Roundtable Review: Talking About ‘Siege’ #4 [Spoilers]
ComicsAlliance writers Chris Sims, David Brothers and David Uzumeri sit down for a roundtable discussion about the newly released "Siege #4. WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW.
Laura: Kick it off, David.
David U: Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel's "Siege" is the capstone to a five-year event cycle beginning with Bendis's "Avengers Disassembled," seeking to bring the rapid-fire onslaught of status quo changes to the Marvel Universe since then to a close. Unlike most of Marvel's recent crossover events, it's not very high-concept: "Norman Osborn invades Asgard" is a fairly nebulous description of an event to anyone who doesn't know who Norman Osborn and Asgard are, unlike the "superhero registration" or "alien invasion" coffee table pitches of "Civil War" and "Secret Invasion." As such, it serves largely as a series of loosely connected climaxes, each paying off years of stories Bendis has been seeding. This week sees the release of "Siege" #4, alongside "Dark Avengers" #16 and the "New Avengers Finale", ending this era of Avengers history and setting the universe up for, ostensibly, a new age of relatively self-contained, character-driven stories.
Chris: From what I understand, the idea here is to give the fans what they say they want (but don't necessarily support monetarily), which is an end of the big events. Unless you're reading the Cosmic books. Or the X-Men books. Or the Hulk books. So what'd you guys think of "Siege" as an ending to all this? I know where I stand, but I'm curious to see if I'm the iconoclast.
David U: I loved "Siege" until this issue, which was pretty much total disappointment.
David B: I feel like it set up the Heroic Age perfectly, but really could've been about three issues shorter. This issue boils down to "They beat up the bad guys and then they all got their wishes and now everything is okay again."David U: The entire resolution of the Sentry situation was utterly disappointing. "Kill me!" "No." "RARRRRRRR KILL ME" "OK."
Chris: I also think it's important to note that the only reason Thor doesn't just straight up kill him the first time is that he's being a dick about it. "Kill me!" "NO. YOU NEED TO SIT THERE AND THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU'VE DONE."
David U: Everyone seemed totally okay with icing Bob, too. You didn't have whiny Peter Parker in the back screaming "YOU COULD HAVE FOUND ANOTHER WAY!"
David B: It felt more like Bendis ticking off checklist boxes rather than telling a story. "Here's why Thor and the Avengers are friends again, here is what sets up Thunderbolts, here is the end of the Sentry."
Chris: Yeah, I felt "Siege" #4 was a monumental disappointment. This has been the first big Bendis comic I've read in years, and I was actually really enjoying it, but this last issue... I mean, it drops the ball hard.
David U: "Welp everyone, it had to be done, and now that we've killed a paranoid schizophrenic we can be heroes again!"
Chris: All that stuff you liked about Loki in the "Siege: Loki" one-shot? Completely irrelevant. The Loki in this is a completely different guy with what appear to be completely different motivations.
David U: That seemed REALLY weird to me, because it's not like Gillen hadn't had a chance to read this script before writing that, I'm pretty sure. Bendis works insanely ahead, and I can't imagine Gillen would actively work at cross purposes. I'm wondering if Loki's story isn't over.
Chris: There's zero plot. It's just guys hitting each other, and not in the fun old-school Marvel way: They just hit each other, and then some deus ex machina magic shows up for three pages and then goes away, but then they win anyway? It's a mess.
David U: I mean, honestly - Loki went out like a *b-tch*. Really, everyone in this issue went out like a b-tch. After Coipel nailed all these grand, majestic vistas, we just see the Sentry killed in a 1/4-page-panel hammersplat. And before you guys ask: No, the Sentry's power and its origin is not explored or explained in "Dark Avengers" OR "New Avengers" this week.
David B: I think tying into the zero plot issue -- what was with all the posing? Loki powering up the Avengers, the last page, Cap confronting Osborn... it felt a lot like watching an episode of the Power Rangers. "We have a new attack!" *sentai pose*
Chris: But at the same time, I feel like that's kind of an appropriate bookend for what started with Avengers Disassembled. I mean, it's got the ridiculous "NOT LIKE THIS!" deaths and the sloppy storytelling that's sort of been the earmark of big events for the past few years. Did it feel padded to you guys?
