Review: Siege: The Cabal

Brian Michael Bendis, for all his massive talent on books like PowersAliasDaredevil, etc… has a serious and fundamental problem with event comics.  Specifically, with the ideas of ’cause’ and ‘effect’.  Which is to say, his conclusions have nothing to do with the stories that precede them.  After a few issues of exciting or emotional storytelling, it often peters off into a confused mess of nonsense meant to have ‘gravity’ that really just functions as a way to say “This is where Marvel wanted the status quo to be at the end of the story.”  But with Siege limited to four issues, I figured it was worth it to give one of my formerly favorite writers another shot.

Siege: The Cabal is for the most part utterly disposable.  While some things of note happen, the only BIG one is telegraphed on the book’s cover – the falling out between Doom and the overstepping Norman Osborn.  Still, Bendis actually does a good job here of giving people motives and then following through on those motives, making the proceedings believable, enjoyable and intense.  Each of the main players are distinctly characterized, the dialogue is quick and functional, and the brief action is exciting and surprising, though he plays a particularly obnoxious game in his efforts to hide Osborn’s super-weapon from us.

Lark turns in good work, as Lark always does.  While most artists have little trouble keeping action scenes energetic and exciting (and Lark is definitely capable of that), a strength of his art here is that he (along with Gaudiano and Hollingsworth on inks and colors respectively) also does an excellent job with Bendis’ extended talking heads scenes, using the layout, shadows and angles to help keep the reader’s attention where it needs to be.

Siege: The Cabal also provides a brief, unnecessary preview of the upcoming event that does little to flatter it.  Even Loki essentially says, “This is how Civil War started – let’s do it again!”  If you enjoy minis with dimwitted heroes accidentally murdering thousands of people in an effort to start a frankly unbelievable witch hunt against a subsection of the population, well, then it looks like you can either read Siege or just go read your back-issues of Civil War.  For now, however, those who are excited for the upcoming event will probably find something to get excited about in Siege: The Cabal.  It may be disposable, but it’s still well-crafted.

Grade: B

– Cal Cleary

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Marvel’s SIEGE Primer

That’s right, folks. Desiato is back and ready to talk some Marvel.

Spoilers abound for this one.

 

I’ve done this previously for Dark Reign and War of Kings, and I thought, as the resident Marvel guy lurking in the shadows of a generally DC heavy comic review blog, this is the perfect time to make a triumphant (but most likely short lived) comeback to the world of read/RANT. So let’s talk some Marvel. More specifically, let’s talk SIEGE. Bendis! Coipel! Only four issues! It’s got a strong chance of being pretty awesome. Time to break it down, see where we’ve been and where we’re going, specifically pertaining to the last two months or so of Dark Reign continuity.

As a quick proviso, this article is going to focus on Norman Osborne. To find out what’s going on with the rest of the Cabal, I’m going to be putting up a sort of “Where are they now?” article on my own blog, Musings of the Alpha Primitive. This is partially to be self-serving, and partially because I don’t want this article to be 4,000 words long. That should be posted in a week or so, and I’ll probably update this article with the link when I’ve done it.

By the time folks read this, Dark Avengers #11 will most likely have been released. It comes out on Wednesday. I get my books online through Discount Comic Book Service (the best folks in the planet in many ways), and will not be receiving my copy until the end of the month (which, while lame, is a hell of a lot better than paying cover price).So bear in mind that this Siege preview is being written without the added detail of anything that happened in that issue.

So let’s talk about the most recent pertinent points first. We’ve navigated through just about all of The List. I remember when the list was announced, I was perturbed by the idea of 8 $4 one-shots coming out within a month or two. I wasn’t going to buy them. At the time, I was enjoying, but not totally enamored with Dark Reign. But then I saw the creative teams. Fraction and Davis on X-Men. Bendis and Djurdjevik on Avengers. Remender and JRJR on Punisher. Hickman and Ed McGuinness on Secret Warriors. These are stacked creative teams that are worthy of a $4 purchase (or, in my case, about $2.20 thanks to DCBS). And they were all great. I didn’t read Daredevil and didn’t order Spider-Man because I don’t read those ongoings. But maybe I should have, considering the quality of the other books (and I’m sure I’m going to pick them up during con season on the cheap next year). The List rekindled my interest in Dark Reign.

