Thursday, January 07, 2010

Comic Book Review: Siege #1


The Revolution has low expectations for Siege #1.  I have never been impressed with any team title that Bendis has written.  Nor have I been impressed with Bendis' previous attempts to write a "big" event.  I much prefer Bendis when he is dealing with a solo title like Daredevil or Ultimate Spider-Man which play to Bendis' strengths as a writer.

Having said that, I am keeping expectations low, my mind open and hope that Bendis can surprise me with a strong and exciting debut issue to this big event.  Let’s go ahead and do this review for Siege #1.

Creative Team
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Oliver Coipel
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: Laura Martin

Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Loki convincing Norman Osborn that the only way he will have full authority from the President to attack Asgard is if they can manufacture a good reason to go to war. Therefore, Loki suggests taking a page from the Civil War playbook and following the example set by the Samford Incident that led to Civil War.


Loki explains how they can take advantage of Volstagg’s simple nature and ignorance of the mortal world and frame him for a tragic event. We cut to Chicago where we see Volstagg wandering the streets. Volstagg uses his sword to chop in half a truck full of bank robbers who were fleeing a couple of cop cars. The result of Volstagg’s action causes much collateral damage.

Loki then narrates how Osborn can use some of the Hood’s super powered thugs to attack Volstagg. We see a couple of the Hood’s super powered thugs (The U-Foes) appear in Chicago and attack Volstagg. Their fight takes them into Soldier Field where the stadium is full because a Bears game is being played at the moment.

The U-Foes then let loose some massive energy blasts on Volstagg which causes Soldier Field to explode into flames. Loki then narrates that Osborn now has his incident which will allow him to invade Asgard.

We cut to Loki and Osborn at Avengers Tower. Loki explains how cameras will catch Volstagg in the middle of the destruction looking dazed and confused. The U-Foes will slink away from the scene unseen by any cameras.

Loki then disappears. Ms. Hand then walks into Norman’s office. Norman instructs Ms. Hand to call the President and tell him that they have the incident at Soldier Field in Chicago under control. Norman tells Ms. Hand to assemble the Avengers and all the members of the Initiative. Norman says that they are invading Asgard.

Ms. Hand exclaims that there is protocol that Norman needs to follow in this situation. Norman blows off Ms. Hand and tells her to do what she is told and all will be revealed to her in time.

We cut to Norman in his Iron Patriot armor assembling the battle plans. Ares is less than pleased with Norman’s plan to attack Asgard. Ares feels that he will never do battle with the Asgardian gods and will stop Norman from doing so.

Norman replies that they have information that Thor is no longer in control of Asgard. That Thor’s brother is in control of Asgard and that Thor’s brother is a madman. Ares reluctantly agrees to help Norman invade Asgard. Ares warns that he will cut Norman’s head off if Norman is lying about all of this.

We cut to Norman addressing the Avengers. Norman informs them that they will be invading Asgard. The Avengers are less than pleased with this idea. They say that they want no part of fighting Norse gods and that they signed up to be heroes not battle gods.

Norman replies that if they help him attack Asgard then once they have defeated Asgard that Norman will grant complete and total freedom to the members of the Avengers. That they will be free of Norman and will be able to either stay on the team as Avengers or leave and live their own lives. Venom, Bullseye, Moonstone and Daken all love that offer and readily agree to help Norman attack Asgard.

We cut to Ares standing in front of the assembled heroes from the Initiative. It is a massive crowd of heroes. Ares gives a standard issue and cheesy “inspirational” pre-battle speech to whip his “troops” into battle frenzy.

We slide over to the White House with the President getting a phone call from Ms. Hand. The President is outraged that Norman did not call him himself and get the President’s approval to invade Asgard. The President starts screaming which prompts Ms. Hand to hang up on him. The President then curses that Norman is out of control.

We hop over to Asgard where Loki appears before Balder and informs Balder than the mortal troops have assembled outside Asgard and are ready to attack them. Balder scoffs at the notion of a mortal military being capable to attack Asgard.

