds offensive."

DARK AVENGERS: ARES #1 black and white preview art by Manuel Garcia
Ares will take his elite cadre on a mysterious mission to help him regain his standing amongst the Greek Pantheon after Hera provides an opening for him, but the question of why the goddess would help the war god in the first place remains unanswered.

"I suspect Ares should ask himself that too," suggests Gillen. "Hera plays her cards close to her chest. She's a manipulator. Ares is a powerhouse and, as such, she'd like that powerhouse on her side. And in things like bringing the recent battle in [INCREDIBLE HERCULES] between the Dark Avengers and the Pantheon to a close, he's showing that he can be useful to her. But really, as I said, Hera's cards are pressed tightly to her chest."

Ares has wandered the world of mortals, cast out from the Pantheon, for quite a while now; but according to Gillen, that doesn't mean he would no longer fit in with his fellow deities should he succeed in regaining their favor.

"He may even fit in better if he returned," the writer hypothesizes. "Ares was always out of step, a figure who was useful but not exactly loved. The time with mortals has altered him, and I suspect his time with Alexander has changed him more than anything else. He's got a long history in myth as a brutalizer and a monster, siring children without really thinking and acting on his worst impulses. With Alexander, he's moved past that. It suits him, I think."

While Ares may share a number of superficial similarities with the super-powered beings around him, Gillen explains that a great divide exists between the god and the other denizens of the Marvel Universe.

"I don't think of him as a super hero, for one," the writer elaborates. "I think of him as a god. His time among mortals has changed him a little, but he's still fundamentally not human, and a product of a culture which is thousands of years out of date. A lot of the interest in Ares for me is

DARK AVENGERS: ARES #1 cover by Cary Nord
comparing that culture to the world that he finds himself in. And in this series, comparing his military virtues to those of contemporary culture. Fundamentally, I'm writing him as a soldier from an alien culture."

And as such, Gillen teases that Ares will offer up at least one tactic that will surprise readers.

"I suspect how Ares chooses to breach an enemy base in issue #2 will prove memorable."

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