Sunday, May 20, 2012

Siege (comics)

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Olivier Coipel
Collects: Siege: The Cabal, Siege Prologue, Siege #1-4, Avengers: The Way Things Are

I make no bones about the fact that I kind of hate Marvels events. I crap all over them at every opportunity and for good reason. Most of them are terrible. The worst part being that they even drag down writers who are normally excellent. Modern Marvel events are, frankly, the pits.

So, it's kind of shocking to me that I found one I got some genuine enjoyment out of.

Norman Osborn - the big swinging dick in the US military after the inexplicable climax of Secret Invasion - decides that he doesn't like the fact that Asgard is on earth. When the President informs him that he's nuts for wanting to take on a bunch of Norse Gods, Norman decides he's going to go ahead and do it anyways. So, he and the Dark Avengers start their attack and it's going surprisingly well until a bunch of the real Avengers show up. A bunch of Thors friends show up to help him. Who could have EVER seen that coming? Norman's insane, sure, but come on.

It seems like every big event Bendis does is the "culmination of everything he's done on Avengers", but this is the one that comes closest to doing exactly that. Siege is the little bow on top of numerous plots Bendis has played with over the course of his long run on the Avengers books, from things that were there in the beginning such as the Sentry to more recent developments like Dark Reign and the Superhero Registration Act (Mark Miller instigated it, sure, but Bendis is the one who played with it the most). If you want to be cynical about it, this is the Marvel Universe finally moving back to a more manageable status quo, but we could do worse than getting a decent event comic out of it.

This event is the exact opposite of Bendis' usual style of decompression. At four issues, it doesn't waste any time. The war on Asgard is incited in the first, it plays out over the next two and the final obstacle is dealt with in the fourth. As such, Bendis gets straight to the point, putting in all of the little moments that were frankly long overdue. Without a padded number of issues, it finishes before it's worn out its welcome*.

The end result is a feeling that things of consequence are actually happening. One of the problems with Secret Invasion - the previous event Bendis handled -  is that it was about eighty percent filler. We'd waste entire issues on interludes with our heroes twiddling their thumbs in the Savage Land or a crashed ship full of "abducted heroes" that ended up being nothing more than a glorified fakeout. Whereas in Siege it doesn't feel like there are a string of wasted moments. Most every scene matters.

Barring a bit of tiring hyperviolence**, there isn't much wrong with the event. It's not the most exciting, gotta-get-all-the-tie-ins thing going, but the fact that I enjoyed it is significant. I didn't necessarily think it was great, but I admit that it may partly be due to my detachment with the linewide plots over at Marvel. A lack of investment kills some of the power of a book like this, because it really relies on how invested you are in the ongoing saga of the Marvel universe. Since I don't give much of a crap about the heroes going underground, who is in charge or whatever, it doesn't mean as much to me. I just stick with the books I like.

One other note; the presence of Olivier Coipel on art is welcome. It feels like there's a nice visual bridge from the Thor ongoing to this event due to his work on that book. Considering Asgard is a major part of this event, that's a handy thing to have in the plus column.

The Score: 7.5 out of 10

Pretty good work all around. If you are heavily invested in the ongoing saga of the Marvel universe, you'll get even more out of it than I did. I think if you're going to check out an event from Marvel, this is probably the one to go with. Or you could just give it a look if you're in the mood for a flashy superhero punch up with gods, bright spandex and clashes of epic proportions. You could do worse.

* This is a lesson that Marvel - geniuses that they are - promptly forgot two seconds later. The next event they did had eight issues. The one after that will clock in at a staggering twelve issues of two teams punching each other. Amazing how they learn nothing. Even more amazing is that people buy into it.

** I'm not one of those guys who thinks gore and heavy violence has no business in superhero comics, but I don't see any reason we needed to have someone ripped in half on panel in full view, complete with organs flying everywhere. Worse still, the trick isn't working anymore. What should have been shocking didn't even make me flinch. Comics ought to pull back for a while, because it feels like they've gone down this road for so long that it's old hat. Scenes like that should garner some kind of reaction.

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