Suddenly, we see Superman Miracle Man the Sentry blasting through the walls of Asgard. We then see the Avengers, the members of the Initiative and HAMMER troops and planes attacking Asgard.
The Asgardians assemble and meet Norman’s forces on the battlefield. And with that we official have ourselves a massive brawl.

We zip over to Tony Stark’s hospital room in Broxton, Oklahoma which is located next to Asgard. Maria Hill and Donald Blake see the news report about the attack on Asgard. Blake tells Maria needs to take Tony and get out of here immediately.

Blake then runs outside of the hospital. Blake hits his walking stick on the ground and transforms into the mighty Thor. Thor then arrives at the battlefield in Asgard. Thor then locks horns with Sentry, Iron Patriot and various energy casting members of the Initiative. The members of the Initiative then blast Thor with all of their energy. We see a small mushroom explosion appear from all the energy blasted at Thor. We see a small camera crew getting footage of the battle.


We see the smoke clear and Thor is groggy, but still standing. Norman, the Sentry and the other Initiative members all gang up and proceed to beat the hell out of Thor. The news crew films the fight.

We cut to the New Avengers hideout and see Steve Rogers standing there watching the footage from the news crew filming Norman and his heroes laying a beating on Thor. Captain America clenches his fist angrily and grinds his teeth angrily. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Man, it is going to be tough to satisfy The Revolution’s Rule of Positivity with Siege #1. I have to say that it was nice to see Tony, Steve and Thor all in one issue once again. And to not have them fighting each other.

I am looking forward to having these three men on the same team again and actually being heroes. I may be summarily unimpressed with Siege, but I am going to love the ending with the return of three of the original Avengers. I am excited to see Avengers once again being the Avengers instead a rag tag collection of C-list characters.

The Bad: Siege #1 was just an awful debut issue to this big event. I have tried to think of a more diplomatic way of saying that, but I simply cannot. I kept my expectations extremely low for this title and Bendis still managed to deliver a story that was worse than I was expecting.

Bendis gags up an issue that was poorly constructed and executed. The plotting and pacing on Siege #1 were terrible. The first eight pages of Siege #1 were slow and lacked any energy or impact on the reader. The reader was robbed of any impact that the attack of the U-Foes on the stadium might have had due to Bendis’ decision to tell this scene in a passive manner with Loki narrating as if the scene was a mere storyboard.


The first eight pages meander about with absolutely no sense of urgency at all.  Them, suddenly, Bendis jarringly kicks the story into ultra-compression mode as he has Norman convince Ares to follow him in the attack on Asgard in just one page. Then Norman convinces the Dark Avengers to attack Asgard in just one page. Norman’s army of super heroes is assembled and then rallied by Ares in just one page. Then The President realizes that Norman is uncontrollable in the span of one page.

Hey, I am all for a more compressed style of storytelling in modern comic books, but this was just ridiculous. There is good compressed story telling that effectively tells a story and moves the story along in a logical fashion and is properly plotted. Then there is compressed story telling that is lazy where the writer gives mere lip service to characters’ motivations and rushes the story along just to get the story to a certain point where the writer wants to go.

The remainder of the issue was nothing more than Norman and his army attacking Asgard and Thor arriving on the scene and quickly getting punked out. Siege #1 was such an incredibly hurried issue. It read as if Bendis slapped this issue together in a day or two. At no point did I feel like this issue was the debut issue of an event “seven years in the making.”Instead, it seemed more like Siege was an event slapped together in seven days.


What amazed me was the incredible lack of excitement that Siege #1 brought to the table. This issue was completely lacking in emotion or soul. The story was devoid of any tension or sense of urgency. There was nothing at all that hooked the reader, captivated their attention and sucked them into the story. Bendis gave the reader a very subdued and, quite frankly, dull and dry issue.

This story felt lifeless, as it seemed that Bendis was simply going through the motions in order to rearrange the pieces on the game board. It appears that all Bendis want is to have the big three in Tony, Steve and Thor back together on the same side and team and that Siege is the perfunctory step Bendis has to go through in order to get to that destination. Siege #1 was a case of where the story was not at all about the journey. It was all about the destination at the cost of logic and proper plot progression. That almost always makes for a dull story.