David U: "Siege"? Naw, I thought it was pretty breakneck until this, but that was probably because I was expecting more stuff to pay off. Like, I dunno, for Alexander to show up and kill the Sentry by terrorizing him with his fear of the Void.
Chris: I mean, Norman Osborn clocks Cap in the head and then runs away, but then he's immediately stopped and the next time we see him Cap's just carrying him around like nothing happened. What was the point of that, other than for Volstagg to poke his head in and remind everyone that he's allegedly part of this comic?
David U: Yeah, there was a lot of "and now we touch base with this scene, which is expanded on in this tie-in issue." The Volstagg/Osborn stuff's expanded in Embedded, you see more of Hood/Masque in the last issue of New Avengers...
David B: Captain America fighting crime "his way" in Secret Avengers.
David U: I thought the "his way" thing was a reference to his magical ability to get passed legislation overturned overnight. Like, literally overnight. Did Cap just walk into Congress and go "NO MORE REGISTRATION!" and everyone clapped and he went "PEACE!" and left?
Chris: It's the same kind of legislation that goes into effect immediately at midnight and after that and at 12:01, they kick in Prodigy's door and shoot to kill. Things move quick in the Marvel Universe.
Chris: But while we're on the subject of tie-ins, I have to say: With the totally awesome moment where the Hood shoots at Balder and Balder flips his bullet back at him with his sword that Gillen threw into Thor #609, I was expecting the actual Asgardians to have way more to do with this than they did.
David B: So, I have a question, as the relative newbie/skeptic in the room. How did Norman manage to invade Asgard without anyone crying foul or stopping him? Does he have complete, 100% command of a military organization?
Chris: Basically, yes.
David U: It took until #2 for Obama to go "Hey, this guy's invading Oklahoma!"
David B: Does that stretch suspension of disbelief for you guys?
Chris: I know it's pretty unrealistic that a government official could lie and get forces involved in an illegal war on shaky, almost nonexistent evidence, but hey, that's comics for you.
Chris: (YOU JUST GOT LIBERALBURNED)
Chris: (I can only assume you guys are busy high-fiving each other over my political insight)
David B: High fiving so hard my hand is sore!)
David B: I do want to say one thing about "Siege." I didn't much like the story, but the art has been fantastic. Olivier Coipel is a talented guy.
Chris: Yeah, it's a really good-looking book. But at the same time, I wish he'd been given more to do. David, you mentioned that the actual climax of the book doesn't even get a half-page panel. But I probably sound like I'm just looking for a fight.
David U: Yeah, Bendis just -- he just needs to work on his spectacle, I think that's what it comes down to. He did a great job, and here it got so tied up in predictable, already-spoiled conclusions that nothing had any weight. We all knew Sentry was gonna go down, but if he'd gone down in some way that was remarkable or cool or interesting or gorgeous, none of us would care about the spoiler. We get a two-page spread of guys standing around (which is really nice, don't get me wrong), but the actual action seems really cramped. Which might be on purpose, too: Everything sort of building and building and then at the end we can finally breathe again.
David B: The spectacle feels very half-hearted and rote. Loki gets his moment of absurd sadness ("I'm sorry, brother"), Osborn gets hit with the shield, and Iron Man turns a helicarrier into a bullet. Bendis is going for the cheap pop, the stuff he knows people will go "Whooo!" over, but he doesn't build it up enough to where it actually has any impact.
David U: The Helicarrier thing was such bush-league widescreen. It's the most obvious thing.
Chris: But that doesn't necessarily make it bad. I mean, if he hadn't done it, would we be sitting here going "Why didn't they just drop the friggin' helicarrier on him?"
David U: True, but I just wish there'd been NEAT ways to dispatch these threats. And Loki's death was just -- such an afterthought, almost. What did that mean? What did that accomplish? Are we going to have to wait until Matt Fraction's "Thor"?
David B: I think what makes the helicarrier not work for me is that the Avengers get powered up, do their Avengers Assemble Level Three Super Combo, lose all their power, and THEN they can kill the thing? Why?