Add to that the monumental achievement that was World’s Most Wanted, Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca’s world-spanning Iron Man epic that has taken a year to tell (and, honestly, how often do you see twelve issue story arcs these days, especially in ongoing titles?), and Dark Reign has kicked into overdrive. Norman Osborne’s armor is weakening. His hold on the world and his own sanity is slipping. The members of the Cabal are splintering, creating their own alliances against Norman and HAMMER. Everything is coming to a head. Siege is, as some of us know thanks to J Michael Straczynski, at its core the siege of Asgard. We know this, because this is apparently why JMS left the Thor book, because he didn’t want to deal with the crossover. We also know a few other things based on some teaser images that have been released in the past few weeks.

1. Asgard is in trouble. One of the teaser images that has been released is the picture of a burning Asgard plummeting to the ground. It’s still in Oklahoma, and the neighboring sleepy town looks to be in trouble (considering that Asgard is landing directly in the center of it). Considering that the whole point of Siege is Norman Osborne storming Asgard, nothing about this should come as a surprise. But let’s keep some things in mind. First, the Asgardians as we know them are not actually in Asgard right now. Loki, Baldur, basically everyone but Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three are currently in Latveria. Secondly, considering the last panel of World’s Most Wanted, featuring Donald Blake in his Oklahoma hotel room alongside Pepper Potts, Captain America (Bucky) and Black Widow, and that Blake has power of attorney in Tony Stark’s living will and is presumably going to get him, there’s a decent chance that the BIG THREE (and I mean big three, as Cap Reborn should be wrapping up to the extent that I fully expect Steve Rogers to be back with the shield by the beginning of Siege) will be using Asgard as their headquarters/staging ground preparing for some kind of attack on Osborne when he brings the heat to Oklahoma. One would assume that the big three will also bring in folks like the Mighty Avengers to join the cause (probably the X-Men too, but I don’t know if the scope of the book is such that they want everyone involved).

