Not to step on dclebeau’s toe’s, but I had already planned to review the trilogy of Bendis books that came out last Wednesday.
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
The best issue of Straczynski’s Thor is here! But, I haven’t been a fan of his run at all, so that’s not saying much. Kudos to Marvel for offering an anniversary issue that is near irresistible. You get a double-sized issue of your scheduled programming, plus a ten or so page tale by Stan Lee and David Aja. Some humorous Mini Marvel action and about twenty pages of Lee and Kirby reprints round out one hell of a package. Though tossing a fin will be troubling, you do get 104 pages for your cash.
Straczynski’s Thor has been meandering and depressing. When Thor re-launched, I gave the first three issues a shot. The first issue was decent, but the second and third were incredibly awful. I later borrowed the first trade and still found it to be bad. Fortunately, the last six issues have been better, but Straczynski’s Thor has got to be one of the most overrated runs that I know of.
The issue begins with a resurrected Bor, Odin’s father. He’s wreaking havoc on New York due to a distortion spell from Loki-Sif. Basically, Loki puts Thor in an unwinnable situation and the rest of the issue is smashing, bashing, and thunder. That makes for a nice jumping-on point as well, since this issue is mostly action. The story, what little there is, is pretty good. It sets up a new status quo for Thor firmly based in Marvel’s Dark Reign for better or for worse. This title has struggled between Straczynski going off on his own, and the fact that Asgard is in Oklahoma. Whether it was Straczynski’s decision or Quesada’s, the future for Thor lies in continuity.
The battle itself is mostly spectacular. Coipel makes this book his own and begs even those most disenchanted with what Straczynski’s doing, like yours truly, to purchase this book solely for the art. Marko Djurdjevic joins Coipel this time, but the two don’t perform randomly like Land and Dodson did on Uncanny X-Men #50o. Coipel handles the normal stuff while Djurdjevic renders Bor’s spell-induced nightmare. Both artists did a remarkable job. Coipel shows the action, emotion, and even an “Avengers Assemble!” masterfully. And Djurdjevic has a lot of fun demonstrating Bor’s distortion, like when Spider-Man appears to be Venom in Bor’s lens.
My main complaint with Straczynski’s tale is perhaps the direction it’s taking. The Dark Reign moments were my least favorite parts. When Thor cries “Avengers Assemble!”, only a few jokers show up. I won’t spoil it, but why would only those guys appear? There must be close to a hundred heroes, and villains actually, that could’ve answered the call. It’s a ridiculously contrived moment. The status quo change is interesting, but the guest appearance on the last page is not. You can count him on your “most appearances in Dark Reign list” along with Osborn.
The bonus material is fun. The Lee/Aja tale is much like the main one; you can ignore the words and just gaze at the art. Aja produced some amazing work and Lee’s “story”… is pedantic to say the least. Thankfully, we’re also treated to some classic Thor stories as well where Lee redeems his good name. Stan Lee is in top form in these reprints and Kirby is, as always, the king, though these are some of the Vince Colletta-inked issues that are very controversial among Kirby fans. The last addition, by Chris Giarrusso, is hilarious. It pokes fun at Straczynski’s run so as you can guess, I had a blast.
The love outweighs the hate here. Marvel offers quite a hefty tome filled with glorious art that makes up for a bit of lackluster story. Good anniversary issues are rare, but you can count Thor #600 among them.