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Hot Ink — Siege: The Cabal, Sweet Tooth #4, Supergod #2, Nuns Without Guns

WHAT’S THE OPPOSITE OF “A SHOCKING TURN OF EVENTS”? – Siege: The Cabal

This week Marvel kicks off its next big event with “Siege: The Cabal,” the first issue published under the “Siege” banner that leads up to “Siege” #1 next month. Once more we see Norman Osborn’s Cabal, a small group of powerful villains that by some miracle was not called the “Dark Illuminati.”

Membership is down since the Cabal was first introduced when “Dark Reign” began, with Emma Frost and Namor leaving after exchanging death threats and other pleasantries with Norman. Now it’s Doctor Doom’s turn to voice his doubts to Cabal co-conspirators Loki and Osborn.

Not since Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan formed an alliance between two nations founded on racial superiority despite having entirely different ethnic makeups has there been a coalition more obviously destined for total failure. The only reason I can accept the fact that Osborn, Loki and Doom would all ally themselves with people who are clearly manipulating them and will betray them in the end is because they’re doing it too, and each one has a big enough ego to think that they’re going to pull it off better than the others. But the fact that Osborn is surprised when the Doctor Doom who shows up to the elaborate death trap he’s prepared is not the real Doom at all, but in fact a robot duplicate bearing a death trap of its own, does not bode at all well for Norman’s future tactical exploits.So, one horrific failure down and one more empty seat at the Cabal conference table and Osborn’s off to brainstorm with his good friend and poorly chosen confidant Loki. Norman, you see, is unhappy with the presence of Asgard on American soil. Well, technically hovering several feet above American soil. Nevertheless, he wants it gone. And Loki’s got a plan. If you’ve read our earlier coverage of “Siege” on ComicsAlliance, you know what that plan is. And you know where Loki got it. He read “Civil War,” too.

Now, I’m not as down on “Civil War” as a lot of people are. I think if the only other comics you compare it to are the other big company crossover events of the past decade, it comes out looking pretty good. But seriously, Brian Michael Bendis. You’re telling me that the best idea that the immortal Norse god of trickery and mischief can come up with is to just copy something he saw on the news a while ago? Coming from most characters that would sound ridiculous, coming from Loki makes it a sloppy justification for a not particularly creative idea.

As the issue concludes Loki’s plan is put into action. An Asgardian is placed in the center of an event of catastrophic violence that kills thousands, clearing the way for Osborn to get the war against Asgard he so desperately desires. Now, if you read my review of “Thor” from last week you’ll note I was a little bothered by the fact that in preparation for “Siege” two of the more interesting minor characters in the recent run were killed off. But I did specifically mention one bright moment to be found in the issue that came from a scene with Volstagg.

Well, hey, guess who’s blowing up in the middle of a football stadium on the last page of “Siege: The Cabal”? It’s almost like they’re trying to make me not want to read this event. Marvel, you know what other character I’m rather fond of? Red Hulk. That guy’s great, nothing but classic scene after classic scene. It would be terrible if something happened to him and I never saw him in a comic ever again.

Oh, one last parting comment that’s bothering me about this one. David Finch and Jason Keith’s cover art, featuring a confrontation between Doom and Osborn, looks good. But it raises a question. Doctor Doom is encased in a suit of armor that renders him nearly invulnerable, grants him superhuman strength, and has been known to fire all manner of energy beams. In addition to that, he’s a master of the magical arts. So can somebody please tell me why he needs to wear a pistol on his belt? When in comics has Doom pulled a handgun on someone, yelled “Doom is going to end you” and put a cap in their skull?

ROCKY ROAD – Sweet Tooth #4

Jeff Lemire’s post-apocalyptic tale of a young boy and his mysterious protector released its fourth issue this week, and I’m getting to like this one more with each installment. When last we left young Gus and his protector Mr. Jepperd, they’d wandered into an abandoned town, discovered a large pile of corpses, and then stumbled upon a young woman with rabbit ears alone in an empty building. As this issue opens they’re in for some surprises.

First off, the girl’s ears are false and Gus, with his antlers, remains the only child with animal features to be encountered in the story so far. Oh, and the girl isn’t exactly alone. The husband and wife who’ve brutally forced her into a life of prostitution are there too, and they’ve got guns pointed at Jepperd and Gus.

Now, I could quibble about the questionable business model of running a brothel in what appears to be an otherwise abandoned town, but the story’s good enough that I’m not going to get hung up on the details. By the time the issue’s done, Jepperd has both continued to demonstrate his willingness to protect the powerless and his uncanny skill for horrific violence.