Siege #1 was an extremely thin issue. The story was so shallow and basic. Reading Siege #1 was the literary equivalent of eating a rice cake: bland and unfulfilling. Siege #1 also lacked much creativity. Kicking off this big event with a re-hash of Civil War’s beginning was uninspiring. Even worse is that Bendis managed to fail in even properly mimicking Civil War’s beginning.

The Stamford tragedy over in Civil War was a gripping read that had a massive impact on the reader. Millar managed to smack the reader in the face with a literary 2x4 that immediately pulled the reader into the story. Millar was able to effectively convey the massive scale of the Stamford tragedy as well as the carnage and loss that was sustained on a human level.


Bendis utterly failed to do that with the event at Soldier Field in Siege #1. Soldier Field was blown up in one page and that is all we get. The reader was not even sure if the stadium was full of people due to the vague artwork. The event at Soldier Field had no impact at all on the reader. It happened quickly and Bendis spent no effort at all in trying to convey to the reader any emotion or loss connected with this supposed tragedy.

Instead, the reader simply skipped right past the event at Soldier Field without so much as batting an eyelash. Bendis’ inability to make an impact on the reader robbed Siege #1 of a dramatic start and also failed to engage the reader’s emotions.

The plotting in Siege #1 sorely lacked logic.  The motivations for the various characters were murky. Bendis has Norman being played by Loki way too easily. Norman has been built up to be this ultimate mastermind. The most dangerous and cunning villain on the planet. However, Loki effortlessly leads Norman by his nose. Bendis fails to get the reader to buy into why Norman would be so hot to attack Asgard when it would clearly get him into hot water with his boss, the President.

This was inconsistent with how Norman has been portrayed during Dark Reign. Norman would not engage in a reckless action that clearly would set him up to be stripped of his power by the President. Norman’s sudden desire to risk everything and attack Asgard and the way he carried out his plan seemed too forced to me. It simply lacked logic.  Bendis failed to build a more organic and proper foundation for this main plotline leading up to Siege.

Bendis failed miserably to show the motivation of why Ares and the other Dark Avengers would agree to attack the Norse gods. Bendis’ slipshod one page scene of Norman convincing Ares to attack Asgard just because Thor is no longer their leader and that Thor’s brother is a “madman” simply was not enough to create the proper motivation for Ares to change his position on attacking Asgard. This was lazy writing.

Bendis having Norman offer the Dark Avengers their freedom in return for their services in attacking Asgard was also a cheap way to create motivation for those characters to sign up for this fight. I have a hard time believing that characters like Bullseye, Moonstone and Venom would want any part of battling gods. It would be a suicide run for them. These are criminals, thugs and assassins. They are not god-killers.

Norman’s motivation to attack Asgard at all costs and Ares and the other members of the Dark Avengers’ motivation to attack Asgard seemed forced and artificial. It seemed more of a transparent and convenient excuses for Bendis to achieve what he wants which is the reuniting of Tony, Steve and Thor. Bendis appears to not care for the logic of his story as long as it takes him where he wants to go.


Another defect with Siege #1 was the small scale of the story. Bendis takes this “big” event and does his best to make it small. Bendis approaches Siege #1 in the same manner that a screen play writer would for a television show with a very tiny budget. Each scene centers on only a couple of characters at a time. All of the large action scenes take place either off panel or in just one panel shot.

Instead of showing readers the story, Bendis uses these small scenes full of dialogue to tell the reader the story. Instead of showing the reader the scene at Soldier Field and letting it unfold in real time, like the Stamford tragedy over in Civil War, Bendis uses Loki to tell the reader about what happened at Soldier Field.

The magic of comic books is that there is no budget. A comic book writer is only constrained by his own imagination. A good example of taking advantage of this fact during a big event would be how Grant Morrison handled Final Crisis. There were plenty of defects with that big event, but the scale of the story was not one of them. Morrison took advantage of the comic book medium and delivered a big event that was truly colossal on scale.

Mark Millar managed to make Civil War feel like a big event that impacted every corner of the 616 Universe. Unfortunately, Bendis does not have that blockbuster style grand imagination. The result is that Siege #1 feels like an ordinary New Avengers story rather than a 616 Universe spanning big event.

