Saturday, January 9, 2010

Review: Siege #1

A few nights ago, I wrote an entry about New Year’s resolutions, and my decision to finally give them a try. In that same entry, I resolved to update my blog a lot more often – something I’ve pulled off rather well as of late, considering my past track record. Of course, this entails me constantly looking for new things to write. Seeing as how I’ve reignited my passion for comics after a few years’ dormancy, it only seems natural that I give writing comic reviews a shot.

(Sorta-long aside: in that very same entry, Paolo pointed out a rather embarrassing oversight on my part – I credited Foreigner with a Survivor song. As much as I’d like to sulk about my mistake, especially since MY FATHER HAS BEEN MAKING ME LISTEN TO THE SONG EVER SINCE I WAS A KID AND IT’S BEEN A PART OF MY SOUL SINCE GOD KNOWS WHEN SO I NEVER SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN IT WRONG IN THE FIRST PLACE, I’ll suck it up, blame it on my current bout of insomnia, and repay Paolo’s call by plugging GeekFight, which he hosts. It is, by far, the most fun Trivia Night series I’ve attended, and the next one’s on this coming Monday, January 11, at Last Home, near Robinson’s Pioneer. Also, this coming Monday will serve as Paolo’s de facto birthday party, so it’s bound to be dripping with awesome.)

Anyhoots, I figured I’d kick off the year’s reviews with an event that started the moment Brian Michael Bendis pretty much took over the Marvel Universe – Siege. To be precise, I’ll be reviewing Siege #1, written by the infamous bald scribe and illustrated by Olivier Coipel.

Siege is hyped up to be culmination of all the Bendis-helmed major crossover events, making it a project that was at least seven years in the making (the event has its roots in Avengers Disassembled, which ran in the late parts of 2004). It’s this fact alone that has me a little disappointed in the series from the get-go. As of now, Siege’s main series is scheduled to consist of just four issues, which is an extremely short payoff for something Marvel’s been trying to make you drool over for the past year or so. This theme seems to carry over into the series’ debut issue, as one-third of the main story has already been released via previews and teaser comics. Six of the 23 story pages have already seen print, and the rest of the 38-page comic (discounting ads) consists of Joe Quesada’s obligatory primer on the event, supplementary material on Siege, and a preview for Fall of the Hulks. In terms of page count alone, Siege #1’s new content fails to live up to the insane hype machine that’s been running since BEFORE the event was announced.

That said, the content does show that Siege has the potential to be an awesome event. People tend to hate on Bendis a lot, but you can’t argue with the man’s ability to create plots that mirror American society today without really being too preachy. Siege is no different. The whole idea behind the crossover is that Norman Osborn’s attempts to “purify” America under his image have reached insane heights. He believes that the realm of Asgard (the home of the Norse gods which for reasons too long to explain now floats over Oklahoma) is a threat to his rise to power, and so he crafts a plot that paints Asgard as a foreign threat to the American way of life, one that needs to be removed from American territory immediately. And so he wages war. On a city of fucking GODS.

The previously-released pages provide the most relevant plot points of the issue, and parallel the events that led to a past Bendis crossover, Civil War. While many fans on the net cry foul at this supposed lack of originality, I see it as bloody brilliant. If Osborn’s goal is to gain support for his assault on Asgard, what better way to do it than to manufacture an incident that so closely mirrored what ignited public outrage against the superhero community as a whole? We all know how society is prone to knee-jerk reactions when it comes to history potentially repeating itself, and Bendis was all too eager to point out how this tendency can be manipulated by people in power.

The rest of the issue lays the foundation for the many side-plots that arise from Osborn’s insane agenda – Victoria Hand’s growing doubt, Ares’ wavering loyalty to Osborn, the Dark Avengers’ motivation for engaging in this suicide mission despite their diminishing trust in Osborn, the White House’s indignation at Osborn’s course of action, and Loki’s cunning manipulation of the events that transpire. You just know that Bendis is setting Stormin’ Norman up to fail, and yet, in the pages that follow, you can’t help but think that the megalomaniac will come out on top. The final panel presents a glimmer of hope, however, in a manner that seems almost poetic when Civil War is taken into consideration.

Olivier Coipel does a decent job of handling the issue’s artistic duties. I never really followed the guy (the last I’ve seen of his work was House of M, another Bendis collaboration), so I can’t really provide a solid critique of the artist in general. From what he’s done in the first issue of Siege, though, we can see that he’s more than capable of making Bendis’ story flow visually. The information in the story is so condensed that it’s better suited for a 32-page spread, but Coipel manages to make everything feel just right despite the lack of space. His visual style is a fine match for the story’s tone, as the whole shebang comes off as one of those epic action movies. Think Black Hawk Down as compared to Rush Hour, and you’ll see what I mean.

I do have one teeny-tiny nitpick, however. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Ivan Reis’ fantastic work on Blackest Night, but Coipel’s last panel didn’t seem to give off the impact it should have. It was potentially one of the series’ most defining moments, but while the intention was clear, the execution seemed lackluster.

All in all, if the mega-crazy-super-duper-hyper-hype is disregarded, Siege #1 feels like an excellent kick-off to the final part of Bendis’ nearly decade-long saga. The man has done an impeccable job of returning the Avengers to relevance and defining Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor as the foundations of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. I never really cared for these characters before, but now I find myself clamoring for their long-anticipated reunion.

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