Siege #1-2

Siege by Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Eliopoulos, Laura Martin, Mark Morales, Oliver Coipel.Siege by Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Eliopoulos, Laura Martin, Mark Morales, Oliver Coipel.

by Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Eliopoulos, Laura Martin, Mark Morales, Oliver Coipel

It's a hallmark of the Marvel Universe that its characters have to fight hard just to maintain an even keel. Even on their best days, Marvel's superheroes face a world that fears and loathes them. At least that's the general idea Marvel wants to convey anyway. But as anyone who's been paying attention to its company-wide events for the last three years, its superhero in-universe stock has been dropping rapidly. They've been outlawed, arrested, identities publicly exposed, murdered, kidnapped, impersonated, and suffered the indignity of watching their mortal enemies being put into key positions of power. Eventually this downward spiral had to reverse itself before it alienated even Marvel's most diehard fans. Which leads to the latest company-wide event Siege.

For an event that is much hyped as the culmination of several years of storytelling, the main Siege miniseries, which is currently halfway through its four issue run, is a fairly pedestrian effort. While it's easy to blame writer Brian Michael Bendis, Siege is, like most events, a part of a much larger commercial package designed to appeal to hardcore fans and completists. The miniseries functions as a spine from which the reader attaches several interconnected titles. The fact that it has become SOP for Marvel to supply the checklist for company-wide events just to keep the story straight is not only a sign of the kind of mental and financial investment required by the reader, but also how much synergy is required between at least half a dozen writers. The miniseries is a gigantic spectacle and little else. Presumably the subsidiary titles are there to supply a additional narrative substance. But the result is that the central story lacks any context or emotional pull to its proceedings.

Siege Issue #1

The setup is simple enough to those who've been following Marvel: über-villain Norman Osborne has spent his time accumulating political capital while successfully discrediting any effective opposition from the superhero community. Now he decides to eliminate the Asgardians, who for reasons too complicated to go into, have relocated Asgard above Oklahoma. With the help of evil god Loki, he engineers an incident as a pretense to launch a full-scale invasion of Asgard with all the military and superhumans under his command. In what is either an act of symmetry or just lazy writing, the incident mimics the one that sparked Civil War. But while Mark Millar used Civil War as a platform to deliver ham fisted political messages, Bendis plays it straight. While Iron Man and Captain America fighting over superhero rights in the former pretended to be relevant, here Osborne is clearly in the wrong, necessitating the intervention of Thor and the real Avengers. It couldn't be any more obvious if Bendis had Osborne and Loki cackle maniacally. So in place of ponderous discussions on whether superheroes do more harm than good, we have a perfunctory scene that barely registers the death of thousands of civilians, followed by several scenes of Osborne cowing, bribing, and lying his way in order to commit an act of genocide. Osborne has never had much dealings with the Asgardians in the past; so his motivations for listening to Loki and attacking them seem like an empty exercise in rote villain behavior.

Siege Issue #1

The battle of Asgard proceeds at a similarly clipped pace: Thor is quickly taken down; Ares and Balder have a brief exchange; a B-lister dies to stress just how evil Osborne is; Steve Rogers rallies the superheroes driven underground by Osborne. The art supplied by Oliver Coipel and company is fairly conventional, but slickly drawn. There are some pretty splash pages, but overall the backgrounds and surface details are rather generic and kept to a minimum. Unfortunately this doesn't help convey the sense of scale needed for these grandiose battle set pieces.

Siege feels very much like a means to an end - to establish a new status quo. The first issue cover already promises the triumphant reunion of Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America. If it does that while ending Norman Osborne's reign of terror, it may be the cathartic experience many fans want. But as a story in itself, the miniseries is a rather stilted excuse to justify one big fight.

Siege Issue #2