Editor's Note: Siege #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, January 6.
Paul Brian McCoy:
Plot: Marvel's next big crossover event begins as H.A.M.M.E.R. Director Norman Osborne and his Dark Avengers lay siege to Asgard.
Comments: In the promotional materials leading up to Siege #1, Marvel has gone out of their way to remind readers that this is an event seven years in the making. As the culmination of nearly a decade's worth of events, character deaths, resurrections, manipulations, and machinations Siege is set to reshape the Marvel Universe (again).
As many readers doubtless know, Norman Osborne is front and center in this issue, leading the Dark Avengers against Asgard after Loki orchestrates a violent incident involving Volstagg. Bendis consciously echoes the opening of Civil War with the death of innocent bystanders providing the impetus for the government forces to crack down on the Gods of Asgard. It's unclear why Bendis opens the book in a way that is so thematically similar to Millar's 2006 event - the superhero landscape of the Marvel Universe and popular culture have moved on in the last 4 years – but the first few pages of the story have the cumulative effect of killing any sense of innovation or excitement here.
In fact, the entire book is sorely lacking in any kind of energy or momentum. Where the first issue of Civil War succeeded was in using the inciting incident – the destruction of Stamford – as a catalyst to open up the conflict between the heroes and clearly define the positions and stakes for the reader. There's nothing similar here – instead it's one long fight scene between the Dark Avengers and Thor.
Dark Reign has spent a lot of time telling readers about what a dangerous and clever opponent Norman Osborne is (despite numerous stories showing him repeatedly defeated or outmaneuvered by the classic heroes). To reduce someone who is supposed to be a master strategist to a simple brawler in this issue feels like weak scripting. More troubling still is the lack of acknowledgement from Osborne that he's likely being played by Loki. We don't see him insulating himself against Thor's brother in any way, meaning that whatever twist comes down the line will feel like a cheat.
Siege is an event already facing a bumpy road ahead if this first issue is an indication of what's to come.
Final Word: While the high concept of the first issue has a great deal of potential, it's unclear what the motivations for this opening gambit are and the actual content of the story is somewhat thin.
If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of the author’s work at Monster In Your Veins
Remember when Scarlet Witch went insane, for no real reason, as the issues that suddenly had always been bothering her again were actually dealt with by other writers in various ways over the years between which Bendis decided to pull out the plot points he needed and ignore the rest?
Remember when she killed several teammates, in a variety of ways, to make sure that her best friends, the Avengers, felt the depth of her rage and despair? Remember when the battles didn't make sense, who lived and who died didn't make sense, and none of it actually meant anything since Wanda could recreate life and reality at will?
It's happening again. Only this time the loony tunes is Norman Osborn. And for no reason other than Loki's predictable whisper, he's decided taking down Asgard is a viable target. For his team. Of insane criminals. Who count among their number just one god, Ares, and one deus ex machina, the Sentry. Then they've got a dude with claws, a dude with teeth, a chick with a moonstone, and a sharpshooter. And that's about it, since the alien cockroach wised up and fled the coup. You'd think Norman would at least get himself a talking robot to complete the set, but I digress …
Ares tries to talk him out of it. Victoria Hand tries to talk him out of it. The President tries to talk to him, period. Each and every member of the team objects. So he manipulates all of them, which, like Wanda's magic, just works because it does.
The plot also recalls Civil War, because it hinges on an inflammatory incident that serves as a scapegoat to justify the leadership overreaction. Aren't we sort of done with that parallel by now?
Okay, time to take on Asgard. Balder by himself could wipe the floor with all of them, but he doesn't. Because what's going to happen is whatever the story needs to happen, for no other reason than something has to happen next.
This may turn out to be Norman's fatal misstep. He may have bitten off more than he can chew. It may be the failure that drives him from power and ends his Dark Reign. But for this issue, it feels arbitrary and stupid, and no amount of hand-waving can explain it away. Also, Coipel's art brings back bad memories of earlier crowd scenes. There's not a lot of facial definition with so many characters remaining unidentified.
This issue finds the Hood's villainous cohorts lining up to help Norman, which also seems less than likely. And Asgard seems to be composed of Renaissance towers and Gothic cathedrals, which is a little off base for the pre-medieval Norse gods. As a first sally in the culmination of all of Norman's plans, this seems to be the point where he chokes.
Paul Brian McCoy:
If there was ever a comic that painfully demonstrated the Law of Diminishing Returns for Special Events in Comics, this would be the poster child. You know the one. The kid with the big, sad eyes filled with regret and apology, the distended belly due to the absolute lack of nutrition or value, and the buzzing flies of old, worn-out plot threads finally settling down to die. Sally freaking Struthers should be imploring you to buy this book while a Sarah McLachlan song plays in the background. You know, so you can help buy the abused animal children a meal or something.
