So I've started reading Siege, the Marvel event which ran through the Winter-Spring of 2009-2010.


I thought I kind of owe it to myself to read to the end of Siege, as I'd bought into Marvel Comics in a big way, from Civil War all the way through to the end of Secret Invasion.  Then I started to get the Dark Reign collections from the library after I moved to Australia, I guess just through the momentum I'd built up before that.


Having read so many Marvel comics for the past 5+ years, I can declare that they aren't really doing it for me!  They fall down on so many levels. 


A major fault has to be the way all the stories are engineered to build up to or lead off from major events.  Major events like Siege, in fact!


But that is all by the by.  Marvel has made a big deal over the last 5-6 years about how these line-wide events tell one ongoing story, so I thought I'd read this last segment of the story before radically reassessing my reading policy towards Marvel.


What I have learned over the last few years is that reading just parts of these line-wide crossovers is very unsatisfying.  I read Blackest Night recently, just the main title, and halfway through, our friend Hal shows up arm-in-arm and all chummy with a selection of his mortalist enemies.  There was no explanation of this. 


I was like "Wha...?'


Hal was like "Go Team Lantern!  Yay, Murderers!"


Anyway, my point is that I've decided to approach Siege as if there is a single story running through all the Siege-branded comics, and not miss any of the main beats as I go.


It's possible that Bendis' 4-part main story has every dramatic beat and every major revelation of the tale, but y'know, somehow, I kinda doubt it!


My friend Google has supplied me with a list of all the comics that tell the single epic.  I'm sure there were many more comics with the Siege brand, but this is presumably all the central ones, enough comics at least to explain any puzzling alliances that occur during it!


So this reading project has involved finding out which comics that I need to read, then sorting out the reading order, then working out which collections contain which issues, then figuring out which of those I could get from my library, THEN ordering them, THEN buying the one that I don't have access to, THEN printing out the sheet and consulting it between issues to make sure I was on track.


Marvel, don't say I never do anything for you!


I was going to just read the story, but after all this effort, I thought I'd mark this Herculean task with a thread.


The excel sheet I adapted from this discussion is appended.  The green chapters were the ones I had access to, the grey ones will have to remain unread for now.  Light green means I've already read it, dark green means I've yet to read it.


With this excel sheet I prove I am a hardcore geek, it seems...


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Alan M said


I can't speak on behalf of Joe Off-The-Street who might be coming to the series completely uninformed, but as someone who is familiar with ongoing Marvel continuity, I found the series to be almost entirely self-contained.


I've read most of Siege by now, beyond the end of Siege #4 in fact.  And it seems to be pretty much self-contained.  Sort of.  Hopefully I'll get back to this topic as I hit the various narrative threads spread out amongst the different books. 


Reading the tale now, I have to stress that I'm not really complaining how they divide up the narrative beats.  If anyone could buy all the parts it wouldn't be a problem anyway, unless some of the tie-ins were badly written or drawn, and none of them are too bad.  For the rest of us, who aren't Oil Barons or Greek shipping magnates, the problem would be impossible to solve anyway.  The more self contained you make the central series, the less the tie-ins matter, and the more essential stuff you put in the tie-ins, the more conspicuous their absence will be in the main book.


I'm really just looking at how Bendis & co approach this particular problem of major crossovers.  Actually, Siege shows they are becoming quite slick at solving it, as perhaps we'll see.


Thanks for the commentary Alan.  Did I say it was a 6-parter?  Soon fix that...


Didn't know about those Battlefield issues.  The list I was using dried up just as Siege came to an end.  The difficulty in finding a complete reading order on the net is testiment to how the fanboys have been trained to put the last event out of their mind once the next one appears on the horizon.


I'm not able to read the Mighty Avengers Siege tie-ins at all either, but they don't seem to be too relevant.  I presume Captain America's words to Ms Marvel are expanded there?


I read the Loki one-shot.  Chronologically it fited more or less around the beginning of Siege #1, but it seemed to give away plot from later in the series.  Having read almost to the end, I don't think it did, but strangely, it didn't really throw any light on the motivations Loki seems to have been acting on by the end of the series - ie he was acting to save Asgard.  I suppose I should think about where to stick it!