Chris S: That's one of the things I meant by padding: What's the point of the Magical Super-Boost that only lasts three pages? And two of those pages are people going "OH WOW I FEEL WAY STRONGER!" And the third is them going "Aw, we lost those powers we had."
David B: Even the Sentry's death -- we've seen that a million times before. A guy turns into a monster, gets turned back, begs for someone to kill him, they refuse, he turns into a monster again, and everyone is like "Psych! Okay, we'll kill you."
David U: Yeah, that's the big thing: I don't understand why the Sentry is dead. I mean, the Watchtower - which I only just now realized is a Void construct, which is really clever - disappears, so he seems to be gone 4 realz.
David B: Except if he is the Angel of Death, is he gone forever? Is that setting up a big Return of the Void arc a year from now?
Chris: ...except that if you read the "Fallen Sun" (groan!) one-shot, CLOC's going to go rebuild the tower somewhere else. So even the silver lining of "Siege" #4 -- which is that we never have to see the Sentry again -- isn't there.
David U: Yeah, it seems like the Sentry isn't gone for good. I don't even know why they bothered with the funeral.
David B: Siege #4 was supposed to end the series, but it doesn't actually feel like anything wrapped up naturally, and the stuff that did wrap up is reduced to bullet points.
David U: It's an exercise in futility, like mourning Jean Grey.
Chris: Yeah. And I don't know about you guys, but I feel a little cheated that Spider-Man didn't get to take down Norman Osborn. Well, "cheated" is the wrong word for it, but you know what I mean.
David U: The extra powers the Norn Stones gave them were really vague, too. Like, what did they DO to Luke Cage? Make his skin extra-bulletproof?
David B: His skin went from hard as Steel to as hard as Steel+.
Chris: Hard as Steel (Starring Shaquille O'Neal).
David B: You can handwave the Norn Stones upgrade as "Oh, everything they do is more effective," but then the Void just goes ahead and kills Loki. Why didn't someone else pick up the Stones and make a wish?
Chris: Hopefully this was all just some big production by Loki. That's really the only way it works, if this was his big, distracting fake death. Like, he's trying to get the death that Skurge got for real, so he stages this big, flashy, grandiose smoke-and-mirrors moment and then "dies."
David U: This whole fight is so RPG last-boss. Oh no! We're down to 1 HP! OH SNAP LOKI JUST PUT US UP TO 9999!
David U: GUYS THE VOID IS SWITCHING FORMS
Chris: OH NO THE VOID IS ACTUALLY DR. WILY! QUICK USE SEARCH SNAKE
David B.The one-shot recently set up a situation where Loki does not go to Hel if he dies, is that right?
Chris: That would actually make me like "Siege" #4 a lot better. The Loki thing I mean, not the Dr. Wily thing. Like, if it rings false because it's SUPPOSED to be this obvious fakeout. But then again, should there be an obvious fakeout that leads to other stuff in a book that's meant to bookend an entire "era" of Marvel Comics?
David U: Well, if it was a fakeout, then I would have liked even a last-page thing, you know?
Chris: Yeah, but then we would've only had one page of dudes standing around instead of two. Get with it, Uzumeri.
David B: I still don't buy that we're looking at a new era, except in terms of who is on the Avengers. Bendis's era was at least partially defined by the classic Avengers team being replaced with different characters. The new era has those same characters, except now Cap, Tony, and Thor are best buds again.
Chris: What would you prefer?
David B: I'm open to either, honestly, but it feels like the new era is more marketing than anything else. The same guys telling slightly different stories, only all the stuff that they "broke" a few years ago is back to normal. I mean, Speedball's back, Cap is back, Tony has been washed clean, Thor is back, and Spider-Man is on a big team. It feels like having your cake and eating it, too. Not that that is a bad thing, I agree, it just seems weird that the new boss is just the old boss in a funny mustache.
Chris: Don't get me wrong, I think it's a good thing. But it's more about the Avengers, and by extension Captain America, Thor and Iron Man, than Marvel as a whole. Which is weird, because it's being billed as the end of an era, but next month, the exact same guys are still going to be working on it. Like, you'd think this would be Brian Bendis's big swan song as the guy behind the Avengers, but he's sticking around. And I'm not saying he should be ousted or anything; I'm not a huge fan of his Avengers stuff, but the guy makes money and people like him. It's just weird how it's being set up as this huge End of an Era.
