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...
I really need a good editor, don't I? Here's a graph, which I sat up all night, finessing on Powerpoint:
Its nothing I put on you, it is just the way it is.
Good reading by the way, Figs. It is nothing I was interested in buying or reading myself, and your little capsules let me know what was going on.
Glad to have you reading along, Travis. I've surprised myself by enjoying Siege once I got into it. Bendis' writing and Copiel's art are top notch. The tie-ins fit together with it well. (The ones I've limited myself to, anyway.)
I think the low esteem it's held in by many has more to do with the marketing practices which it is very much a part of. Not buying or reading Siege is a very understandable reaction to those marketing practices.
This is a true tie-in of the old-school, in that none of it would make any sense unless you were reading the main series. The scenes here mostly take place between the panels of Bendis’ Siege #2. Considering that Siege #2 is a huge hero vs villain free-for-all, Gage does good work pushing forward each character’s story while they are involved in a pitched battle.
Although it’s common for us pseudo-intellectuals to tut at Big Event Tie-ins, Gage does a respectable job here. It’s worth pointing out too, that Avengers Initiative sales went up during its Siege tie-in issues, (see the sales figures I posted here), so they were giving the fans what they wanted. It does expand on some of the events in Siege and shows us more of what went on in the thick of the fighting, but there is nothng here that needed to be read to understand anything in Siege.
As the Hood has a habit of saying, hoping to sound like Robert DeNiro instead of the pathetic zero we all know him to be; “It is what it is.”
Gage also presents us with his own subplot regarding the former New Warriors, now styling themselves the Avengers Resistance, using the opportunity to break into Osborn’s mainly deserted HAMMER base to steal his secrets.
There we get a confrontation between Tigra and aforementioned pathetic zero, the Hood. Like many (all?) of the plot beats in Siege, their meeting here is payoff for events that happened YEARS ago, when the Hood gave Tigra a nasty, and totally uncalled for, beating in the pages of New Avengers.
But the Hood is SUCH a loser! Can anyone see what is wrong with the closing page of this issue:
(You know those guns you keep waving around in an attempt to compensate for your many inadequacies? Well, they discharge bullets when you pull the trigger, ... fool.)
Just a few words about Marvel's version of the God of War, Ares, if I may. He was the latest in their grand tradition of villains becoming heoes. He was supposed to be a combination Thor/Wolverine but lacked the power of the former and the complexity of the latter. Granted he bore little resemblence to his Silver Age roots but Ares did something that most of the other Greco-Roman gods did not: he changed!
In the Ares mini-series, we meet a more domesticated war-god and his Earth-born son. He resented his position, the way the other Olympians regarded him and the fact that he was usually cast as the Villain-Of-The-Story. So he walked away. He was dragged back in but this time he did things differently. Instead of war for the sake of war, he embraced the art of war. The order of war. For that you need generals and soldiers. He let Tony Stark command then Norman Osborn because it suited him and he felt that he could destroy them if needed and, no matter what, he knew that he would outlive them.
Ares decided to be the noble warrior, fighting the good fight, and he stayed true to that, except for a little torturing of Hercules but who could blame him for that!
Ares didn't 100% believe in Osborn and his agenda. It didn't take much to convince him that Osborn deceived him. Unfortunately he ran into Norman's humanoid WMD, the Sentry and now rests in peace (and pieces! Sorry!) But he is an Olympian god and could be revived. As the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe states, if he was ever killed "his life essence may still be unharmed and Zeus may be able to resurrect him." If that happens, I hope that he continues his journey of change.
That's a good take on him. Poor Ares didn't get much analysis while he was with us, so it's all the more welcome. You seem more in tune with what the creators were trying to do with him than I was. Perhaps there was more to his macho posturing than I gave him credit for and I should look a little more closely. I did read both mini-series, and we see his son being mentored by Fury in Siege.
I hope they keep him dead for a good long while. His death here in the thick of things had a logic and grandeur to it. Ares died very much as he lived. Like many comics characters, you can only take him so far on his 'journey of change' before he becomes, of necessity, a different character altogether. He certainly died being true to himself.
I'm still a little freaked that jingoistic military types, and their extra-constitutional methods, are now viewed so sympathetically by both major comics companies. I didn't really see that coming...
Everything comes to a boil in a big way here. Thor goes head-to-head against Osborn's God-shredder the Sentry. Cap and Fury’s teams arrive to aid the Asgardians and Iron Man comes in from the cold wearing his sleek ‘n’ shiny old-skool Bob Layton armor.
Osborn calls in the Hood’s crew of supervillains as reinforcements, but Iron Man depowers him and strips him of his suit, revealing Norman’s Goblin-painted face. The nutjob.
