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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If or when you get to Fallen Son, Figs, I'm sure there will be some debate over its merits and I chimed in a bit at the time.

Before that, I will say that I was nether fond of the Sentry nor was I loathing him. To me, he was simply there, like him or not. His original backstory, while clever and potentially fun, got mired in confusing plotpoints and sank the character with an almost overbearing depression. He was part of the Avengers because they needed a heavy, heavy hitter to replace Thor, powerwise and Hercules, Ares, Wonder Man and even the Hulk could not do that. He was either omnipotent or could collapse into uselessness at the drop of a hat or a mention of a word (see Secret Invasion).

Basically, he was strong when Bendis needed him strong and a basketcase when he needed him, from a narrative point of view, out of the picture.

"That's why the only Shadowland offshoot I ordered was the Shad: Bullseye just to make sure the creep got what was coming to him!"

 

Did he?

 

 

 

I'm enjoying your book-by-book summaries, Figs. It's nice that you're reading them so I don't "have" to. Taking one for the team, so to speak.

If this is the issue I'm thinking of, then it's a good one. But as you said we'll go in depth when we get to it in the Initiative thread.

 

I read the main mini of Siege and the only tie-ins I read were Initiative and maybe 1 other but I don't remember what it was. Overall I liked it.

Figserello said:

Avengers The Initiative #31

 

In this one, Gage expands on Taskmaster's way-out-of-his-depth appearance in Siege The Cabal.  It moves threads of the ongoing Initiative series forward while tying them in to events in Bendis' larger narrative. There's more to say on this comic, but I'll save it for when we reach it on the Initiative thread.

I've never been able to like the Carol Danvers character since they made her such a hypocrite.  I wish that she and Steve had managed to talk a bit more because that was a really great chance.

 

Superheroes don't talk, they DO!

 

Basically, he was strong when Bendis needed him strong and a basketcase when he needed him, from a narrative point of view, out of the picture.

 

The Sentry is still an interesting superhero to me.  Yes, we want our 'heroes' to be virtually infallible, that's part of the definition, but good fiction works best when its worrying away at ambiguities.

 

Someone with all that incredible power, the wish to do good in the world, and yet a moral compass that swings wildly between square-jawed righteousness and pointless murderous destruction looks like a good metaphor to me.  Of an actual real-world Superpower.  One that often does more harm than good by stepping into the fray and flexing its muscles, and so is often paralysed by conflicting urges within it's 'body politic'. 

 

Put like that, the Sentry looks like quite an open-eyed updating of the Superman mythos, for our current, painfully uncertain times.

 

Yes, I like the Sentry a lot.  Not as a person, especially as he has become more inhuman, but as an element in the tapestry.

 

Or perhaps I am still clinging foolishly to the naive notion that these comics are about something?

 

I'm enjoying your book-by-book summaries, Figs. It's nice that you're reading them so I don't "have" to. Taking one for the team, so to speak.

Thanks for letting me know you are reading along, Cavaliere.  It's really good to hear.  But I guess I'd have to shake my forefinger and say that you can't make a judgement until you've read them!  There's quite a bit to admire in these comics so far, not least the line-wide architecture of the plotting.  It's an ambitious project.  Maybe it's only possible when you have a tiny captive market that you are depending on to buy all the books for years on end, but given that this is the market they are in, they make the most of it.

 

I'm reading them so I can say anything about them, good and bad!

 

I am aware that most of my comments and the overall tone has been a bit derisive up to now, and I do have problems with how these books are aimed at and marketed to their tiny niche audience, but I might start saying some good things about them shortly.  Who knows?

 

Siege #1

 

At last we get to the main event!  This starts off with Volstagg being ambushed by the U-Foes at Osborn’s instruction and while defending himself, he seems to obliterate Soldier Field, and a full-capacity crowd.

 

Osborn then uses this to instigate a full-on attack on Asgard, deliberately by-passing the President’s authorisation.  Dr Don Blake is in nearby Broxton tending to Tony Stark, so quickly transforms into Thor to attack Osborn who is out in his Iron Patriot gear.  Osborn and the U-Foes give the Odinson a darn good thrashing.  Osborn has tipped off the media, hoping that their coverage will somehow vindicate his actions after the fact.