2. Norman Osborne has a secret weapon. This goes all the way back to Dark Reign: The Cabal, and the shadowy figure that Norman’s been using to keep the rest of the Cabal in line. There has been much speculation, and now we’ve got two pieces of information to help us narrow some things down. The first is a teaser image of Norman surrounded by seven pictures and a “WHO IS NORMAN OSBORNE’S SECRET WEAPON?” tag line at the top, and the second is the end to Dark Avengers #10. These are obviously linked, considering that three of the characters are in both images. Let’s take a look at who’s on the teaser image first to get a sense of the possibilities.
2a. Thanos. No chance in hell. This is a red herring. One, the fact that they specifically chose an image of Thanos with the Infinity Gauntlet is too loaded of an image. Take also into consideration the utter arrogance of Thanos, and that there’s no way he would ever go along with someone like Osborne. Plus, there’s the fact that he’s dead. And Abnett and Lanning would probably be a little annoyed if one of the supreme cosmic characters of the Marvel universe suddenly shows up parading around a crossover on earth. Odds: Eleventy-billion to one
2b. Odin. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m getting the no chance in hells out of the way first. Most of the reasoning behind Thanos can also be attributed to Odin. He’s arrogant, and would be exceedingly unlikely to consider Osborne an equal deserving of his time. He’s also dead, and while he did hold a grudge against Thor for not resurrecting him after the most recent Ragnarok, they reconciled during the two issue Thorsleep arc in JMS’ run. Not gonna happen. Odds: 200,000,000,000 to one
2c. Nate Grey. X-Man, eh? So I’m not reading many of the X books. I’m reading Uncanny, but that’s basically it. Dark X-Men seems to be the book that features the return of X-Man, and while I probably should have bought it considering that Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk are piloting the series. Nate’s an omega level mutant, and he’s one of the many folks in this teaser that can actively alter reality. From my perspective, Nate Grey lacks the punch that would be needed to really make Siege pop. Not enough folks would really get enough out of Nate Grey being the big secret baddie. It’s more plausible than Odin or Thanos, but it’s definitely unlikely. Odds: 999 to one
2d. Mephisto. See, now we’re talking. Mephisto has some definite possibilities. He’s definitely shown that he’ll work with anyone if the price is right. And Norman’s definitely crazy enough to have no compunction to make a deal with the devil. Some folks have been attempting to make a link between Mephisto as Norman’s secret weapon and the events of One More Day as a sort of kill two birds situation. I don’t see that happening. Personally, Mephisto’s up there. He works perfectly well in this situation. He could legitimately keep folks in line. Plus, he’s in the last panel of issue ten of Dark Avengers (for the information of those not in the know, Dark Avengers 10 ends with a double page spread featuring Norman Osborne being confronted by a new Dark Cabal consisting of Enchantress, Zarathos, Mephisto, The Beyonder, and Molecule Man on a throne of skulls). Odds: 10 to one
2e. Molecule Man. Molecule Man has some potential and some problems. Rich Johnston leaked some things about Norman’s secret weapon having the MM initials, which certainly points to Molecule Man, but one would think that if this were the case, you might not necessarily give that away at the end of Dark Avengers. But Molecule Man was certainly in power, especially considering his sitting on a throne of skulls and all, and if he can exert his will to dominate folks like Mephisto and The Beyonder, we should probably watch the hell out. Sure, he’s not necessarily dominating these folks, but he’s definitely in the place of power. Of course, there’s also the fact that Norman is completely insane and could be imagining it all. But, if he is imagining it all, is he doing it for a reason? Is it because he’s worried he could lose control of his secret weapon? Hard to say, but I think Molecule Man is, in a way, a little too good of a fit. He doesn’t have a strong personality, and could easily be convinced by Osborne to be his ace in the hole. Odds: 7 to one
2f. The Beyonder. It seems to be the case that Bendis has been itching to use the Beyonder in some capacity. New Avengers: Illuminati #3 was all about The Beyonder. There was heavy speculation that he was pulling the strings during Secret Invasion. He’s been on the cusp of involvement for a while, and he would absolutely scare the shit out of the other Cabal members (and extra points for having a specific grudge with Doom). Of course, this could easily be Bendis continuing to mess with us by dangling The Beyonder just out of reach; only this time he’s actually appearing on panel. I like The Beyonder as the secret weapon. I think it works well. A mix of the old and the new. Personally, this would be my choice, though I don’t necessarily think it’s the most likely. Odds: 4 to one
2g. Scarlet Witch. When was the last time we saw Bendis and Coipel working together on a big project? House of M. COINCIDENCE?!?!?! The return of Scarlet Witch would bring quite a few things full circle. It would play off Loki’s recent actions in Mighty Avengers. Hawkeye would continue to go nuts, especially considering New Avengers #26. Scarlet Witch, in many ways, started the ball rolling. She’s the most unstable of the reality-alterers in the mix. She would scare anyone into service, because she’s capable of anything. House of M proved that. Much like Molecule Man, this might be too perfect. But Scarlet Witch has been off the table for a long time, and this might be a worthy moment for her return. Odds: 3 to one
2h. Someone else. There are other possibilities. Dormammu, for one, as he does have ties to The Hood, who’s probably been the most on Osborne’s side throughout most of Dark Reign. The Void would manage to not only keep the Cabal in line, but would also act as a safety net to cover The Sentry. Marvelman was a popular guess after Rich Johnston’s MM leak, but I think it’s too soon for Marvelman to hit the main Marvel U. I’d like to believe it’s one of the folks on the teaser, and that it’s not a bait and switch situation.

3. Some flying shadow dude. There’s another teaser image of a shadowed figure flying above New York City as the denizens of the city look on in a mixture of shock, awe, and terror. We all assume that this enshadowed figure is Norman’s secret weapon, though much of that could be because those two teasers were released at the same time. So who is it? The Beyonder with his white disco coat blowing in the wind like a cape? Scarlet Witch? The Void? Sentry? Who knows? What I do know is that I dig the image and it further whets my appetite for some Siege goodness.

