With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artist: Olivier Coipel
Issues: Siege #1-4, Siege: The Cabal, Siege: Prologue*
*I also read the following tie-ins: Dark Avengers #13-16, New Avengers #61-64 + Finale, Thor #607-609, Siege: Loki One-Shot, Siege: Secret Warriors One-Shot
Finally we come to the end of what I’ll call the Bendis Era of Big Marvel Events. It began with 2006’s Civil War (and really you could go back further to House of M or Avengers: Disassembled), continued into 2008’s Secret Invasion, which gave way to 2009’s Dark Reign, and finally ends with 2010’s Siege.
This age of near constant mega-events would continue to define Marvel comics throughout the next decade, and with the recent success of Secret Wars, I don’t see it slowing down any time soon.
As an event, Siege is heavily embedded in Marvel continuity, specifically the cool but not exactly new-reader friendly Dark Reign. Dark Reign put Norman Osborn as leader of the initiative that was initially created by Tony Stark in the post-Civil War world. He built his own Dark Avengers team, a surprisingly awesome comic that further explored the bad guys-as-heroes dynamic that made Thunderbolts so great.
The political events have largely been a heavy-handed reflection of our culture of fear, and the dichotomy between freedom and security. Drawing parallels between 9/11 and America’s War on Terror is pretty low-hanging fruit to grasp, and nowhere is that more painfully obvious than Siege. Norman invades Asgard under manufactured pretenses, and starts an unpopular war that ultimately brings his reign to an end.
The event is refreshingly condensed. The event itself lasts only four issues, and covers exactly one battle – Norman Osborn’s invasion of Asgard. Osborn invades after retaliating against an Asgardian’s accident that kills a stadium full of people (whoops). Poor Volstagg was only defending himself against some super-powered assassins, sent by Osborn’s lackey The Hood.
Before even asking for permission, Osborn launches the full power of his Dark Avengers and the Initiative at Asgard, which has been floating above a small town in Oklahoma sometime after the Superhero Civil War.
The attack is bolstered by two key events that Osborn and Loki (the true architect of all these events) have been cultivating – empowering the Hood and all his street-level villains with the Asgardian Norn Stones, and manipulating and exploiting the weak-minded but extremely powerful Sentry. The Asgardians are completely caught by surprise.
Nick Fury’s Secret Warriors, and a newly resurrected Steve Rogers-led Avengers team show up to help even the odds, and turn the battle into a full-on war that each of these big Marvel events loves to depict.
For once the event doesn’t get too convoluted or messy. Only a few key titles had tie-ins, and once again the Dark Avengers series stands out as particularly well-written and drawn, providing insightful backstories that help explain the Sentry’s situation in Siege, as well as the unique dynamics between Osborn, Victoria Hand, and the ever-scheming Loki.
I was a bit confused as to where Bendis was trying to go with Loki. Through dealings with Osborn, Dr. Doom, and The Hood, Loki has manipulated events to create this exact scenario, then appears absolutely horrified when Asgard does in fact get destroyed. When asked by his fellow Asgardians he basically replies “I’m the god of mischief!” as if he’s cursed by his own characterization. It just felt weird and a bit of a writing cop-out for what I thought was building to a grand master plan.
Steve Rogers’ return was also a major let down. While his Reborn mini-series was okay, having his return and meeting with fellow Avengers be surrounded by these events should’ve led to some amazing “Oh Shit” moments. Instead we get a lame shot of Steve looking pissed at the end of issue #1. He finds the other Avengers and has a few lines of dialogue: “Hey you’re back!” “Yep.”
There was never a satisfyingly triumphant moment, and it felt like a majorly wasted opportunity next to such an epic backdrop. The same can be said of Iron Man’s return after his personal “World’s Most Wanted,” on-the-run arc in his solo series.
Thor finally acquiesces and kills the Sentry when they subdue him, though not before Loki redeems himself by powering up the heroes. His reward is for Sentry to kill him. I doubt it’s permanent. Thor throws Robert Reynolds’ body into the sun, and I’m hoping that’s the last we see of mentally-disturbed, dark-side Superman.
So our heroes win the battle and everything goes back to normal. The Registration Act is repealed and everyone just sort of decides to go back to the way things were, paving the way for Marvel’s Heroic Age in the latter half of 2010.
It’s staged very much like an ending and new beginning, but doesn’t feel wholly earned within the context of Siege. I did enjoy the saccharine sweet way in which Bendis ended his initial run on New Avengers, which has always been grounded by Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ relationship and desire for normalcy. It just all happens a bit too easily given the crazy eras we’ve gone through with the Initiative and the Dark Reign. Siege itself is a fun event, though, bolstered by its simple story, smaller focus, and generally effective and relevant tie-in comics.