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...
SENTRY: FALLEN SUN* (Jl'10)
* We've been getting the name wrong.
After being subjected to Silver Age Wonder Woman babble and now this, all I have to say that if anyone wants to examine Heroes Reborn or Justice League: Cry for Justice, I'm out!! :-(
This "Siege: Epilogue" by the Sentry's creator Paul Jenkins has the Marvel heroes mourning the demise of Bob Reynolds and his equally tragic wife, Lindy. Ironically there is a memorial engraved with their names and "Together Forever". But there are no remains buried there. She was thrown into the ocean by Bullseye and his body was hurled into the sun by Thor.
Jenkins continues the conceit that the Sentry was always around the MU in the most important and memorable times of our heroes' lives. Despite being a clever hoax and continuity implant that outlived the joke, everyone is sad to see this callous murderer gone. Worse, there is the throwaway line that he and Rogue were involved, together with his dalliance with Crystal, so he wasn't the most devoted husband.
I know that I've mentioned this before, but the Thing, despite calling the Sentry a better man than he (which no one buys!!), relates the story of how the Wrecker killed a busload of children, off-panel, natch!, effectively ruining him as a worthwhile villain. He is now a monster. But this tidbit is forgotten though this issue should be!
Everyone forgets that the Sentry was Osborn's WMD that he used!! He ripped Ares to pieces, nearly destroyed Asgard and wasn't conflicted by it. There are some moments which are too cute like Tony Stark's recalling Bob being there for his drunken phases and Thor dancing with Bob's senile old mother and being called Swedish!
The Sentry was far too dangerous to remain free or be given another chance. Bob Reynolds knew this so he did, in his mind, die as the hero he wanted to be. But there's even the foreshadowing of the Sentry's return! Which I hope will be better than this mishmosh!
Thanks a lot Philip. That fills a gap in my narrative. I think it's fair enough that the Sentry gets a big send off like this. He was a big deal. Maybe because he was an adventurous concept, or maybe just because he was a heck of a WMD!
Linda never got much of a look-in character-wise did she? Think of how powerful Marvelman's wife was within the narrative of Alan Moore's story. Have you read it Philip? Sentry was as much a take on Marvelman as on Superman. The early scenes of both Jenkins first Sentry book and Moore's Marvelman are very similar.
Considering Marvelman was a steal from Captain Marvel, Sentry was a copy of a copy of a copy of Superman!
When you apply the revelations about the Sentry to the rest of the MU, it looks like the heroes of the Bendisverse were completely taken in by the morally weak junkie-thief in their midst, pretending to be a hero. That diminishes them.
NOTHING ever goes away in superhero comics. NOTHING!
But it sounds to me like Jenkins is having a final laugh within the conceit of the Sentry. Jenkins doesn't seem to be a fully paid up member of the superhero fanboys' club anyway, and he probably finds it temptingly easy to get a rise out of them!
If it is a pisstake on superheroes and Marvel's overwrought melodramic manner, I'm with Jenkins. What the hell. It's only a laugh! It might be that they understand this character wasn't really well liked and Jenkins is thumbing his nose at everyone on the way out.
Regarding the completely fictional kindergarten kids, I think we might be seeing a one-upmanship match between certain Brit writers who arrived on the scene in the 90s. In the first issue of Civil War, (Jul 06) Mark Millar killed a whole schoolful of children in the Stamford Incident. In Sep 06, Grant Morrison kicked off his Batman run with the Joker holding a busfull of terrified DISABLED kids to ransom. Finally in 2010, Jenkins offs a busfull of KINDERGARTEN kids off-panel. Morrison's scene was a direct commentary on the excesses that were becoming the bread and butter of superhero stories and Jenkins' dialogue is in a similar vein, but now fired off as a quick in-joke.
From the random pages I've just seen posted here and there on the web, the whole thing looks quite tongue-in-cheek. We rage against the exceses of modern comics every day here on this board. Jenkins doing it somewhat wryly on the pages of the books themselves isn't much different.
At least the little farting dog got out alive.
I'm guessing we don't find out what was on page 19 of the diary?
This issue takes place over a short time on the day after Osborn's attack on Asgard, and all within its ruined walls. The remaining Siege tie-ins begin just as the dust settles after the battle, and end a few days later.
It begins with a series of single panels with brief captions recapping the action of Siege #4, in much the same manner that Morrisons first page of All-Star Superman gave us the origin.
Balder and Thor make up, with Thor telling Balder to remain King, while Thor will be his advisor. They are already discussing how Loki had a noble death, so I can see how they're already thinking of paying one of their customary visits to the Underworld. So long as they bring plenty of M16s they should be alright.
Gillen does seem to have a long game mapped out and this Siege segment of it is only a small part. It’s actually quite an old-fashioned approach, with various sub-plots bubbling away, to be exploited later. It’s more like the old monthly style that Simonson himself deployed, lo! those two decades past.
Although Siege and Gillen’s Thor issues both occur in or around Asgard, during the same period of in-story time, it’s as if they are two parallel stories. It’s strange. Perhaps because they are both going to different destinations and exploring very different themes and storytelling styles on the way.