Is there more to cover? Yeah, probably. But we’re going on 2,100 plus words now, so I think I’ve done enough damage in my return. If you want the lowdown on Dark Reign and Siege, make sure you’re following Dark Avengers, Invincible Iron Man, Utopia, and The List. That’ll help out the most for the major story points. And once again, keep a look out for my article on the Cabal over at Musings of the Alpha Primitive (yeah, I plugged it again).  You stay classy, read/RANT

Top 5 Best Comics of August 2009!

And the Summer’s over! Really? That…went fast. I had fun, though. Hope you all did, too. Back to school, kiddies! I read 20 comics in August, and these were the best.

 

5. Invincible Iron Man #16

Matt Fraction’s writing is absolutely top-notch. Yes, this story will read better as a whole, but our connection to Tony, Pepper, and Maria is so strong, it hardly matters. The only thing that brings this issue, and the entire series, down, is Salvador Larroca’s Greg Land-esque art.

My Review

4. Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1

Speaking of Summer, you like those blockbusters that accompany the season, right? Well then, this is the comic for you! Just some awesome-kickass, supercool fun! Mark Millar gives it to ya, and Carlos Pacheco makes it look pretty. This opening salvo features a bombastic helicopter fight and a terrifying new villain.

My Review

 

3. Secret Six #12

Like my previous selection, this too is filled with action and good times, only with more twisted villainy. But this comic also has character and soul, and that counts for a lot. This is Jeannette’s issue to shine, and I think she blinded me. Carlos Pacheco’s beautiful interiors certainly contribute to UCA’s placement, but you know what? I’d put Nicola Scott up against Carlos Pacheco any day. Yeah, you read that right.

DC Lebeau’s Review

 

2. Batman and Robin #3

Holy hell, Batman! This series just gets better and better! The first and second issue topped my list in their respective months, and it’s only by some Marvel miracle that this one didn’t. Since I don’t have a proper review of this issue, I want to go over a few things:

Professor Pyg’s “sexy disco hot.” Who else had this song in their head?

Any guesses on who was watching Alfred? Could it be the same person who spied on Bruce & Jezebel all those issues ago?

Awhile ago, DC said, “Scarlet isn’t who you think she is.” That was a damn lie, and I’m pretty sure Red Hood is who you think he is too.

Seventh Soldier’s Review

 DD_POSTER_graficos

1. Daredevil #500

A phenomenal conclusion to what turned out to be a great run. Brubaker did DD proud, and definitely cast away Bendis’ shadow. On top of that, you get a great short story and a reprint of possibly the best Daredevil comic ever! Yeah, I’m pretty sure that this isn’t just the best comic in August, it’s the best Marvel comic of the year.

My Review

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Invincible Iron Man #16

 

Writing: “World’s Most Wanted” Part 9. This issue is all about that Tony/Pepper/Whitney confrontation that started last issue. The Black Widow and Maria Hill get a bit of screen-time too, with Maria dealing with the trauma inflicted in an earlier issue and Natasha trying to figure out what’s going on. Now, since this is Part 9, you may get the feeling that this story is dragging on. I can assure you, it’s not. What Fraction has done with this arc, and it’ll be more apparent in its conclusion, is present three completely defined characters. We’re deeply invested in the future of Tony, Maria, and Pepper. Because of that, this issue has quite an emotional punch.

Art: Salvador Larroca is a lot like Greg Land, isn’t he? They both have a cold, computerized look. They both have a few celebrity faces in their character-designs. And they both render some stiff-but-pretty images. At least Larroca’s figures tend to be more anatomically correct. So, if you’re a fan of Greg Land, you’ll love Salvador Larroca. If you’re not, I don’t think Larroca’s art will ruin the book for you.

Final Word: I was amazed at how emotionally attached I was to this issue. There’s humor here, and quite a bit of tragedy. Fraction also managed to showcase another one of Iron Man’s classic villains. We might be a bit too deep in the story now, but you should definitely check out “World’s Most Wanted” in trade. It’s a story worth reading.