Each issue of “Sweet Tooth” continues to give us a slightly larger glimpse into its setting, and another part of the picture of how so many people died and how the survivors have found ways to carry on. And Lemire is impressively building the tension inherent in the relationship between Gus and Jepperd. Gus, alone without his father for almost his entire life, is quickly accepting Jepperd as a replacement father figure, trusting him a little more every time the old man saves his life.

Yet at the same time each episode casts further doubt on whether or not this is a wise decision for Gus to make. Jepperd’s past remains a mystery, although one of the few things we do know about him is that he’s very, very good at killing people. He’s taken great risks to protect Gus, but we’re continually reminded that if turned over to the right people Gus would earn Jepperd a small fortune. And each stranger the pair meet casts doubt on the existence of the Preserve, the fabled safe place for animal hybrid children that Jepperd has promised as the final destination for his and Gus’ journey. Gus maintains an innocent hope that things will turn out all right, but Jepperd’s a man with dangerous secrets and it remains to be seen if one day, one will turn out to be dangerous for Gus instead of those who seek to harm him.

THE TITLE I DECIDED AGAINST PUTTING HERE WAS AN ANAGRAM OF “HOLY CARP” – Supergod #2/Nuns Without Guns

Ah, religion. In the thousands of years of human history before people had comics to guide them to well-meaning but sometimes misguided life decisions and inspire page after page of fanfiction, religion served a similar role. This week sees two comics influenced by humanity’s major religions, and they come at them from profoundly different perspectives.

On the one hand there’s “Supergod” #2, the second issue in Warren Ellis’ series comparing man’s need for superpowered saviors to man’s need for deities. On the other there’s “Nuns Without Guns,” a sh
ort graphic novel published by Viper Comics about four special ops nuns with mystic abilities who must prevent the destruction of the world by the Anti-Christ. Sadly neither approach resulted in a product that could fairly be labeled “the good book”.

When I reviewed the last issue of “Supergod” I expressed hope that the format of the first issue, where an old scientist speaking in the aftermath of a terrible disaster gives a lecture on how man’s desire to create its own gods led to the destruction of the world, would not be continued. That hope was in vain.

Not only is the story still presented in the same style, it’s less effective this time. The narrator jumps from event to event, which feels natural in that it sounds as if you’re listening to a man struggling to remember the facts and veering to new topics as he suddenly recalls something important.

In a way it feels almost biblical, as events are presented in order and supported by occasional commentary with the ultimate goal of teaching the audience a lesson. The problem is that I keep finding myself wishing for more of a coherent narrative. The plot elements of what could be a compelling story are evident but they’re presented in a way that robs them of any sense character development or feeling that the events of the story are organized in a coordinated manner that’s going somewhere.

I think Ellis has a lot of interesting commentary to put forward on the topics at hand, but “Supergod” feels trapped between something that’s not quite an essay and not quite a real story. I’d be happy with it if it were one or the other, but I’m not going to keep reading what it actually is.

And then there’s “Nuns Without Guns.” There are so many things wrong with this book. For starters, in a book called “Nuns Without Guns,” the first of the four main nuns we’re introduced to is firing a gun in the very first panel where she’s shown. But that’s a specific and pedantic point to make, in comparison to the larger flaws in the planning of the book.

For example, if you’re going to do a fight scene in which four nuns in black habits combat an army of cultists, it may not be the best idea to also give the cultists black robes. Red is just as evil a color, and does not result in creating a final tableau that’s a dark mishmash of big crowd shots where all the characters are almost indistinguishable from one another.

But the real problem with “Nuns Without Guns is simply this: if you’re doing a book starring a special operations team of four nuns with divine elemental powers, some of whom know martial arts, then it should either be so ridiculously over the top that it’s hilarious or at least so bad that it’s good. The result here is merely boring, and I should not be this bored by a book in which a nun with a flaming sword fights a lobster-man with an octopus head.

All of the characters take themselves far too seriously, in a way that doesn’t mesh with either the basic premise of the book or the lighthearted visuals. The few attempts at humor fall flat, and yet their mere presence renders ineffective any attempts to set serious stakes or create any sense of drama. This book feels like it was supposed to be fun, and the concept of action nun strike team seems like an easy source for at least a few giggles. But chances are you giggled more reading the phrase “action nun strike team” than you will actually reading “Nuns Without Guns.”

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