The one thing that puzzled me about Siege was the fact that everyone waited until Osborn attacked Asgard to do anything.

It wasn't too puzzling.  Most of the heroes were wary of actually comitting treason against the USA, as a full-blown attack on its Director of Security, and the quasi-military troops under his command, would have been.  There is much made in the later chapters on how the President declares Osborn a traitor and only then are they free to really go at him and anyone still obeying him.


The other thing that puzzled me was that Osborn threw HAMMER together in a very short time and after his defeat it seemed to vanish.

Security forces the world over can turn at the drop of a hat from much admired defenders of peace and freedom into thuggish enforcers of an oppressive state and then back again.  You can see it in the news every day!


Siege deals with a lot of serious political issues, albeit in broad brush strokes.  It does illustrate in an oblique way that when it comes to policemen and soldiers (and whatever the hell SHIELD/HAMMER agents are supposed to be), there is no point talking about the individual integrity of each member.  It's whether the systems they work within promote good practices and a culture of service and accountability or not.  A good cop in a corrupt system can't do much good, and a bad egg in a well-managed, transparent and accountable force can't do that much harm.  The new SHIELD regime with Steve Rogers at the top, driving a moral order is a good start.


Siege illustrates in its comicbook fashion that policemen and soldiers are only as good as the system and the laws they are upholding.  Carol Denvers and the SHIELD/HAMMER/SHIELD agents aren't hypocrites, just good soldiers that follow orders.  They are admirable when the orders are good and detestable when those orders stink. 

Avengers The Initiative #32


The focus remains on the Taskmaster in the lead up to Norman's attack on Asgard.  There are a lot of groups extant in the MU at this point at different points in the sliding scales between villainy and heroism.  If villainy/heroism is one axis, government/rebel is another. In this issue we see Osborn's officially sanctioned Dark Avengers attack Asgard, backed up by the newer members of the Initiative that Osborn has decided are sympathetic to his evil cause. 


The rest of the Intiative (the good guys) have to stay in Camp Hammer in lockdown in case they get up to something noble.  The defending Asgardians are blameless but have been labeled enemies of the state by one arm of the US government.  Later they will be joined by renegade New Avengers, who've been enemies of the state since Civil War. 


The Hood and his cronies are both officially criminals and also trusted by Osborn to back up his atttack.  Then there is the Avengers Resistance, who are renegade Initiative members who've gone rogue in order to be good guys opposed to Osborn.


That's quite a few permutations of good/bad, state sanctioned/renegade.  Clearly Bendis is showing that who's good and who's bad is a complex issue, and their position in regards to the actual state isn't really a guide. 


This is further complicated in Avengers: The Initiative by the presence of traitors in some of the factions.  Diamondback is amongst Osborn's Initiative goons, but is secretly working for the New Avengers, whilst Night Thrasher is a member of the Avengers Resistance who has agreed to be the Hood's mole in the team.


(I can't believe I'm reading a comic with a character called Night Thrasher in it!)


Further little twists are that Taskmaster is tempted to not fight on behalf of Osborn (for purely practical reasons) and Constrictor's love for Diamondback means he looks the other way when he finds out she's a spy.


That's quite a bit of complexity to be going on with. 


This issue features one of my favourite lines in the series.  One of the Initiative superladies claims that fighting Thor wasn't a big deal last time she did it.


"I heard you ran like cheap mascara," says one of her female colleagues.


Then there is the Avengers Resistance, who are renegade Initiative members who've gone rogue in order to be good guys opposed to Osborn.


That's quite a mouthful, and took a while to wrap my head around.

Ms. Marvel's actions during Civil War were those of a soldier. With her miliatary background, the idea of having the heroes work for the country organized had great appeal. And she trusted Tony Stark, perhaps too much. By the time of Siege, she saw that Norman Osborn had a sinister agenda and, like a good soldier, refused to carry out his corrupted orders. Though I admit, some apologies needed to be said.
Travis Herrick said:

Then there is the Avengers Resistance, who are renegade Initiative members who've gone rogue in order to be good guys opposed to Osborn.


