Friday, 21 May 2010

Siege Mentality - a look back at Marvel's Siege *will contain spoilers*

Phew, well that's over and here comes the Heroic Age like an out of control locomotive. Or an unstoppable Juggernaut. Ho ho. Oh, whatever. Everyone's a critic.

Juggy fans (all seven of you), remember he joins Thunderbolts as of next week. Shiny.

Back to everyone being a critic. Including me. Join me now - or in a little while if you decide to make a cup of tea, then read this blog entry - as I take a look back at Siege and notably the end that Bendis and co. served us last week.

Yup, it was basically moving pieces around the board so that they could begin the Heroic Age and relaunch a load of titles. Marvel have claimed this is the last big crossover. They then promptly announced Shadowland as soon as Siege ended, but I guess that was to be expected!

I'll say this about Shadowland and the preview pages of Secret Avengers, it does show that Marvel aren't going down the Disney route as some naysayers have suggested. The Heroic Age may be about shiny heroes, but it doesn't mean the darkness that dwells in men's hearts is entirely excised from the Marvel Universe.

Anyway, I digress. Here's the highlights of Siege.

1) Loki goads Norman Osborn is to laying siege to Asgard after they fake an incident akin to Stamford (Civil War):

2) The newly returned Steve Rogers rallies the real Avengers to come to Thor's aid:

3) Ares realises he is on the wrong side and Osborn orders Sentry to deal with it. He does so. Brutally:

4) Sentry then destroys Asgard:

5) ...and loses control to the Void:

6) Iron Man shuts down the armour Osborn stole from him and Norman stands revealed as the nutjob he is:

7) The Void kills Loki:

8) And Thor is forced to end the rampage of Sentry/The Void:

9) And suffice to say the heroes save the day. The President Of The United States asks Steve Rogers to lead them into a new future.

So there it is. Norman Osborn's Dark Reign is over. Many have fallen, but a shiny new age of hope beings.

Siege itself is a roller coaster ride, though Bendis does find time for the odd character moment. But really it's about bigger and bolder moments designed to shock readers. Like Ares' death or Loki's change of heart.

Sadly, the rest of it is mostly predictable. It's been obvious during issues of Dark Avengers that Norman Osborn has been playing with fire toying with the Sentry. Going into Siege it was readily apparent that the biggest problem the heroes and villains-masquerading-as-heroes would face would be Bob Reynolds as The Void.

Like Secret Invasion before it, Siege really feels like a means to an end. I liked Secret Invasion, but nowhere near as much as House Of M or Civil War. I did really enjoy Dark Reign era of storytelling though and I do have hopes for the new Avengers titles, etc. that will follow Siege.

It's great to see the band back together. Coipel's artwork shines when he is drawing the iconic Avengers standing tall alongside each other once again. The rest of the time, his pencils lack the charm they showed during House Of M or the impact they had when paired with JMS on Thor. Perhaps Coipel could see the scripts were a means to an end too.

Frankly, Bendis can still shine when writing solo books. Daredevil, Spider-Woman and even Ultimate Spider-Man have a quality that is lacking in his ensemble books. I enjoyed New Avengers but it never quite had the passion that was evident during Kurt Busiek's work on Avengers after Heroes Reborn. I've re-read Mighty Avengers recently and that really is a shambolic mess and Dark Avengers only works for because I enjoyed Warren Ellis' run on Thunderbolts so much.

If you have been following the Marvel Universe for some time, since at least Avengers Disassembled or even before that, you really should pick up Siege. The hardback graphic novel is due out in July. But otherwise, I'd skip it now and get involved with the Age Of Heroes.

Same goes for the Sentry memorial one-shot that Marvel released. If you like Sentry and enjoyed the hype around the original Marvel Knights miniseries then this is a suitable bookend until his inevitable return. If he does come back, I'd like to see him as a potential threat rather than a lacklustre hero, and i don't envy the writer who needs to tidy up his origin and the drug addiction aspect Bendis retconned into it during Dark Avengers.

The five one shots that filled in the skip month are also incredibly lacklustre. The Young Avengers one pales in comparison to the original Young Avengers series. Roll the Children's Crusade from Heinberg and Cheung. I reallly like the young Avengers but they have had little decent love in recent times. Dark Reign Young Avengers is one of the few things a certain British writer has done that I didn't really like.

The Captain America one was simply an exercise in reminding us that Steve and Bucky are different people. Brubaker has done that superbly in the Captain America ongoing title, so it's redundant here. And the less said about the Secret Warriors one the better.

Siege Spider-Man was a little more interesting to me, but only because I read Brian Reed's Ms Marvel series in the finally twelve issues or so. Really it just picks up threads from that series and the chemistry between Ms Marvel and Spidey he was trying to establish. Still, seeing the Venom symbiote bonded to Carol Danvers was kinda fun.

Finally, those who found Loki's story arc in Siege may find his one shot helps to explain his motivation a little better, but it's not a great piece of storytelling on it's own. Again just a means to an end.

Marvel, let me end by asking you please, please, please stick to your guns and give crossovers a rest for a while. Shadowland looks fun, keep it low key like the excellent DoomWar and it'll work. But huge, bloated, groaning, status quo altering events are done again for a while now. Customers need to spend a little less and retailers need to stop stressing about the minutiae of ordering mostly pointless tie-in issues.

Just solid stories in their own titles please. Look back at the Kurt Busiek era of Avengers, Iron Man and Thunderbolts. Give us that quality, but with the more recognisable characters that people like. Bendis was right to give Avengers a JLA makeover and Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, Spidey and Wolverine on one team is a compelling mix.

Ben Fardon once crossed over with David Hasselhoff and Timmy Mallett. Now all three have a restraining order against each other.

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