At what point does homage become plagiarism?
This question came dominated my thoughts while reading Avengers: Twilight. This comic is not subtle in how it retells The Dark Knight Returns with Marvel characters. (Indeed, Frank Miller produced a cover depicting Captain America jumping before a lightning strike for this first issue.) However, despite being derivative in the extreme, Avengers: Twilight is also an enjoyable read.
The action of Avengers: Twilight opens in a not-too-distant future where America is in dire straits. An increasingly fascist government is slowly eroding basic liberties and cameras are now illegal. This comes to pass following a disaster dubbed H-Day, after which superheroes are also outlawed.
Following a failed run for office, Steve Rogers is content to stay retired. That ends after he sees a docudrama posing as news asking the public to reconsider the legacy of the Red Skull. This, coupled with the murder of Matt Murdock, leads to Captain America’s rebirth and a call to reassemble the surviving Avengers.
Who Avenges the Avengers in Avengers:Twilight?
Avengers: Twilight easily could have become an unintentional comedy. Indeed, there are some points (particularly as Steve Rogers muses on his age) where it verges into parodying Frank Miller’s film noir narrator shtick. Thankfully, Chip Zdarsky is largely successful in developing Avengers: Twilight into something timely and original.
The base concept of Avengers: Twilight may be familiar, but Zdarsky keeps his satiric scalpel sharp by targeting the same issues Miller did with Dark Knight Returns nearly 40 years ago. Politics. Media. The thin line between heroism and terrorism. All of these issues are explored in a modern context, along with the question of how you can save people who don’t want to be saved.
While I may quibble about the story being uninspired, I have no such complaints about the artwork. Daniel Acuña boasts a unique aesthetic I struggle to describe. The closest thing I can think of is to imagine Simon Bisley painting over Jack Kirby’s pencils. Such is the clarity and dynamism of Acuña’s character designs. Yet there is a dark undertone to his colors that hints at the twisted nature of Avengers: Twilight’s reality.
I was prepared to dismiss Avengers: Twilight as a half-hearted attempt to ride the cape of a classic story. After one issue, I’m still not convinced it might move beyond its base concept. I will allow, however, that it is a competently executed examination of the same problems Dark Knight Returns presented. I think it also has the potential to become something special.
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