That's quite a mouthful, and took a while to wrap my head around.

I really need a good editor, don't I? Here's a graph, which I sat up all night, finessing on Powerpoint:

I've tweaked Norman just a little to the heroic side of the Dark Avengers because in his way he thinks he's trying to bring order to a chaotic situation, and they are just psychopaths who like to kill people.  Then again Norman engineers the mass murder of a whole stadium full of football fans.  Well, you get the idea.


What's interesting is how impotent the "official" "heroic" elements in the top right hand part of the graph are.  There's no doubting where Bendis' political leanings lie.


Superhero comics are about people in colourful costumes hitting each other, Mark.  Given that restriction, Bendis does a fairly good job of presenting some very serious political and moral issues in these comics.  Like how far we should go in supporting regimes that we see as unjust, and how far we should go in opposing them. 


Of course, Bendis drastically simplifies the issue by having the unjustness of the regime be all down to one batsh*t crazy supervillain, who managed to get power in the first place by shooting an alien in the head in Times Square on a slow news day.  Then said supervillain doesn't just build a system that gets incrementally more corrupt and slowly compromises everyone ensnared in it, as proper unjust regimes out here in the real world do.  Instead he attacks some extremely powerful allies of the state he is supposed to be representing for no reason and then helpfully happens to be wearing Goblin facepaint when revealed live on national television.


Your idea of showing all this from the point of view of a Shield/Hammer/Shield agent trying to keep his well-paid, well-insured and pension-planned job in turbulent times is a good one though.

Once again Figs has made me reread a series. I went through Siege, Siege: The Cabal and the Spidey, Cap and Loki one-shots. What struck me most was how much that the major characters were manipulated by another major character. Everyone (well except the Hood) thought that they had a good reason for their actions, despite the consequences. Norman Osborn's facepaint made me cringe because what if he had won? And had to take off his helmet for a victory photo-op? They could have just wrote "EVIL" on his forehead.

But I did like that Spidey popped him a good one!

The Obama presidential victory was more than historic. It was, at least momentarily, a signal for positive change. The nation, for the most part, felt good about discarding the mire that the Bush era had become. That's reflected in Steve Rogers' return in his new role, ushering a Heroic Age with new ideals and expectations, evolving from his previous unofficial position as the moral center of the MU. But then he had to star in a movie.....

The end of the Bush administration and the beginning of a new one are central to this series.  People were confused that Bendis seemed to marking Bush's political passing with the insitigation of of a regime in the MU even less palatable to progressives.  But it's clear he was just setting it all up to satirise the Bush era and parody it in the form of the grand overblown "Cape Opera" we are looking at here.


He does look at important political isues central to our troubled times, but I can't credit his debate on these as more than satire and parody.  The complexities of Civil War/The War on Terror are essentially just hand-waved away at the end.  Thor, Cap and Fury are back - Every little thing gonna be alright!

I think the point, or one of them, is that no one person can control the country. Stark did things for the right reasons in his mind but handled them the wrong way. Of course, it became one big fistfight. That's what they understand! The government is not corrupt because they wanted the SHRA, that's what any government would want: control of its super-powered population. They used Norman Osborn to run their Thunderbolt program, to do their dirty work, believing him to be under their control. But he used the postion that they gave him to gain more political power and lead his Dark Avengers. And the government was OK with that because they felt he was still under their authority. WE, the readers, knew that he could not be trusted, that he was insane and that he had his own agenda but that's our advantage. We could only be shocked if Norman truly became the Iron Patriot and a genuine hero. So we knew what we were getting and we knew (or at least we should ) that his reign of power wouldn't last long. In fact if he didn't have Loki's "encouragement" and the Sentry's might behind him, he wouldn't have lasted that long!

Mark S. Ogilvie said:

  But in the end I had to wonder what was the point of it all.  The entire run from cw to siege showed me that the public and the government in the mu were idiotic to the extreme and corrupt to the core.