 

(Diamondback is shown amongst those attacking Thor, but not Taskmaster, which is a little dropped stitch in the broader tapestry.)

 

Thus, all the heroes who are about to become involved see it first on CNN, or whatever.  This includes Cap, watching in the latest New Avengers hideaway. 

 

The art, by Oliver Copiel is pretty effective.  The action is very clear and drawn in broad strokes.  Once Volstagg gets ambushed, the action keeps building up towards Osborn’s first confrontation with Thor at the end of the first issue.  Perhaps, if it wasn’t for the background reading I’ve been putting in up to this point, a lot of this would be empty spectacle, but it’s hard to say, not having opened this book as a standalone. 

 

My big problem with the opening when I heard about it first was that it too obviously echoed the Stamford Incident, where action was taken against one set of super people because of a seeming mistake one of them made.  I thought it seemed to show a lack of originality on the part of the creators. 

 

Digging deeper into that line of thought, and crediting Bendis with deliberately echoing the earlier storyline for an artistic purpose, the story choice becomes very political. 

 

Looks like I’ll have to elaborate on the politics before I continue...

The (not too subtle) Politics of Siege.

 

In Siege, Bendis repeats the same basic premise of Civil War.  That is, innocents get killed as collateral damage in a superhero battle, and various forces use that incident to push forward their own agendas.

 

Let’s allow that Bendis might be using the repeat of the same story set-up for artistic purposes.  Perhaps Bendis is using one set of fictional events to comment on the other?  In that case we’d have to ask what is different about the events that spin out of each tragedy.

 

In Civil War, a genuine accident occurred while some irresponsible superheroes were trying to take in some supervillains in as flashy a manner as possible.  From this, various forces in society moved to restrict various ‘freedoms’ and to criminalise certain behaviours in order to protect innocent bystanders.  In the ideological struggle that followed between those that supported these new laws and those that opposed them, some factions found the new restrictive powers increased their own power and influence and fought all the harder to institute the new regime.  Tony Stark, SHIELD, Henry Gyrich were amongst this number.  Fighting for the new regime necessitated the building of gulags for dissidents, training minors as soldiers and lots of other dubious activities.  That’s what happens when you instigate sudden, profound changes in the social order.  It’s the law of unintended consequences multiplied by the Freakonomics rule of incentives.

 

Civil War and the other Marvel comics released around that time tried to balance the need for reform of superhero activity against the heroes freedom to do good.  Its tragic drama depended on Iron Man and Captain America each defending what seemed like reasonable positions.

 

The real-world backdrop to Civil War in 2006 was the divisions in American society caused by the measures George W Bush took in his War on Terror, which curtailed all sorts of freedoms within America and unleashed a lot of violence on other parts of the world.  The War on Terror in turn was caused by the September 11 attacks.  In those attacks, ordinary everyday Americans going about their lives in locations associated with work, holidaying and travel were suddenly and unexpectedly killed.

 

In the Marvel Universe the social division and upheaval that paralleled the War on Terror in our world was caused by the deaths of several hundred schoolchildren in Stamford. 

 

Civil War was about the questions the US was asking itself 5 years into Bush’s War on Terror, and the Stamford incident was the parallel to the September 11 attacks.  I don’t think any of this is too contentious. 

 

The Soldier Field incident at the start of Siege is a reprise of the Stamford Incident, but the author is giving it a much different gloss.  This time it is deliberately staged by the villain so that society will fall behind the extreme military measures taken.  This time the architect and chief beneficiary uses the incident to justify the invasion of another state.  This time, obviously, the author can be much less even-handed in portraying the events.  The guy causing and using a national tragedy to further his own agenda and invade another state is an insane criminal!

 

I’m not saying that there are direct parallels with recent US history* but I think it is telling how differently the same basic starting point can be viewed and developed 4 years into the War on Terror and then 8 years into it, as its justifications and rectitude have been drawn into question.

