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Marvel Under Siege

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The latest Marvel crossover, Siege, is really the last installment in a megaevent that Marvel has been running for over half a decade. How did they do it and what lies ahead? 

When Brian Michael Bendis took over writing The Avengers in 2004, it was advertised as the start of something big, the first domino in a string that would change the Marvel universe forever. Many thought this was purely advertising hyperbole, or that it only referred to the “Avengers Disassembled” arc, which destroyed the Avengers team and set the stage for the New Avengers.

But what “Avengers Disassembled” did was set up a series of events that would shape the face of the Marvel universe for the remainder of the decade. It led to the New Avengers, New Avengers: Illuminati, and House of M. New Avengers: Illuminati begat World War Hulk, Civil War, and Secret Invasion. The Civil War and Secret Invasion  series’ inspired the “Dark Reign” event, which culminates in this week’s Siege. And this is a very simple hierarchy of events. There is far more intermarriage between titles and events than I listed here.

All of these events and miniseries form one megaevent. One which has been running for over five years and has not missed a beat. One so well planned, so well thought out that all the component events blend seamlessly into one another.

This is an unbelievably difficult task. To see how hard it is to make this kind of cascading series of events work, all we have to do is look at what DC did during this time.

The constant criticism of DC’s events during this time could be seen as our belaboring the point. But it does prove our point. 52 was launched with a “One Year Later” event spanning all the DC books. Every title was bumped ahead one year in continuity with many changes to the various status quos. We were meant to find out what caused all these changes in the weekly 52 series. But we didn’t find out what happened until week 50, when a quickly produced, poor quality four-issue 52: World War III was released all in the same week and then gave shoddy explanations for all the “One Year Later” changes.

The next weekly DC series, Countdown to Final Crisis, was advertised by DC head honcho Dan DiDio as being “52 done right.” A more incorrect statement was never made. At least 52, had an interesting story with powerful character arcs. Countdown to Final Crisis couldn’t even live up to its title, as it contradicted the Morrison series more than it set the stage for it. Add to that the fact you had a series like Countdown: Arena that was supposed to play an important part in the series, but really had no effect other than wringing more money from gullible fans.

Why has Marvel succeeded when DC has failed? It all comes down to planning. Marvel’s creative retreats are stuff of Twitter page and Wizard interview legend. The major creative forces of the Marvel universe come together to brainstorm the course the various events will take the Marvel characters on. They work out a battle plan and make sure every duck is in a row and everyone knows what their responsibility is.

Siege has an air of finality about it, like it will be the last installment in this string of events. It promises the downfall of Norman Osborn, who has rigged an ill-advised invasion of Asgard to firm up his power base. The series also promises a reuniting of Marvel’s big three—Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor—as the former Avengers fight against Osborn’s machinations.

It has been a long trip since Bendis made the Scarlet Witch destroy the Avengers. But it all has led up to some very interesting stories. If Siege marks the end of the line, well, I guess it will be about time. But part of me is sad to see the wild ride come to an end.

Also out this week:


Siege: Embedded #1:

Every big Marvel event miniseries usually comes with a companion series of its own. Usually, the series has “Front Line” in the title, like Civil War: Front Line or Secret Invasion: Front Line and it typically gave a view of the events as seen by the average Marvel human.

Well, this is a siege, not a war or an invasion, so instead of a front line, we become embedded. It is not known if the perspective of the series will change. Signs point to “no” as this series promises to detail the change in public perception towards that hero of the Skrull invasion, Norman Osborn. What? An unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation can cause a dip in the polls? Who would have thought that would be possible?

Brian Reed (W), Chris Samnee (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Mass Effect: Redemption #1:

Mass Effect was one of the biggest video games of 2007. It was a sci-fi themed action role playing game that gave players the chance to form how good or evil their characters were by the choices they made.  It was critically acclaimed, won many awards and garnered a fair bit of controversy for a sex scene included in the storyline.

The eagerly-awaited second installment of the Mass Effect trilogy is due in stores on January 25, and just in time for the game’s release, Dark Horse is giving us a tie-in miniseries co-written by one of the game’s writers. If you have been counting the days until Mass Effect 2 hit store shelves, you finally have something to keep you occupied in the home stretch.

Mac Walters & John Jackson Miller (W), Omar Francia (A), Dark Horse Comics, $3.50. Four-Issue Miniseries.


Orc Stain #1:

If you asked any professional thief which superpower they would like to have, they’d probably answer invisibility or intangibility. If you let them list as many as they could think of, they might say finding the weak spot of any object. Seriously, they would know exactly where to hit to open any safe, vault or register.

That is the talent the one-eyed orc has in this series. And this ability has come in quite handy for him, and has helped him line his pockets many times over the years. But now it seems this ability can be used on other things than just structures. He now can see the cracks in the way of life of his people. But will he make any changes to help his fellow orcs? Does he even want to?

James Stokoe (W/A), Image Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Marvel Boy: The Uranian #1:

One of the most interesting characters in Agents of Atlas, and there are many, has to be The Uranian. Insanely powerful, yet mysterious and distant, he provides an interesting counterpoint to other, more demonstrative team members such as Gorilla-Man and Venus. Of course, he wasn’t always so moody and mysterious. He once was a gregarious sci-fi hero in Marvel’s Atlas books of the 1950s known as Marvel Boy.

This series seems like a retcon of that time in Marvel Boy’s career. We will see what happened to Bob Grayson to make him change from the happy-go-lucky young man of the 1950s to the brooding figure of today. Brought to you by Agents of Atlas writer Jeff Parker, so you know it will be good.

Jeff Parker (W), Felix Ruiz (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Three-Issue Miniseries.

Suicide Squad #67:

If I was funnier, I would have come up with some kind of joke about the fact that this issue arrives almost 18 years after Suicide Squad #66. I would probably work Daredevil: Target  and Marvels: Eye of the Camera into the gag as well. But there wasn’t any creator malfeasance involved in the almost two decade delay between issues. DC is simply releasing new issues of its long defunct titles as a Blackest Night tie-in.

But original Suicide Squad writer John Ostrander is back writing this issue, joined by superstar writer Gail Simone. The Squad has a lot of corpses added up over the years, both team members and team opponents. So it’s no surprise that the risen-from-the-dead Black Lanterns have targeted the Squad’s most dangerous killer, Deadshot. But the assassin is being targeted by another group as well—his former teammates, the Suicide Squad!

John Ostrander & Gail Simone (W), J. Calafiore (A), DC Comics, $2.99. One-Shot.

Punisher MAX: Get Castle #1:

Whether you consider the turning of the mainstream Marvel Punisher into a Frankenstein-like monster an act of unfettered genius or a travesty against one of Marvel’s greatest characters (I, myself, haven’t made up my mind yet) you can rest assured that the old school Frank Castle still exists. Only thing is you have to be 18 or older to read him.

Yes, the MAX version of the heavily-armed vigilante is still gunning down bad guys at an alarming rate. And, because Marvel thinks there might still be an audience for more than one book featuring the classic Punisher on the stands, it is giving us a series of one-shots in addition to the regular PunisherMAX series. So, if you like your Punisher to be the kind of monster who kills bad guys indiscriminately instead of one held together with stitches and glue, and if you are old enough, then MAX is the place for you. 

Rob Williams (W), Laurence Campbell (A), MAX/Marvel Comics, $4.99. One-Shot.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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