As you probably already know, we begin with "Volstagg's Blunder" at a packed Soldier Field in Chicago, in the middle of a football game. Remember how Civil War kicked off with the shocking devastation of Stamford, where over 600 people, including over 60 children, died in a nuclear blast? Well, how do you top that?
Maybe by cranking the volume to 11 and inflicting 100 TIMES THE CASUALTIES.
You see, Soldier Field seats 61,500, and as the very talented Mr. Coipel shows us, there looks to be a capacity crowd in attendance when The U-Foes attack Volstagg and KILL EVERYONE IN THE STADIUM. Which really sucks, since The Bears seemed to be getting their act together as the season ended. Sure, they weren't going to the playoffs, but at least they weren't dead in an apocalyptic blast. Too bad about the Vikings, though. They're the last team to play the Bears at home, so I guess they bought it, too.
Does this mean that in the Marvel Universe, Lovie Smith definitely won't be back as Coach next year and Brett Favre won't be pulling his traditional "will he/won't he" as the Vikings QB next time around?
Who are the U-Foes, you ask? I had no idea, but a quick jaunt around the Interwebs informed me that they are North Carolina's official Avengers: Initiative Team. Beyond that they're old Hulk baddies who tried to duplicate the Fantastic Four's apparently highly publicized origin story. It didn't turn out quite so well for these folks as it did for Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben, though.
But when Osborn made them North Carolina's official Initiative team, it was during a big nationally televised press conference. They shortly thereafter had a huge battle in downtown Charlotte that was probably all over the news at the time. The time being just a couple of issues ago, in Avengers: The Initiative #26.
Luckily there were no cameras at the Bears game to record their attack. Or at the Interstate highway where they blew up, and apparently killed, another large number of people in their cars, right before knocking Volstagg into Soldier Field. Because, you know, someone would probably recognize them as North Carolina's official Initiative team.
But that's the stuff you already know. It's all there in the preview pages that have been all over the place.
What you may not know is that the rest of the issue, all sixteen pages of it, is just a bunch of fighting as Osborn ignores the President's order to stand down and attacks Asgard with the entire Initiative Army. And look at that! Isn't that the U-Foes right up in front of the charge? Yes, it is. Luckily no one saw them firing giant energy bolts at Volstagg in Soldier Field and murdering 61,500+ people and, The Chicago Bears, The Minnesota Vikings, and all their respective staffs, visiting families, and hangers-on.
There is absolutely no building up of tension in this story. And no, I'm sorry, but saying that this story has been building for seven years doesn't actually get around that. On one page, Soldier Field is destroyed. Five pages later the attack is underway, with literally only one page each for (1) getting Ares on board to plan the attack, (2) getting the Dark Avengers on board for attacking a race of gods, (3) rallying an entire army of Initiative superheroes and villains, (4) showing that the President has lost control of Osborn.
Most the actual plot is compressed into those pages, with the rest of the book (not counting the sacrifice of 61,500+ victims in the opening seven pages) being devoted to throwing colorfully-clad characters at Asgardians. We do see that Tony Stark is still recuperating in Broxton, but he's unconscious and doesn't actually play any part of the story yet. Thor shows up, but guess what? The U-Foes and Norman Osborn take care of him.
Seriously. In a page and a half.
We end on the vaguely ridiculous full-page splash of Steve Rogers, apparently lounging around "Avengers Hideout" in his costume, sans mask and gloves because, I guess that means he was "relaxing," watching the Broxton attack on the news. But don't worry kids, he's so mad, he's shaking, so I'm sure he'll do something next issue. The rest of the book is filler to try and trick you into believing that 3.99 is a fair price.
This really is a waste of money, if you like to spend your money on an interesting story. It might be worth your money if you like Coipel's art. Personally I only found it serviceable with most of the really gorgeous work being done by Laura Martin's colors. This is a very nicely colored book, if nothing else.
Although, I was amused by how many of Asgard's towers look like erect penises.
So there's your money well-spent. Emotionally bankrupt mass murder used to kick-start the Event, serviceable art that will probably be more to your tastes than to mine, beautiful colors that are almost worth the price of admission alone, a LOT of filler tacked on at the end, and many, many giant, stone penises.
As far as opening chapters in blockbuster Event Comics, this is the weakest I've ever read. And I liked the opening issues of Civil War, World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, and both Annihilations.
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