David U: He said he considered that, but he said he wanted to try writing Avengers like... like he wasn't Bendis, and wanted to try to come onto Avengers and do the exact opposite of what that guy Bendis did. So while he's had like five years of Avengers stories that were relatively lo-fi for the franchise, mostly just international espionage with some supernatural elements, this is going to be like SUPERHEROES! VERSUS! KANG!
Chris: Ha! I hadn't heard that. That's kind of fun, although it begs the question of "if you could've been writing something better than this all along, why weren't you?" If these are the stories you wanted to tell, then why didn't you? But at the same time, I can respect and understand the desire to shake something up and do something different, and to eventually get tired of it and want to wrap things up. I guess that has to do with the big event cycle of the Marvel Universe sort of necessitating a certain kind of storytelling. It's just weird that it's the same guys doing both. Not that this is the first, second, third, forty-fifth, or last time that comics readers have been sold a bill of goods reading "A BOLD NEW ERA."
David B: But this time they mean it! It's going to be puppies and sunshine from here on out!
David U: I remember before "Siege," [editor Tom] Brevoort kept promising that in no way at the end of "Siege" would everything go back to the status quo. And ---- this is pretty much the status quo.
David B: I know it's early yet, but what do we know about the Heroic Age? Can you sum it up in a sentence or two?
David U: Steve Rogers runnin' the show, no more registration. But I imagine there's going to be something more to it than that, like there'll be a cultural undertone of the people REALLY LOVING the heroes.
Chris: Except the mutants. Because we know from previous roundtables that they're always going to be hated and feared. I will say, I wonder what this means for the Avengers as a franchise. It's like the JLA: There was a time when the Justice League could be Vibe and Vixen and Gypsy or Booster Gold and Blue Beetle and Fire and Ice, but after Morrison, you sort of got to a point where you didn't want it to be anyone but Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and assorted hangers on. Is that going to be the same with the Avengers? Are we ever going to see a team lineup again that doesn't have Cap, Thor and Iron Man? And do we want to?
David B: I feel kind of like Bendis and the gang have widened the concept of the Avengers. The Initiative and the Academy are stacked with unknowns and D-listers, the Secret Avengers have long-time B-listers, while the New and adjectiveless Avengers are more heavy-hitter established characters.
David U: I think that the idea of "Hey, let's put ALL of our heavy hitters in one title as the Avengers" actually wasn't Bendis, it was Millar at a retreat. Brevoort was skeptical, but Bendis ran with the concept and built a pitch. At least this is how I've always seen it talked about.
Chris: Really? Because I'm pretty sure that idea was Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in '62.
David B: Kapow.
David U: B-B-B-Brutality.
Chris: I've mentioned before that I don't really think Marvel needs to come out and say that this is their new direction, although I appreciate the sentiment, because it's sort of ALWAYS been their direction. They've always been the universe that was built on this underdog-overcoming-the-odds stuff. And it's not like the entire line has been all dark and grim: While Bendis & Co. had Norman Osborn in charge of the government or Civil War going on, there were still guys like Jeff Parker, Matt Fraction, Jason Aaron, Cornell, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente doing bright, fun stories. Again, you'd be hard-pressed to tell me there was an air of defeatism about "Incredible Hercules" or that issue of X-Men where they fight Not-Godzilla.
David U: Honestly, I never even thought Bendis's Avengers stuff was all that grim. It was certainly a bit more grimy and down-and-dirty, but I'm not sold on "grim." For one, the books were largely still pretty funny.
Chris: Yeah, and they took care of the grim, depressing aspects in at least one of their books by getting Spider-Man unhitched. Am I right, fellas?
David U: Tune your ear to the frequency of despair, and cross-reference by the longitude and latitude of a heart in agony.
Laura: Worst opener in comics or very worst opener in comics?
David U: If something trumps it, I've never read it.
David B: Worst opener in the history of letters.
Chris: What is that?
David U: That's the first line of "One More Day."
Chris: You're kidding me.
David U: Nope, that's the honest to God first line.
Chris: Man. That just ground this right to a halt.
Laura: That a good note to end on, then?