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

Review: Immortal Weapons #1

Weapons

I haven’t been keeping up with Immortal Iron Fist, post-Brubaker/Fraction/Aja.  I loved their run – it introduced me to Matt Fraction, who’s done impressive work all over the place now, and David Aja, who I still consider to be among the best artists working today when it comes to dynamic, exciting, downright cool-looking action scenes – but the high-cost of Marvel’s trades and the low-pay of minimum wage work meant that I have to stop reading some things, and when Fraction, Brubaker and Aja left, so did I.

Still, at the store on Wednesday, I noticed the absolutely gorgeous cover for Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra on the shelf, saw that Jason Aaron was the writer, and was intrigued enough to pick it up.  And I have to say, I’m glad I did.  Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra continues the Immortal Iron Fist tradition of having rock-solid spin-off minis and one-shots to flesh out the retro-pop pulp aesthetic of the setting and characters.

Fat Cobra, one of the Immortal Weapons we met in the Brubaker/Fraction/Aja arc “The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven,” is a massive, surprisingly quick warrior and hedonist who has lived for over a hundred years, and his lifestyle has taken its toll: he remembers little of his past, if anything at all.  To that end, he hired a researcher to discover his glorious past and compile it all into a book.  And thus do we get to know Fat Cobra.

It’s hardly an original device, but as Aaron delves into the character, he shows us why it works well here – Fat Cobra is a proud, powerful man, but his origins are far from either.  Seeing the effect these discoveries have on him is almost as tragic as the story itself.  Despite all the inconsistencies in the quality of the art (there are 7 artists in the Fat Cobra portion alone), the story is simple and potent.

On top of that, Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra has an Immortal Iron Fist back-up by Duane Swierczynski, dealing with an errant pupil of Danny and Misty.  The back-up is brief and to-the-point, though clearly incomplete – it seems as though the back-ups of the Immortal Weapon stories will be the thread that ties the issues together.

Overall, this is an excellent first issue.  As an origin story of Fat Cobra, it is both effective and interesting, with a great deal of potential to lure in new readers.  Immortal Iron Fist has always been a book that combined larger-than-life stories with a pulp kung-fu sensibility, and Fat Cobra definitely continues that trend.  With 37 pages of excellent content, it’s worth a read.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

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