Siege #1 also lacked action. Each time the reader got the merest whiff of an action scene, Bendis whisked us off to somewhere else. The event at Soldier Field was told in the passive form of Loki narrating it as if it had already been done. Bendis also spent little time on the attack on Soldier Field as this action scene was over almost before it started.


The attack on Asgard lacked much action. The minute Norman’s heroes engaged the Asgardians, Bendis quickly cut away to Tony Stark’s hospital room. The minute Thor arrives at Asgard and engaged Norman’s heroes; Bendis has Thor quickly taken out in just a page and a half. Then we quickly cut away to Captain America. If I am going to be forced to read an uncreative and shallow story then at least give me some adrenaline pumping action and in large amounts.

The “hook” ending to Siege #1 was a joke. It was actually laughable. The splash shot of Steve Rogers with his teeth clenched and his fist shaking (I guess from either anger or early onset of Parkinson’s disease) was just so incredibly goofy.

Seriously? This is the big “hook” ending that Bendis thought would be a really cool way to end the debut issue of his big event? What in the world about this wordless full page splash shot was supposed to get me excited to come back for the next issue?

If Norman and his army can take out the mighty Thor in a page and a half then they will be able to take out Steve Rogers in about a panel or two. This hook ending was incredibly anti-climatic and fell completely flat for me.


The dialogue was average at best. At least we did not get Ares and Thor engaged in a bunch of Bendis speak. So that is something to be grateful for. None of the characters have much of a well-developed voice. Instead, the characters have rather neutral voices. Ares’ speech was particularly cheesy.

Coipel’s art was very hit or miss in this issue. Some of the splash pages looked quite pretty. However, the majority of the panels looked sloppy and rushed. There was practically no detail at all in the backgrounds. Coipel’s art was a large reason why the scene at Soldier Field failed. Coipel drew the scene with such a lack of detail that it looked like the stadium was empty. Also, the panel shots of crowds or large groups of heroes were underwhelming. Coipel would barely give the characters faces or any other details.

Coipel’s artwork helped to compound the problem that Bendis’ story was written on a small scale. Coipel never pulled the reader into the story or helped to give Siege the feeling of a truly huge event.

Overall: Siege #1 was so poor that it made Secret Invasion look pretty good by comparison. At least Secret Invasion #1 started that big event off with a bang, had plenty of wild scenes and ended with a good hook ending. Siege #1 manages to do absolutely none of that. I hope that there is much more to this story than what we got in this issue. However, the fact that Siege is only four issues long means that we probably are not going to get much more of a story than what we got in this issue.

Marvel’s incessant hyping of Siege as an event that is “seven years in the making” only made Siege that much more anti-climactic and unimpressive. There is no way this shallow story took seven years to make.

Unless you are a die-hard Bendis fan or simply have to collect every Marvel big event, I would recommend passing on Siege #1. Due to the lack of substance and content, Siege #1 simply is not worth the $3.99 cover price. Save your hard earned money and spend it on comic books that are worth it.
______________________________________________________
Rokk

20 comments:

Andrenn said...

Totally agreed on giving Siege a pass it. Just a very weak start to the supposed big event. I thought that with only 4 issues that Bendis would write more and more, not less and less. Comparing this to Secret Invasion #1 where so much happened and the hook ending was great, this was just pathetic. Also there where a few shots of Osborn and Sentry where they looked like the Frankenstein monster.

Anonymous said...

With all this attention on the reuniting of Tony, Steve and Thor i am Totally worried about Hank Pym Place in the MU post Siege

i am a big Hank Pym fan and i am worry that We will lose the confident in himself Hank Pym that We got in the past few months in Mighty Avengers

Shon said...

Long time reader. Love the site and your reviews.

But, I didn't think this issue was that bad and maybe this review was a little harsh.

I would probably rate it
Art - 7
Story - 6

I felt like the opening of the book really suffered from the fact that we all had seen the preview weeks ago and knew what was coming. It's also just to similar with what happened with Civil War. I definitely think the issue could have been longer.