As this is a Marvel comic, Ragnorak turns up to give Thor something to hit - in the mighty Marvel manner. Thor is on a roll and gives him the Sentry treatment. This new Thor comes loaded with 'Power-ups' and makes short work of end-of-level baddies.
I have to wonder if anyone at all was hurt when thousands of tons of Asgardian rubble came crashing to the ground? We've already seen in Siege #4 that Volstagg lived to punch Osborn in the jaw. Actually, everyone got to punch Osborn in the jaw during Dark Reign and Siege. No wonder his brains were scrambled by the end.
As I said before, I have no problem with the Sentry as a character. It was surprising to see him flip between omnipotent and impotent depending on how the writers wanted to use him (or not use him). Going through Dark Avengers, we see the Sentry killing in Osborn's name and easily at that. Very little hesitation. He destroys for Osborn and the Void. His DA appearances changed my opinion of him, his actions were so brutal to defy redemption. He massacred an Atlantean sleeper cell and ripped the head off of Morgaine Le Fay! Yes, she got better but he wasn't expecting that. He was trying to please his new boss and be what Osborn wanted him to be, the lynchpin to his remaining in power.
True Lindy was not a strong character. (I read Miracleman, er..Marvelman when Eclipse published it but not recently though I did see the similarities.) But she was a terrified character living with a man of incredible power who loved her and could kill her with a thought. Worse, she could not leave him because she feared the consequences not only to herself but to the world. As Moore so eloquently put it in Watchmen regarding Doctor Manhatten, "The difference between him and the A-bomb is that the A-bomb doesn't have to get l**d!" Osborn treated her like a "doggie-treat" that he took away to establish his dominance over the Sentry. She deserved far better.
Of course, Bendis' take on the Sentry didn't line up that closely with Jenkins' original version. Alan Moore has said that Superman and his ilk reflect American exceptionalism and its rise as a geopolitical power. In the good old days, Superman just smirked indulgently while outclassing all his foes. Bendis' Sentry is also a study in power, but is a reflection of the doubts the US is now going through. The 21st century world is very complicated and raw destructive power seems to be doing more harm than good. The Sentry's wish to sit out World War Hulk may have been a responsible one, given how much power he knew he was capable of unleashing once the situation gets out of control. Siege is definitely a Marvel Comics version of recent US history, which adds credence to this interpretation of the Sentry, and Bendis take on how having so much power completely warps its bearer merits consideration.
Still, part of the odd humour of Fallen Sun may be Jenkins kicking against how much his character was changed to suit another writer's purposes.
Perhaps Jenkins’ Sentry is closer to Marvelman, and Bendis’ is closer to Dr Manhatten. The parallels you point to are pertinent. We had a great extended discussion on Marvelman, Philip, just before your time here.
Osborn truly was demented to think that removing Sentry's final link with his humanity was the key to controlling him. Both that and the invasion itself show that it was the Green Goblin in Norman calling the shots all along. Gillen's conflation of the Goblin in Osborn's head with the primal God of Mischeif was a masterstroke of symbolic insight. Of course Ditko's malevolent, chaotic demon in human form is a much more powerful character than Bendis' weak, politicking, pinstripe suited 'player'.
No matter how 'realistic' Bendis tries to make them, this is superhero comics, where our deepest fears, urges and ideals get to dress up and struggle with each other before our eyes.
But at this point it was all selling wasn't it?
Avengers #64 is a valid section of the huge tapestry he is working on. The fans had just got 4 issues of non-stop preposterous overblown spectacle (a good thing in comics!) and superpeople beating each other around (also a good thing - in moderation) so he has to slow the tempo here and get with his character's reactions to these momentous events before cranking it all up again later on.
Bendis knows the target readership won't care about the big developments in his characters lives if they don't get these slower character-focused issues in-between. I have enormous respect for Bendis' control of what he is doing. It's just not for me, that's all.
I personally HATE the Hood, but I can see what he's doing by showing us a villain in as much depth as we get the heroes. I'm not buying that he has a noble code - he is pure scum - but I'm not sure Bendis is trying to show him as someone we are supposed to admire. Just showing us how people like him do what they do. Considerring the world is full of people like him, and notably short (IMHO) of people like Steve Rogers and Luke Cage, that's not a bad thing.
This continues directly on from New Avengers #64, as the team resolve to apprehend the Hood before he flees the country.
Madam Masque has brought the Hood to the home of Count Nefaria, her father it seems. Bendis has fun with the dialogue between the three. He revels in the fact that they are bad people with completely different codes of living to the rest of us. Count Nefaria loves seeing his daughter in a position where she has to beg for his help, and then insists that the price will be the Hood giving him every last cent that he has. It's clear he doesn't need the money, but he has to see the couple give everything they have to show their debt to him.
I like that Bendis doesn't just portray the villains as people like us, who happen to live on the other side of an imaginary ethical line. Instead, their every action and line of dialogue shows the self-interest and need to dominate others that guide their lives. I think showing the villains as nasty in small ways as well as large, might be one of the things that gets under the skin of longtime fans. In the older Marvel comics, the baddies just turned up to rob banks and threaten the hero.