Osborn has told the Sentry to bring down Asgard, which he does, but this isn’t the climax of the issue. Asgard falls, but there’s worse in store. The Sentry is transmogrifying into a huge powerful Demon.
Never rains but it pours, as Thor would say.
If this isn’t action in the Mighty Marvel Manner, I don’t know what is!
The closest thing to subtlety in these middle issues, which I didn’t really notice on the first reading, was where Jarvis gives Steve Rogers a case in issue 2 that we find out in issue 3 contains Iron Man’s old suit. Nothing is spoken, but the very act of Steve sending it to Tony here is a wordless rapprochement between the two – an invitation to fight at his side once more in the same suit he wore back when they were much closer brothers in arms.
It’s a nice way to show a hugely significant beat without ladling it on thick, although I guess there must have been a prior meeting between the two at the end of Stark: Disassembled.
This is another example of how Siege doesn't work like a normal story. A lot of its plot beats are payoff of storylines that have been going on for years, and so way outside this story itself.
Siege is really part of something new in comics. It's the final act of a single massive story comprised of a series of company-wide mega-epics. A lot of reader unhappiness is driven by the readers not fully understanding this. An arrogant fascistic Iron Man giving Captain America a whupping and going on to rule America is fine for the middle act of a gripping movie or comics storyline, but a real bummer for the ending of what seems like a complete story.
On the one hand I admire Bendis and co's commitment to this huge years-long uber-story. There really hasn't been anything like it in comics before, and it should be celebrated as such. On the other hand, there's no getting around the fact that the constuent parts of this kind of macro-story have to serve two or even several masters, in that they have to somehow be complete in themselves as well as set-up for the next act. Bendis tries to balance those considerations as best he can, but it's impossible for any part of his uber-story to be completely fish, or completely fowl.
I have to credit Bendis and Quesada also for giving their readership a true ending to all those years of build-up. Siege is beautifully drawn, and well written, but the big dramatic payoffs in it wouldn't have much emotional force if it wasn't for the seven-year build-up, and the need that Bendis inculcated in his readership for the triumph of the moral order in the end.
As Philip said above:
The last page of #2 got this longtime Marvel fan psyched!!! It was like, "FINALLY!"
I'm sure you weren't alone in that reaction, Philip. For myself, I just had to post the page. There was something so satisfying about it.
My point is that Bendis worked hard at, and earned, the reaction to that page.
This takes us from the start of the battle, when Osborn’s invading army first clashes with the New Avengers and defending Asgardians, up to the fall of Asgard. The episode is headed ‘The Siege of Asgard - Phase 1’, but the action covers what Bendis himself labels Phases 2 and 3 in the Siege series itself. (Who says this isn’t the Marvel Age of Pointless Pendantry?)
At first glance, the art by Mike McKone looks good, but on a closer look it could show us the action in a clearer form. Everything is pretty chaotic in the midst of the fighting, but I’m not sure the flow of action is meant to be likewise obscure to the reader. We’re meant to understand that everything is all a kerfuffle, but I’m sure we’re also supposed to understand what is actually going on in the panels.
Superheroes and supervillains walloping and blasting each other for 22 pages isn’t much of a story, so Bendis gives us two character pieces, where first Luke Cage and his wife, and then Hawkeye and Mockingbird are shown in flashback, on the eve of the Siege. In both cases they reflect on Steve Roger’s reappearance and the hope that things are about to get better. In other words we see what they are fighting for in the midst of the battle.
In the flashback, Hawkeye and Mockingbird encounter a female Doctor Octopus whose extreme obscurity they laugh at, and Mockingbird calls a ‘cheap knock-off’. I’m sure Black Canary would have something to say about the irony.
It appears to be this not too fondly recalled 90’s creation they are sneering at. McKone gives her a good 21st Century update of her costume, at any rate.
Ah, Nineties Spider-Man. What were they thinking?
Unfortunately, when Asgard collapses at the end, part of it falls on Mockingbird herself.
"Ah, Nineties Spider-Man. What were they thinking?"
The snarky answer is they weren't but the real answer was that they were trying anything, and I mean ANYTHING, to get as many readers as X-Men. I mean clones, multiple symbiotes, new costumes, babies, no babies, (not) killing Aunt May, Slingers and of course, the epic of the Return of Peter Parker's parents!
"I saw no real difference between Osborn in DR and Tony Stark in CW."
Norman Osborn - mass murderer.
Tony Stark - not a mass murderer.
"I was so completely disgusted at the heroes that I was rooting for Osborn ... too dark for too long and to this day I cheer the bad guys on in marvel comics."
I get it, after five years I think we all get it. I just don't know what this adds to a reading discussion of Siege. How many times and how many ways do you need to say you haven't liked Marvel Comics since Civil War?
