Who Are The Dark Avengers? by Jerry Whitworth
With the introduction of Wyatt Russell as U.S. Agent in the season finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, speculation has arisen that in addition to the likely introduction of the Thunderbolts in the near future, the stage may be being set for the Dark Avengers as well. Introduced as part of the Dark Reign event, the Dark Avengers was the brainchild of Norman Osborn who, in the wake of Secret Invasion, was made the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. which he transitioned into the new organization H.A.M.M.E.R. Previously the head of the Thunderbolts, Osborn saw that group become a covert ops team while the Dark Avengers were founded as an extension of the Thunderbolts for H.A.M.M.E.R. with supervillains posing as the Avengers. The original team in the comics was composed of Moonstone in the role of Ms. Marvel, Venom/formerly Scorpion as Spider-Man, Bullseye as Hawkeye, and Daken as Wolverine with Ares as a stand-in for Thor and Osborn adopting a red, white, and blue version of the Iron Man armor as Iron Patriot. Heroes the Sentry and Noh-Varr as Captain Marvel rounded out the group. U.S. Agent was added to the team a number of years after. Lets take a look at what the Marvel Cinematic Universe version could entail.
The 2012 blockbuster film The Avengers saw the formation of the titular team with Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye under the direction of Nick Fury. In time, the group grew to include the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Vision, War Machine, Falcon, Bucky Barnes, Ant-Man, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and a multitude of associates by Avengers: Endgame (2019). It’s likely a proposed Dark Avengers would include versions of the group’s founders with U.S. Agent in the role of Captain America. Black Widow, which was suppose to debut in theaters last year but was pushed to this summer, will introduce a new Black Widow in Yelena Belova (played by Florence Pugh). Vanity Fair reported that it was originally intended for Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ La Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, who recruited U.S. Agent in Falcon/Winter Soldier, to first appear in this project to set herself up in a new Nick Fury-like role. It’s unknown yet who Contessa was recruiting but odds are good it will be Belova and/or Taskmaster who is shown expertly wielding a bow and arrow in multiple trailers. If U.S. Agent, Black Widow, and Taskmaster are locked in, lets see where we could see dark versions of Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk emerge.
In a recent interview with JOY Breakfast with The Murphys, Russell Crowe revealed he will be portraying the role of Zeus in next summer’s Thor: Love and Thunder. While many were quick to point out this likely means the introduction of Hercules into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, another character mentioned earlier could make their debut: Ares. The god of war, Ares was an infrequent foe of Thor until 2006 when the character was re-imagined as an antihero. Ares joined the Avengers after Civil War and transitioned to Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers for that group’s founding. The next likely Dark Avengers debut would be She-Hulk.
At Disney’s 2019 D23 event, it was announced one of the series coming to Disney+ will be She-Hulk. Filming only recently beginning with Tatiana Maslany in the title role, it features the return of Mark Ruffalo and Tim Roth to the roles of the Hulk and Abomination, respectively. Few details are known about the production but it’s speculated one of its intentions to circumvent Marvel Studios’ inability to bring a Hulk-featured motion picture to theaters due to Universal’s control of the film rights to expand the brand for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As such, any number of gamma-empowered characters could emerge from the series. In the comics, the Hulk’s son Skaar was part of the Dark Avengers but acted as a double agent. A more likely replacement maybe the Red Hulk. Since his introduction as Thunderbolt Ross in The Incredible Hulk in 2008, fans have eagerly awaited to see William Hurt’s character become the Red Hulk. With Ross set to appear in this year’s Black Widow, its been speculated he maybe setting up the Thunderbolts in the film but if the Dark Avengers are on the horizon, we’ll have to wait until July to see what may come. This then leaves a dark Iron Man.
With Norman Osborn prominently featured in two Sony Spider-Man film franchises already, the character runs the risk of over exposure and thus has so far been absent from the current brand. However, with Spider-Man: No Way Home scheduled to hit theaters later this year, rumors spread by alleged insiders indicate that Willem Dafoe is not only set to return as Osborn but act as the primary antagonist. While such remains to be seen and if this Osborn will remain moving forward, it’s safe to assume the movie won’t feature the character in the role of Iron Patriot. Further, from what has been seen thus far of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, it appears it will focus more prominently on magic than technology. Thus, the best bet will be Armor Wars on Disney+.
Announced at last year’s Disney Investors Day, the Armor Wars in the comics featured Iron Man’s technology stolen and sold to his enemies. Tony Stark’s rival Edwin Cord created the armored agent Firepower to take him down. The Iron Patriot was originally featured in Iron Man 3 (2013) as an armor stolen by Aldrich Killian (though, in earlier versions of the script, was meant to be the aforementioned Cord) that was worn by James Rhodes. It’s likely elements of these various stories could bring about the dark Iron Man and lead to the Dark Avengers.