Haven’t done much on this blog for a long time. Blame Rock Band 2 and Fallout 3.

So we’re about a month and a half away from Dark Reign kicking off. And with the help of this week’s DCBS shipment, I’m not only fairly confident about what it’s going to be, I’m also SUPER EXCITED about it. Let’s dig deep into what led me to the conclusions I’ve reached, and why they’ve got me so jazzed about the post Secret Invasion Marvel Universe. For a while now, an image has existed (I believe it was shown at one of the Marvel panels during con season) that consisted of a picture of six characters that Brian Michael Bendis (through various interviews/podcasts) referred to as the “Evil Illuminati.” About a month or so ago, a website (I believe it was IGN) confirmed that the image in question was going to be a cover for one of the kick off Dark Reign books (it was either Secret Invasion: Dark Reign or Dark Reign: New Nation). The image itself is a play on the cover of New Avengers: Illuminati #1, featuring six characters of less than perfect morals. Four of them (Dr. Doom, Namor, the female incarnation of Loki, and The Hood) are clearly defined and easy to recognize. The other two are a bit more vague. They seem to be Emma Frost and Norman Osborne. Reasons for this speculation will be forthcoming. These six characters were obviously chosen for a reason, and I’m quite confident that we’re looking at the new leadership of the Marvel Universe. But this won’t be like the Illuminati, as there will be no hiding or subterfuge with these folks. They’re going to be out in the open, and they’re going to have all the power. Let’s look at where these “villains” are at this time, and find out what they have been doing and where they’ll be after the Skrulls are kicked off the planet (and they will be kicked off the planet).

Dr. Doom – Last seen being captured by the Mighty Avengers and escaping from The Raft during the attack on Starktech by the Skrulls, Dr. Doom is the King of Latveria and one of the most intelligent humans in the universe. I would not be surprised if the devastation of the invasion leads to Doom expanding his territory to much of Eastern Europe.

Namor – Currently running around in The Incredible Hercules’ Love and War arc, Namor recently once again aligned himself with Dr. Doom after an attack on Atlantis that left much of the city-state devastated. He is lord of the seas, and sovereign over 70% of the world.

Loki – Since being reborn in female form by Thor, Loki has been slowly gathering power in Asgard through manipulation of Balder, who has been recently revealed to be Odin’s son, Thor’s brother and rightful equal heir of Asgard. She will soon completely seize power over Asgard, and will rule some of the most powerful gods on Earth.

The Hood – He’s taken his merry band of villains straight to the front line of the battle at Central Park, but the big piece of the puzzle for The Hood was revealed in New Avengers #46. The oft manifested demon entity has turned out to be the Dread Dormammu, who has pledged to unlock the secrets of the Dark Dimension. Dark Reign. Dark Avengers. The Hood and his gang are going to be the Dark Avengers. A twisted conception of The Thunderbolts. He will control the streets, and he (alongside Dormammu) will rule the mystical realms.

Emma Frost – I thought for a while that this person could have been Courtney Ross of the Hellfire Club, but I’m pretty sure there’s an X on her chest (although Miss Ross was a member of Excalibur, so it doesn’t completely preclude her), so I’m going with Emma. Emma’s importance to the X-Men has been steadily growing since Morrison’s New X-Men, to the point that she is basically on the same level as Cyclops as co-leader of the X-Men. I stopped reading Uncanny, so I’m not completely up to date with what Emma is doing right now. I think this is an example of a character that is not currently evil being grouped in with the rest of the evil folks due to her reputation back from the Hellfire Club days. I think she’ll become the true power/leader of the X-Men, but not necessarily turn evil. She will be the leader of the mutants.

Norman Osborne – He’s the hardest to make out in the image (some have thought it could be the Purple Man), but it’s got to be Osborne. You read Thunderbolts #124 and #125, Deadpool #3, and Secret Invasion #7 (and from what I’ve heard, Spider-Man’s New Ways to Die arc), and the one thing you see is the rising importance of Norman Osborne. He’s hailed as the conquering hero when the Thunderbolts beat back the Skrulls in Washington DC. He’s praised for his courage when Iron Man flees the scene during the Central Park battle while he stands tall. He might have had something to do with the death of Queen Veranke due to the end of Deadpool #3. He’s everywhere, and everyone to a man in the US government is falling head over heels for him. Prepare yourselves for Norman Osborne, Director of SHIELD.

So here’s how I think it goes down. During the Invasion, Doom is working with Namor to secretly marshall forces in and around Latveria and Atlantis. Once the Skrulls retreat, he expands his sphere of influence outward. While the battle at Central Park rages on, Loki takes the opportunity to seize power over Asgard thanks to Thor’s absence. The Skrulls are defeated, and the American people are led to believe that the true heroes of the battle are two bands of reformed crooks, Norman Osborne’s Thunderbolts and The Hood’s gang (the soon to be christened Dark Avengers). Norman Osborne is named Director of SHIELD due to his valor, and Iron Man is forced to go on the run with the New Avengers. With SHIELD destabilized and Asgard under Loki’s sway, Captain America and Thor are also forced to go underground and join the New Avengers (alongside Nick Fury’s Secret Warriors), only to be dogged at every turn by The Hood’s mystically powered, cape killing Dark Avengers, who are being mandated by Norman Osborne. Doom and Namor throw the support of Latveria and Atlantis behind these new leaders, mostly in an attempt to gain their trust in order to take everything for himself further down the line. Loki makes a similar compact with similar aspirations for future conquest. Emma Frost sees the danger and power of this new ruling class, and decides to throw her support behind the regime in order to preserve the endangered mutant race. Suddenly, up is down, the villains are in complete control, and we have ourselves a Dark Reign.

Well, at least that’s what I’d do…