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Trading Up: Siege

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Siege was labeled as the non-event event of Marvel Comics.  Rather than the long, drawn-out eight-issue miniseries readers are accustomed to, Brian Bendis penned a short, four-issue series and a quick prologue.  There were limited tie-ins, and, at the end, a brand new and refreshing status quo.

While Siege does achieve these listed objectives, it lacks emotion. Fans of Bendis may know his style to be slowly paced, but this pace allows him to present both a grandiose plot as well as heartfelt character moments.

Even his events enrich the Marvel Universe with characters that readers may not have even cared for before.  This is often quite a feat, as events function as transitions from one status quo to another, resulting in plot-heavy story that sometimes leaves behind emotion or motivation.

Siege, in its four issues, feels too quick. Readers of Marvel Comics for the past two years will know that Dark Reign has put an awful lot of tension between characters. Norman Osborn, the infamous Green Goblin, has been put in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. (renamed H.A.M.M.E.R). A number of the Avengers have been struggling with ways to bring Osborn down, but to their frustration, were unable to.

Osborn has also introduced his own team of Avengers, many of which are impostors.  Dakken, for instance, is posing as Wolverine.  Bullseye is pretending to be Hawkeye. 

Finally, Steve Rogers, Iron Man, and Thor have not stood together since Avengers: Disassembled, when the team fell apart.  Their reunion has been coming for years.

All of these events, and many more, came to a head in Siege, when Osborn decides to invade Asgard, which has appeared floating over Oklahoma.  Unauthorized by the government, Osborn leads his Avengers to war, simply because he sees the Asgardians’ presence as a threat.  In an effort to defend their fellow Avenger Thor, Steve Rogers and his team of Avengers head into the fight as well.

When it seems that the tension and growing feuds between characters should finally climax, they are instead sadly ignored or forgotten.  Chances are they were dealt with more closely in related books, such as Dark Avengers or New Avengers, but that leaves readers who only read this collection out in the cold.

Siege also presents the problem of the Sentry.  Readers of the various Avengers books will know that the Sentry has been in a downward spiral for some time.  He finally hits rock bottom in this book, in perhaps the most compelling and interesting aspect of the miniseries.  However, there is no explanation for why this occurs. 

Sure, Bob Reynolds has had his problems with psychosis in the past, but there has always been some motivation for his fall into insanity.  In Siege, out of nowhere, the Sentry is a completely different person. Again, I can only assume the reason appears in Dark Avengers tie-ins, but that still leaves readers asking: Why?

If, in order to fully understand this mini series, I had to also read the Avengers tie-ins, then it seems necessary for them to be included in one collection, much like DC’s Final Crisis collected edition.  It would have produced a smoother and lengthier read without all the holes.

Bendis' reunion with Olivier Coipel is long overdue, and the resulting art work is stunning. Coipel can draw characters with such humanity that a single look can speak more than dialogue.  His action scenes are amazing, but, for me, the real magic is in his characters. Their faces are each unique, and in Siege, readers will see a wide range of emotion cross those faces.

The hardcover collection includes all four issues of Siege, plus The Cabal: Siege and a prologue, both of which introduce the forthcoming story with art by Michael Lark and Lucio Parrillo.  In the back of the book, included as an added bonus, readers are treated to the Free Comic Book Day Avengers book Bendis wrote with art by Jimmy Cheung.

Despite the quick pace of the book, which may leave readers feeling like they’ve read a good outline rather than a full draft, Siege is still a fun, epic masterpiece of Marvel characters.  Fans looking for an close to Dark Reign will be happy with Siege’s ending, and readers of Bendis’ Avengers books can treat this like a showdown and finale.

Marvel tried something different here and that should always be commended.  However, Siege pushes readers in a direction they realize they’re going in from page one, and as a result surprises are few and far between. 

The Siege hardcover edition is available now from Marvel Comics priced $24.99.

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