Beyond that though, I didn't think the issue as a whole was all that bad. Copiel has done better, but I still liked his art as usual. Bendis is hit or miss for me, but I thought the writing was ok, especially for a set-up issue.

I also thought it flowed well with everything else that has been going on in the Marvel U as a whole. Besides the scheduling delay with Reborn, we've recently seen Captain America somewhat stepping aside to allow Bucky to do his thing. Within that context, the finale was fine with me as it signaled the real Cap getting back in the game. Maybe my overall excitement for the real Avengers to come back is driving things, but I thought the finale was fine even though it wasn't a jaw dropper.

I also don't have a problem with how Norman has been written because it again seems to fall in line with what has been going on with him in the Avengers stories. Norman has been falling a part at the seams for a while now. He has never been stable. Add to that the fact that Loki is the god of mischief, and the thought that he could trick Norman isn't hard to believe at all. It's pretty much what the character does and I think Bendis and Co have a done pretty good job of showing just how powerful and real of a threat Loki can be.

So, I would agree that this wasn't a homerun, but I've definitely read way worse. I will admit that I wasn't a fan of Final Crisis at all. I think it was easily Morrison's worst work and is only redeemed by the fact that we ended up with Batman & Robin because of it. But, I will also admit that my bar for Morrison is higher than it is with Bendis.

Eddie and Laura said...

One positive: We did get to see Thor smack the Sentry.

I agree with pretty much everything in your review. I don't know how Steve's going to inspire fear in this crew if they took Thor out that quickly. And why is Steve sitting around the house in his Cap suit?

I actually thought you went a little easy on the art. This was terrible, especially if you stand it up against DC's big event right now, "Blackest Night." Weird faces, awkward body positions, non-distinct details ... awful.

Van said...

It's a little it irrelevant, but I have actually enjoyed the way Bendis writes Ares. He doesn't write him as a thug or stupid, but as an experienced soldier. I would like to see a Bendis written Ares series someday. Concerning Siege, I am pretty sure Millar is laughing his ass off right now.

Phillyradiogeek said...

I agree that the story seemed rushed and lacked any suspense or thrill; it was just a bunch of stuff that happened. It's certainly a letdown after the much better Siege: The Cabal.

I suspect Siege is NOT the be all end all to the Marvel status quo of the last six years. I think Marvel has a bigger event planned for the summer that they're playing close to the vest for now, letting people think Siege is the big event this year. I can't see them successfully wrapping up the events since Avengers Disassembled in the matter of 4 months and one 4-issue event (although there will be many tie-ins).

Rokk Krinn said...

@Andrenn: LOL! Frankenstein monster!! You are right about that.

Yeah, this first issue was so poor that I think I am going to pass on the remaining three issues of Siege.

Rokk Krinn said...

@Anonymous: That is a valid fear. I am probably one of the only reviewers who actually really likes Pym's character. Pym has really shined with the Mighty Avengers. Pym's character seems to do better when he is out of the shadow of the other big name founding members of the Avengers.

Hopefully, Pym will have a proper place at the table in the new Avengers that arises out of Siege. Pym is a founding member and deserves that treatment.

However, Bendis has never handled Pym's character well and basically used him as a whipping boy for the most part so I don't have high hopes.

Rokk Krinn said...

@Shon: Cool! Long time reader! Great post. Very well thought out and you make some good points.

I totally agree with you about Morrison. My bar for Morrison is also much higher than my bar for Bendis. I have to admit that I liked Final Crisis despite all of its flaws. I know I am in the minority and I definitely understand why most fans disliked it. But, the Jack Kirby fanatic in me enjoyed it.

Rokk Krinn said...

@Eddie and Laura: Oh yeah, Reis' artwork over in Blackest Night absolutely destroys what Copiel gave us in Siege #1.

Rokk Krinn said...

@Van: LOL! I now have a mental image of Millar reading Siege #1 and just laughing like nuts.

I agree with you about Ares. On a whole, Bendis has done a great job writing Ares over on Dark Avengers. I have enjoyed it and if Ares got his own title then I agree that Bendis would be a good choice as the writer for it.

Rokk Krinn said...