 

Osborn’s cynical trust that the public will be swayed by tragic, emotive events into drastic action and that the media will spin things his way once ‘boots are on the ground’ is the focus of Bendis’ satire here.  Millar’s Civil War and its tie-ins might have at least tried to be even handed in their discussions about Freedom vs Security, but Bendis’ heart wasn’t in maintaining that position.  From the start he was clearly with the anti-registration side.  He was clearly the central writer driving the post-Civil War Marvel Universe.  There we saw that the pro-registration status quo that prevailed at the end of Civil War became more and more morally dubious and corrupt as the months went on.  Then Bendis and Marvel threw all subtlety out the window with the instatement of the Green frakking Goblin(!) as head of SHIELD and director of all security issues in the world’s most powerful nation.

 

In the context of all the above, it seems that Bendis wants to revisit Civil War, but this time show the ‘security trumps freedom’ side in the worst light possible.  Further, he adds an element to the mix that tells us he is definitely thinking of September 11, its effects on American political life and the subsequent War on Terror.  Civil War didn’t address how September 11 had led to the invasion of two countries at all, but Bendis has a wrong-headed invasion as central to his narrative in Siege.

 

I’m sure the parallels were all pretty obvious to the readers, but any commentary I’ve seen on Siege has been on the characters and continuity and in-universe implications of it.  Maybe this was another example of readers not seeing the woods for the trees.  The politics of the last 10 years is obviously central to Siege, so I would have been remiss not to mention it while looking at the series.

 

*For one thing, George Bush has difficulty using a Segway scooter, never mind piloting a Bat-flyer

Figserello said:
It's possible that Bendis' 6-part main story has every dramatic beat and every major revelation of the tale, but y'know, somehow, I kinda doubt it!

On this point, I will just say that, at the time, I only read the four-issue mini itself, and didn't read any of the tie-ins.* 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. The one MAJOR exception I would make to that is that I don't remember the mini explaining that the Hood's forces were powered by the Norn Stones, so when that became relevant — as it would have to in a story about Asgard — it seemed to come out of left field. But of course, I wasn't really (read: at all) familiar with the Norn Stones before this book, so I might well could have missed some clear exposition of their use earlier on; I haven't gone back to re-read and check...

On the much more meaty point of the politics of Siege, I don't (at this time) have anything to add, but I find it all well-said!

And one last thing: that reading order list you're working from is actually missing all of the one-shot tie-ins that take place between (IIRC) issues 3 and 4 — Siege: Captain America, Siege: Loki, Siege: Spider-Man, Siege: Secret Warriors, and Siege: Young Avengers (I think that's all of them). These have been collected in the trade Siege: Battlefield, so if you're completeist you'll want to hunt them down (although, honestly, I don't think they particularly add anything to anything).


* - I've since read more-or-less all of the tie-ins, lead-ins, and any other -ins involved, but that was post facto filling in the details, not at-the-time story-following.
I have those. Some of the one shots were better than others but I don't remember which. They don't add much except the Loki one shot goes in detail of his motivations. Other than that the comics were heroes going above and beyond in dire situations.

Alan M. said:
And one last thing: that reading order list you're working from is actually missing all of the one-shot tie-ins that take place between (IIRC) issues 3 and 4 — Siege: Captain America, Siege: Loki, Siege: Spider-Man, Siege: Secret Warriors, and Siege: Young Avengers (I think that's all of them). These have been collected in the trade Siege: Battlefield, so if you're completeist you'll want to hunt them down (although, honestly, I don't think they particularly add anything to anything).

Mark S. Ogilvie said:
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.  Must have been a heck of a lot of un-employment claims filed.

I think this was addressed in-story somewhere, but don't ask me to cite what title or issue. Basically, all HAMMER agents were reviewed post-Siege; those who were shown to be basically on the up-and-up — following the letter and spirit of the law, not abusing their authority, etc. — were brought into the new SHIELD (or whatever). Those who had abused their power were fired and possibly prosecuted.
No offense Mark, but even if Alan can't recall the specific comic this took place in, I'll take his recollection over something you assume happened off panel.
I think that there are rogue HAMMER agents currently in New Avengers.

Philip is right ... probably safe to assume the rogue HAMMER agents are the ones who got fired.  According to wiki, HAMMER was dissolved in Siege #4, and Steve Rogers was given Osborn's old job.  Also safe to assume, imo, Steve would weed out the criminal elements.

Don't be too hard on your average HAMMER agent.  After all, Osborn had the MU President of the USA fooled for a time.

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