I recently reread Dark Avengers #1-6 and I was stunned about how much Siege was foreshadowed. Norman felt like this was his second chance to impact the world? Change the world? Rule the world? His exact goals were a bit vague. Yes I read Siege: The Cabal but he gave a mission statement but not what he wanted. He cleverly manipulated the Sentry with both kindness and cruelty which led to concern, caution and outright fear.
Ares knew a great war was coming and Osborn "won" the last one so that's who he planned to follow, for the time being.
Moonstone, herself a mistress (in all senses of the word) of manipulation, sees being a super-hero as a profession. Something one can quit, if necessary.
Venom II aka the Sinister Spider-Man devolves into a monster but had some weird moments when he's on his meds.
Bullseye is vicious, the ultimate loose cannon. Daken is a cypher in the early issues and Marvel Boy doesn't belong here.
The Sentry is destruction, the superman ripping through a world made of paper and cardboard. Frightening stuff.
Wasn't Osborn revealed to be the Green Goblin way before this? I recall him busting out of jail and Luke Cage putting him down...hard!
And what happened to his super-strength?
Great take on what was going on in Dark Avengers, Philip. Perceptive as always. I guess Dark Avengers is the true direct lead-in to Siege. The first collection was good. It was a fresh enough concept, and fun to see these psychopaths being kept on a short leash.
Murderers masquerading as Marvel's premier superhero team is always going to get attention. I liked how Osborn's dealings with the Sentry were consistent with how he treated Penance elsewhere. Osborn was obviously fascinated by mental breakdown, and knew how these fractured personalities worked, but as in his own case, worked to exacerbate the problems, rather than mend them.
No-one should use the Noh-Var Marvel Boy without sitting in a locked room with Morrison's mini-series until they work out what Morrison was doing with the character. Otherwise you just insult both the creator and the fans of that work for no good reason. (It is only 6 issues long, fergrantsake!)
BTW they seem to be thinking of renaming Noh-Varr Protector, going by the notes with Bachelo's sketches in the back of the Siege DA collection. Ugh! Why work so hard to alienate a top creator and his very discerning (ahem!) fans like this?
One big problem I have already mentioned with structuring your storytelling around these events, is that you have to save up the important story beats for when everything shakes down in the event. Thus Noh Varr goes AWOL, Sentry loses his wife - and his marbles- and Osborn takes the fall that has been prefigured from issue 1, all at the same time. Dark Avengers were really just the heavies in the Dark Avengers/X-Men Utopia issues, and then the stories in the second Dark Avengers collection were just marking time until the big event.
In his closing note at the end of Dark Avengers: Siege, Bendis points out perhaps the single most significant thing about the series, which is that for most of its run it was Marvel's highest-selling ongoing series! So we have to respect the verdict of such a huge portion of the market. In superhero comics nothing can be put back in the box once it's let out the first time. Expect to see more titles about teams of psychopaths, lead by Silver Age baddies, highly placed in the political order, in the future.
Finally Bendis thanks Warren Ellis for the stroke of genius of putting Norman in charge of the Thunderbolts, which was what kicked the whole thing off. I just read Ellis' first issue of that run, and it was very strong. I think you put your finger on it earlier Philip when you said that they were saying something about what happens when governments try to outsource their dirty work, and think they are controling evil forces for their own ends. The US government looked into the abyss, but the cackling Green Goblin looked back at them!
I don't always agree with Bendis' approach, or the direction of his stories, but I do respect that he is a good writer, and one with something to say about the world beyond superhero comics, on the evidence of Siege.
There was a series of commentaries by Bendis on each issue of Siege posted on the CBR website. They are interesting for several reasons, but they don't shed a lot of light on the actual series itself. In them we get some kind of rationale from Bendis for the invasion, but there's a problem in that there isn't really anything like it in Siege itself. He says that Asgard had to be invaded because it would be like if Afghanistan or North Korea was discovered floating over an American state one day. Except its not the same at all...
Osborn's motivations and to a large extent Loki's are problematic in Siege. The parallels with US internal politics and foreign policy break down when you consider that the US invaded two of the weakest, most friendless nations on Earth after 9-11, whereas Osborn decides to target an ally of the US that is peopled entirely by super-powered, almost unkillable Gods who have been delighting in the art and practice of war for thousands of years. The motivation isn't really revealed in any rational way, beyond the voices in his head telling him everyone will respect him if he succeeds at this virtually impossible task.
Of course we know the real reason Osborn picks Asgard. It's that the shine went off Straczyncski's great new status quo for Thor and Marvel wanted to get rid of it.
When the motivation for such a key plot point in a mini-series is a) only explained by the writer outside the work itself, b) more to do with editorial housekeeping than artistic intent, and c) because the main character is just crazy, then you do have a major flaw in your story.