Bendis is often criticised for ignoring much past continuity as it suits him, but he scores a lot of geek points here. The origin of Nefaria's powers in the great Avengers #164-166 are cited, and Bendis takes obvious delight in showing Carol Danvers using powers that other writers forget she has.
With the Hood and his associates captured, the New Avengers have tied up all the loose ends of their original run, which began, appropriately enough, with the similarly titled Avengers Finale in 2004. Bendis drives home this closing of the circle with the surprise appearance of Wolverine (surprisingly badly drawn by Brian Hitch) and Steve's comment that Nefaria was involved in the prison breakout that brought this version of the team together. The team make a point of bringing in the Hood without Thor's help too, as he wasn't around for most of their existence.
Bendis wraps up the issue and volume one of the series with a monologue from Luke Cage that is illustrates by a series of impressive double-page spreads of each of the big events that the New Avengers were involved in. And drawn by the original artists to boot! This ends with a flourish, and an illustration of what Luke says he has been fighting for all this time... being able to walk in the park with his friends and family.
I have to say how impressed I am with the way Bendis clears the decks so completely just before the beginning of the Heroic Age. Marvel have been ahead of the game compared to DC for some time now, and here they are conspicuously addressing a growing fan complaint; that the ending of each event is only set up for the next. DC haven't realised that it’s a problem yet and are still playing the game of diminishing returns.
What Marvel have done, starting with Avengers Disassembled/Finale and going all the way through to Siege, has been ambitious and unprecedented. Capping it all with as close to an actual ending that it’s possible to have in ongoing monthly comics is a classy thing to do. It makes the last seven years of comics look like they had some kind of plan rather than just a sequence of lurches from one marketing whizz to the next.
The way that everything is tied up at the end of Siege, makes it surprising that Bendis is continuing on with Marvel. It looks very like him wrapping things up on a high, having seen everything he started through to its conclusion.
Which is to say that he must have a lot of confidence in his next phase of Marvel comics. He goes in without depending on his audience being blackmailed into being on board at the outset.
This is the final issue of Avengers: The Initiative. Big crossovers like Siege are usually used to can low-selling series while giving their readership figures a boost on their way out. It's another way that big events and marketing trump storytelling. Here, however, there is a strong internal logic to the series ending here. The Initiative was set up as a result of the Registration Act coming into force, and as of the end of Siege that law has now been revoked.
Further, the Initiative, as the government's army of registered superheroes, was completely subverted and corrupted by Osborn, so it's now tainted and has to go, to be replaced by something similar, but with a different name. That's politics!
Avengers: The Initiative has been a very important book in this final phase of Marvel's sweeping saga of 2004-09. Superhero comics largely have to be about colourful characters hitting each other, but the training camp/administrative centre setting of this comic meant that lots of nuts and bolts issues of the post-Civil War MU were part of everyday life in the comic. Here we came closest to seeing how the new dispensation affected the ordinary 3rd tier superheroes of the Marvel Universe.
So this is where the series gets wrapped up. Various plotlines get some kind of resolution, but hopefully we can talk about them when we get to the end of the Initiative thread. Once again, Gage interleaves his scenes with the scenes in Siege #4 and even New Avengers Finale, and does it well. He's a good company man, is Gage. If we're prepared to accept that these company-wide events are produced for fans prepared to buy most of the central books, then Gage does a good job. His scripts do make clear what is happening, even if you hadn't read the main books. It would be clear to any reader, however, that they were reading about scenes and characters marginal to the important stuff, which is a strange place to be. Maybe it's a bit like reading Astro City...
The scene below is possibly the one that Alan M. was thinking of when he said that the HAMMER thugs were probably quickly reassimilated into the reformed SHIELD. "...nothing to worry about" probably means their jobs and pension plans won't be affected!
I placed Avengers: The Initiative #35 at this point on my reading list, as a scene between Tigra and the Hood occurs after the New Avengers bring him in. The scene illustrates one of the problems with setting stories in a shared universe. The Hood's rather creepy and questionably depicted attack on Tigra back in the pages of New Avengers was issue of the week a few years ago, causing an internet furore, so Tigra’s payback of him would have to be part of her story. Unfortunately, Tigra moved on from the pages of New Avengers, where the confrontation with the Hood was central. Thus her face-off with her nemesis comes in the form of leavings from Bendis’ table. The Hood was his character, and he used the final confrontation between the New Avengers and the Hood as the big send-off for his series.
In fact, the New Warriors Avengers Resistance attack on Camp Hammer shown in the pages of Avengers: The Initiative is also a sideshow, as by the time they take control of the base from the Hood’s henchmen and HAMMER troops, there is no point in getting Osborn’s secret files, as he’s already outed himself as a psychopathic nutjob, live on national television!
The series ends with the Initiative members amongst the Avengers old and new we saw celebrating on the roof of Avengers Tower at the close of Siege #4. It's a pretty conclusive, upbeat ending and even has the closing montage of what-they-did-next frames for various members of the group, like a cheesy 1980's highschool movie (but in a good way).