Who cares about the MU? It's not a real place. It is fun, however, to speculate what the series is saying about the OU*. Bendis is often lauded for his realism and 'idiotic and corrupt' sounds about right to me!

If our world isn't idiotic and corrupt, then it is still definitely a place where the rules of unintended consequences and unwittingly incentivising unwanted outcomes very much apply, and Bendis' 7 year epic does show that.

*Our Universe.

Thor #607


Despite that thunderous cover, Thor doesn’t really appear here at all, except for the TV images of him getting his thrashing at Osborn’s feet.


Rather it shows us Asgard on the eve of the battle.  The usual roistering is going on, oblivious as they are to what’s about to go down.  A crazy old duffer prophesises war, ruin etc, but they tell him to lie down and sleep it off. 


One big element conspicuously absent from the main Siege issues is what becomes of Volstagg, who seemed to instigate war between Men and Gods and then disappeared.  In a normal story, his fate would be very important, but this being Marvel, the narrative load is spread around.


He gives himself up to the police in Broxton, and we see they have come to trust him.  So when things go pear-shaped (like Volstagg himself) they let him out and help him make an internet video proclaiming foul deeds afoot. 


How Osborn makes a surprise attack on Asgard without Heimdall the All-seeing knowing it’s coming is one of those things a lifetime of reading comics has trained me not to worry about.  Gillen, however, applies himself to answering it.  Loki traps Heimdall in some nowhere place and he has to dig his way out THROUGH THE CEILING!  Heimdall the All-seeing sees Loki taunting him, but forgets this in later Bendis-scribed issues.  I guess he’s not Heimdall the All-recalling.


Just as the attack on Asgard has begun, Volstagg gets out of prison, but is attacked by the Clone of Thor from Civil War, now calling himself Ragnorak.  He’s come to kill Volstagg for the mayhem he caused in Soldier Park.

Siege #2


The first thing to say is that this comic is beautifully illustrated. Of its type, it’s very good. I suppose my problem is that this heavily illustrative style is overused in modern comics, especially Marvel comics. Bendis obviously likes it.


No less than Maria Hill rescues Thor from that hardcore bunch who were about to finish him off. With a Jeep and a big gun. In a fictional world where people define themselves by violent action, I suppose this redeems her for past sins.


Ares realises that both Loki and Norman have been pulling the wool over his eyes and confronts the Sentry. It was interesting to see the mutual respect between the Greek and Norse Gods. They seem to look on each other as equals and trust each other. I’d have thought they’d be more competitive or confrontational, but I suppose defunct deities have to hang together or hang separately.


Here’s how the Ares v Sentry match went:



It was ironic that Ares met his fate at the hands of the Sentry, just as the Sentry’s own arc was drawing to a close. Everyone complained about Sentry being a continuity implant, but to this reader, Ares was the one who just popped up one day and everyone was treating him like he’d been around forever and had earned his place on the Avengers and everything. Except, unlike with the Sentry, the peculiarity of this was never addressed in-story.


Ares’ death here at the close of the era he popped up in is very fitting. As an unreconstructed God of War, Ares was always shown as someone who turned to force as a first option, last option and middle option. Someone who can offer nothing else to the picture than maximum force was always going to meet an opponent better at it than him, and then he is out of options. The Ares Dark Reign mini-series prefigured this.


It centred on a group of HAMMER troops who lived by the soldier’s code of standing by each other and always carrying the big stick. It was clear that they had no other morality beyond that. As with Ares here, their violent path reached its logical end when they were all killed in the crossfire of one of Ares’ battles. Although this ending gave us a commentary on their way of life in the last page or so, the whole series was very appreciative of their macho posturing. Lots of comics these days glory in macho posturing. It’s fine for army recruitment ads, but otherwise should be thoroughly questioned at every turn.


At the end of issue 2, Cap arrives!  If I had to summarise the whole series in four frames, it would be these:


The last page of #2 got this longtime Marvel fan psyched!!! It was like, "FINALLY!"

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