@Phillyradiogeek: Oh no!!!! Not another "big" event. I am hoping that Marvel eschews the big event for at least a couple of years.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little confused. The supervillains are all working for The Hood and the Hood is secretly in league with Osborn, right? But that doesn't mean the U-Foes can just waltz around on-camera with the New Avengers like best pals, right? It's a secret alliance.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous: This could be testament to Norman's insanity or Bendis's illogical writing. Pick anyone as they both seem to be valid explanations.

Good review Rokk. You were on the ball with this one.


Best,
Kozmik.

Kevin said...

I agree with all that you said. Though I did like that Ares looks to play a big role in this event since I have always liked the character ever since the God of War mini-series Marvel came out with a few years ago.

Also for me as long as we get some good action and get a two page splash page of Iron Man, Steve, and Thor together again as Marvel's Trinity I will be happy.

Anonymous said...

Creative opportunity a big let down, very likely I'll skip many or all of the supporting Siege comics, really just need to know the score at the end of the game. Artwork fair, story scattered. Not realistic to try and pull this off in an issue without making it a truly giant sized featured which it deserves. But Marvel has other material to cram in the book to sell.... They have very little character or quality loyalty. When it comes along be grateful but don't expect it to last.

Jimmy Bag said...

I think that Steve Rogers can be a higher threat than Thor. How is that? Somehow, more than half the Marvel Universe looks up to him BIG TIME, and when they're with him, they fight twice as hard.

All those guys who know they're way off their league here and don't know what they were doing siding with Osborn's Initiative in the first place, will see Cap and finally know where their loyalties lie.

Besides, Osborn just can't get away with killing Cap. Even after Civil War, people still regarded him as a national hero. Osborn is just the man of the hour and he knows that, as he knows what Cap signifies. I mean, he's using his colors, for Pete's sake.

I think Bendis makes the same mistake that Loeb did over in The Event That Shall Not Be Named, in which the impact that the catastrophe had on the common folk was not portrayed, which makes the reader detached. Civil War made a great example of making a super-hero story feel close to the guy in the street without the need of tie-ins like Embedded or Frontline.

I think Norman being reckless, whether he is under the influence of Loki or not, is consistent with his current state. In a "real" year, which is most likely less than a Marvel Comics year, he has gone against a lot of people, he has seen his Cabal torn apart and he's losing gradually the support of the people and the government. And of course, at the end of the day he's the friggin' Green Goblin, a pure, unadultered psycho! We all knew he was gonna snap sooner or later, and even here he looks more together than in Fraction's Invincible Iron Man.

I still have hopes for Siege, since I actually like Bendis, even though I agree on many of the things you say. I'm really looking forward to a Coipel drawn rematch between Thor and the Sentry. Or maybe Deodato could do it over at Dark Avengers? That would be a sight.

Anonymous said...

Hello everybody,

I agree with Shon: Osborn doesn't digest well all that pression. Even with his pal xanax helping.

No, Xanax is not a Dark Avenger (pun intended).

As far as I know, Siege beggins like a poor man Civil War. Instead of the poor New Warriors, Bendis uses Volstagg. At least that time the villains are the true responsable.

Also, I wonder why Marvel Obama doesn't do anything to stop Osborn, if he disagrees with him. He is the commander in chief, after all. And the Tin Patriot works for him.

Perhaps when Thor's trolls, giants, wargs and dragon smashes USArmy twice, Congress will do something with Osborn...

For me, Ares will always be a villain (and not a very good one). And now is also a Rambo clone. Perhaps he is remembering past defeats at Thor's hands. Alas, ontinuity is not Bendis's strongest point.

Everybody is happy seeing the Sentry hit by Thor, but I pray for seeing how the Thundergod makes Ares cry!

Mikey Donuts said...

My biggest problem with the marvel universe is The Sentry. His power is written as unstoppable or, if not that, freaking unstoppable. If Asgard can be broken with a flying fake superman why isn't Osborn just bombing the poop our of the whole city? No cruise missiles in the HAMMER armory?

No one knows how to write for Sentry and the efforts to nerf him with mental problems is failing. We need to kill this guy. For real this time.

Anonymous said...

But if he's so unstoppable how do you propose to kill him?