Grade: B+

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Hulk #13

Writing: Hulk has been one of the titles, like Captain America and Thor, that has operated within its own continuity. Well, that ends this issue with that “Dark Reign” tag slapped on the cover. Thankfully, it’s really not that intrusive. Norman Osborn has heard that the Hulk is truly gone, which is what occurred in Incredible Hulk #600. So, he sends Ares to get to the bottom of it. What follows is a done-in-one story that involves Banner’s revelation that the Hulk really is gone, Ares reporting back to Osborn, and the reconciliation between Banner and an old friend.

Art: Of course, there’s a bit of fighting involved, which is McGuinness’ specialty. You want vein-bulging, muscular people pounding on each other? He’s your man. However, there are a lot of quieter moments in this issue too, and McGuinness did a good job rendering those as well. Hulk is always a good-looking comic, and this issue is no different.

Final Word: Done-in-one stories are always refreshing in this comic climate. Did the overall story of Loeb’s run progress much? Not enough for my liking, but this is still a quick, gorgeous comic that’ll keep you entertained from start to finish.

Grade: B

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Invincible Iron Man #15

Writing: This is part 8 of “World’s Most Wanted,” and it continues to chug along nicely. Though that “part 8” can be daunting to new readers, this comic is still completely accessible. If you don’t know, Norman Osborn desires the juicy contents of Tony’s brain. No, he’s not Hannibal Lecter; it’s just that Tony’s brain holds sensitive information that could lead to the destruction of all his superhero pals. Tony’s solution? He’s slowly deleting his brain. Since we’re past the halfway mark, Tony is really struggling now, tugging at the heartstrings of everyone, including the fan that chanted for Iron Man’s death during Marvel’s Civil War.

Art: Larroca’s strongsuit is drawing all of the machinery that one usually sees in an Iron Man comic, but this issue doesn’t really have a single bit of that. Fraction continues to focus on the characters, and on this “Flowers for Algernon” reminiscent tearjerker, that means plenty of tender moments, that, frankly, Larroca just can’t handle. However, to my surprise, Larroca’s art didn’t bother me that much here. A backhanded compliment, for sure, but my point is, I hope Larroca can keep up the good work.

Final Word: Fraction continues to highlight the women of Iron Man’s life, while poor Tony is portrayed sympathetically. Could someone like Maria Hill or Pepper Potts ever take the place of Tony Stark? I don’t think Marvel or the fans would allow it, but Fraction is proving that both women are strong, heroic characters, worthy of putting on the suit. Fraction is telling a fantastic story here that’s completely accessible to fans, old and new.

Grade: B

For more comic goodness, go here.

Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia #1

 

The Writing: Fraction puts on his Claremont hat, going back to a theme that has been done to death. “Let’s make the X-Men about intolerance.” A fine message, for sure, but it’s all been done before in the X-Men. That said, Fraction is still writing better-than-the-rest here. He packs this issue full of cleverness. So, you get your money’s worth, but a lot of this stuff feels a bit unnecessary, and it all could’ve fit in a regular issue. But no, these X-Men events have to be oversized and feature Marc Silvestri art.

The Art: Silvestri is Silvestri. I’m not too fond of his work, but he’s a god to some. And, to be fair, he rendered one of the best X-Men tales ever, “Here Comes Tomorrow.” The problem here is that Silvestri needed four additional artists to provide the crowd for Fraction’s script. So, needless to say, all the additional pencilers create a slightly jarring reading experience, and a few continuity mistakes along the way. Also, and this is the problem with nearly every artist Fraction works with, Silvestri renders the action scenes well, but struggles with some of the quieter moments.

Final Word: The last page of this issue is supposed to have a big impact, but it’s already been spoiled. This is Marvel’s only crossover this summer, and, thankfully, it’s completely in Fraction’s hands. As a huge Fraction fan, I couldn’t be happier. However, this special, while good from a technical standpoint, doesn’t provide an interesting enough premise, and, really, isn’t very entertaining.

Grade: C+

For more comic goodness, go here.