DARK WOLVERINE #77:
Written by Daniel Way & Marjorie Liu; pencils by Giuseppe Camuncoli.
The early assumptions were that DARK WOLVERINE would feature a younger carbon copy of the original. It would likely be a book about the son consumed with hatred for the father he blames for his mother's death - - - a son who agrees to join the Dark Avengers and pose as the father in order to discredit the Wolverine name and finally achieve vengeance. Daken would willingly cede control to the appointed leader, and work with the framework of Norman Osborn's plan in order to achieve his own ends. This would be a younger (well, 60+ years isn't young, but compared to dad it's downright youthful), less composed, more hateful and aggressive Avenger-with-the-claws, less in control of emotions and more of an impulsive risk-taker, often fueled by the famous berserker rage within his genes.
Au contraire. Two issues in, and we've seen nothing of the sort. Instead, writers Way and liu are taking these tales of Daken/Dark Wolverine in a new and creative direction. This guy Daken is a player, a MAJOR PLAYER. He works his plan, his very private and personal agenda (not revealed to us or anyone else so far), and he plays EVERYBODY he comes in contact with. EVERYBODY !!! No one is spared. He's playing ME!, and I'm letting him do it! Even while his fingers are grasping my brain matter and massaging my frontal lobes to make me write this favorable review, I'M THINKING the entire time that I'm in charge and IT'S MY IDEA!!
I'm having a blast watching him work his game. He's playing Norman Osborn and the members of the Dark Avengers, even taking advantage of Dark Hawkeye/Bullseye's brutal nature and hatred to goad him into violent action that end up making all the team members wary of Bullseye and thereby prevent him from assuming any positions of influence with the others. He recognizes the threat to his leadership intentions and works to minimize it. It's right there in the quote from Machiavelli on page two: "The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him." It's very appropriate that this first story arc is called "The Prince."
Daken is a classic manipulator and I get the feeling that he's much smarter and way ahead of Norm Osborn. Osborn's intentions are worn on his sleeve - - the Dark Avengers as well as the FF and New Avengers know what he's after - - - but nobody suspects that Daken is working his own plan. Nobody - - except us of course since the writers are sharing some of his thoughts with us. But we aren't being given too close a peek - - nobody knows what endgame is in mind. i don't care. I just like watching this unfold.
Issue #76 begins with an unanswered question from the previous issue = who fired the arrow into Johnny Storm that prompted the FF's visit to Dark Avengers HQ? Was it Dark Hawkeye or Dark Wolverine? Place your bets - - make mine Daken. What did become clear is that leader Norm Osborn wants desperately to somehow discredit and minimize any threats from the Fantastic Four.
The story in #77 begins with Norm calming down the less-rational members (Ares and Venom, both being worked by Daken to raise their ire) and explaining how he/they "used" the FF to make the Dark Avengers appear to be the more professional and proper team. Also here are the faded purple captions that read like a narration from Machiavelli's book with little tips on how to get control. Is this a voice over from Daken's thoughts, or just the writers' way of leading us along?
One of Daken's moves is to take everybody off guard. His key phrases usually involve the words "set up" or "use" someone. Right after the meeting Daken starts playing Ms. Dark Marvel by planting seeds of distrust for Norman and sympathy for Daken (re: Norm = "and he's trying to set ME up."), finishing it off with a compliment to her poise. Prediction = within the next three issues she'll be in bed with him.
In a private meeting with Norm regarding Bullseye, Daken says, "He's not out to get me, Norman . . . He's out to get YOU." And he pulls it off. Later, when Norm as Iron Patriot confronts Bullseye outside the FF HQ spying on Daken, Bullseye tries a similar tactic and tells Norm= "Because it's not me he's after. He's out to get YOU." But Bullseye doesn't pull it off. Norm's facial response indicates as much. He doesn't trust Bullseye; and he's starting to believe Daken.
Next stop = go play the Fantastic Four. During a long conversation he makes his points to them = "I don't want to be one of Osborn's things. I want out." (I.E. - - he's using ME) and "a confrontation between you and the Avengers is inevitable. Osborn is setting it up." (I.E. - - he's out to get YOU). And then in a classic moment for Daken, he uses everybody again by getting The Thing to physically throw him out of the building. The FF gets used by thinking that he's on their side and using this beat-down by The Thing to make sure the observing Norm doesn't think they're in cahoots. Norm gets used and duped into thinking that Daken is giving him some physical evidence to use against the FF. And Bullseye gets used again because it now looks to Norm like Bullseye is out to get Daken and everything Daken has been telling Norm must therefore be true.
We also get a new unanswered question this issue: how did Daken get past the Baxter Building security? Another "play", perhaps? I'd like to know how it was done. This book is a primer in dirty tricks and manipulation - - - not very admirable skills that I would want to emulate but it sure is fun to observe as long as it isn't happening to me. (Note to self: "Are you sure?")