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Siege #2

Posted: Tuesday, February 2, 2010
By: Paul Brian McCoy/Dave Wallace

Brian Michael Bendis
Olivier Coipel (p), Mark Morales (i), Laura Martin (colors)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Invincible Iron Man #23 arrives in stores tomorrow, February 3.

Paul Brian McCoy:
Dave Wallace:




Paul Brian McCoy:

So, now that all the crappy set-up stuff is finished, this issue is pretty much All Smackdown All The Time. And it's actually the better for it.

What we've got here is a brainless, knock-down, drag-out fight between Osborn's Army of Goons and the Asgardians. No metaphors or politics (except in the vaguest of senses) or big words, even. Just lots and lots of fighting. And we've got to wait for the next issue for Captain America, The Avengers (all iterations), and the Secret Warriors to get involved, so expect a repeat of this next time around.

There are a couple of would-be inspirational speeches that are kind of pointless, but have to be there because the story demands them. There are a couple of moments where characters realize that Osborn's not all there. There are a couple of characters who are given free rein to just bust some shit up.

And someone dies. I won't tell you who, but it's pretty damn bloody.

While there's not a lot of emotional impact from the death, it does do a nice job of establishing the tone and level of threat represented by Osborn and his Army of Goons. Ultimately, though, even though this was a story "seven years in the making," it's really not about the story. There's not much "story" here.

It's about acting cool and looking good.

Which is kind of sad, in a way, but really not surprising.

Coipel, Morales, and Martin are the real stars here. This issue looks much better than the first and all three artists do everything they can, using every trick at their disposal, to give this brain-dead story some flair. And it works. Coipel provides a lot of very nice layouts and scenes spread across two pages; where detail is needed, Morales provides a believable realistic sheen to the characters and where needed, he provides a simplified, manga-style energy; the colors are simply beautiful, whether Martin's emphasizing the light and shadow in a roomful of superheroes, the charred, smoking body of a lightning-strike victim, a rain of bloody gore, or building-destroying combat.

I was actually a little surprised by the amount of manga influence, from the exaggerated expressions of background characters to the way the truck used in a last-minute rescue hops up off the ground (as you can see in the preview pages, below).

This is a good-looking piece of work. And that's really the only reason to pick it up.

After twenty five pages of "story," we are gifted with four pages of useless banter in a transcript of Nick Fury's pep talk to the Secret Warriors. It accomplishes nothing, completely misses any distinctions in voice between the kids and Fury, and felt like it was probably tossed off between bites of Chik-fil-A over the course of three minutes, then had all the typos and misspellings edited out. It's a waste, but we also get the Siege Checklist again, and the page that was screwed up from the first issue's backmatter.

If you don't think those are worthy extras then you're right. I mean that's really only three extra pages of main story and some worthless, masturbatory crap for extras, all for an additional dollar.

But it sure is pretty, dumb, and expensive. And that's what we all want, right?




Dave Wallace:

There's a fight scene between Ares and the Sentry in Siege #2 that serves as a perfect metaphor for the series so far. In it, the master strategist and legendary god of warfare is somehow outmanoeuvred by the blunt instrument that Bob Reynolds has become under the stewardship of Norman Osborn. As a result, what could have been a demonstration of intelligence and coherent strategy triumphing over thoughtless brute force becomes a maelstrom of barely coherent action in which victory ultimately belongs to the person who can move fastest and punch hardest.

So it is with Siege as a whole. What I expected to be a more thoughtful and sedate "event" in which Norman Osborn's forces used strategy and intelligence to accomplish their goal of overthrowing Asgard has become a glorious mess of action, with most of Marvel's highest-profile characters thrown together in a battle royale of a superhero smackdown that's really nothing like a "siege" at all.

I've talked before about how Bendis's superhero conflicts often feel like a child playing with action figures, smashing them together in the hope that they'll make a satisfying noise without really bothering to make sure that the reasons behind the action are well-established or that the characters' motivations are clear. Siege is a good example of that tendency, with the book's central conflict driven by a character who is apparently being evil and manipulative for no other reason than that it's in his nature to do so. Not only is Loki's motivation not given any further depth by this issue of the story, but the character is entirely absent from the chapter, leaving us with only the fruits of his manipulations to enjoy. And what violent, mindless fruits they are.

There are also plenty of small quibbles that don't really matter individually, but together help to undermine some of the book's better scenes. Thor's significant reduction in power, Bendis's conception of Bucky as apparently little more than a gun-happy version of Steve Rogers, and the odd final page (which works well as a joke, but makes the character featured look very stupid indeed thanks to the measured pacing of the four similar panels) all feel like unnecessary distractions--and when the majority of the issue's plot is so simple, it's important to get these subtleties right.

Those criticisms aside, the book is actually reasonably enjoyable on a basic level. That's due to the fact that Bendis is teamed with an art team who can make the action look good, in the form of Oliver Coipel, Mark Morales, and Laura Martin. In particular, it's Mark Morales's inks that really make the pages look great, with a slick, solid finish that gives Coipel's characters a real sense of form and weight, without his linework ever being so bold that it can't handle the many touches of finer detail that help to add texture to Coipel's panels. Morales seems to have quickly become one of Marvel's most high-profile inkers (I've enjoyed his work on Secret Invasion, Thor, Wolverine, and the Dark Reign: The List: Amazing Spider-Man issue), and I'm pleased to see him turning in such good work here.

I really struggle to assign a bullet-rating to issues like this one, because for some audiences this will be exactly what an "event" book like this should be: a straightforward superhero slugfest with a rousing moment in which Captain America rallies the troops, a climactic scene in which an Avenger dies (yes, another one), and a conclusion that promises even more action and spectacle in the next issue. And at just four issues, Siege is shaping up to be that rare thing: a taut, lean, straightforward crossover that doesn't require much in the way of outside reading to understand, and so isn't going to break the bank. However, anyone looking for any real depth, complexity or originality is probably going to be disappointed--and personally, I'm already finding myself looking forward to the end of the event, and the coming of the new "Heroic Age" that Marvel is promising will follow it.



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