Make Mine Marvel, Malapropist: Marvel’s SIEGE and Beyond – pt. 2

I asked my friend (and EPA-co-writer) Nathan to join me for a discussion about Marvel’s latest event comic, Siege, and the state of Marveldom in 2010. Part one available here.

Man to Beat: The Sentry

Nathan: A few words on that Steve Rogers-as-Osborn plotline. I’m as wary of underdeveloped superhero deconstruction as anyone, but I don’t think this story would necessarily have anything to do with Rogers‘ incorruptibility. One facet of the character that [Ed] Brubaker hasn’t really bothered with is that this is still a man out of time–I don’t know when exactly when Cap was unfrozen on Marvel’s sliding continuity scale (the early 90s?), but he’s basically written these days as a thoroughly modernized individual who happened to grow up during the Great Depression. What this story would do, I think, is allow us to see how Steve Rogers deals with the vagaries of the Bush-era national security apparatus, and how his love for American exceptionalism and individuality reaches a head when he realizes that the only way to export it, and perhaps save the world, is to utilize the same Bush/Osborn tactics he once found reprehensible. I personally like stuff like that teabagger[s vs.] Cap storyline, and the way it offers a twist on real-world concerns, and no one does that as well as Marvel (or as badly–take that horrid [John Michael Straczynski] 9/11 Spider-Man issue, for instance, in which notorious mass murderers/terrorists Magneto and Dr. Doom are seen helping the NYPD look through the wreckage of ground zero).

Anyway. Siege #4 is now less than a week away, and as a number of the plot beats have been worked through in numerous tie-ins, it almost seems impossible to imagine that this final issue won’t be anti-climactic. I mean, I know this is the Marvel universe and we aren’t likely to see a story where the Sentry brutally murders several of the most popular and beloved superheroes of all time, but there could still be a question of what other sort of twist [Brian Michael] Bendis could work in at the last minute. If you read the end at Blackest Night, you know that Geoff Johns managed to solve that problem (that due to the nature of the DC universe, a major zeitgeist-shift is unlikely) by resurrecting a metric shitton of recently deceased superheroes (Johns even went so far as to resurrect old Flash rival Zoom before the character had his neck snapped a few weeks later in The Flash: Rebirth, due to that book being late). Of course fanboys loved stuff like that–could Siege‘s notoriously Bendis-averse Internet audience learn to love the man because he’s bringing back the old-school Avengers of their childhood?

Siege itself. I’m not a big fan of Olivier Coipel‘s art–I think his male characters in particularly tend to look doughy and undefined, but he is good at some details, like the ridges in Captain America’s costume. So far, I’d say Siege isn’t as good as a lot of the Dark Reign stuff that preceded it, and I sort of wish in fact that they let Osborn hang on for another year, and bring back Steve Rogers in time for the Captain America movie in 2011. All of Siege could have been pushed back, and it would have allowed a lot of breathing room for more extended and in-depth storylines. For instance, that whole thing with Osborn’s cabal ended pretty abruptly, and in the end Dr. Doom, for all his initial unpleasantness, has nothing to do with Siege, and I recall Namor and Doom scheming to take Osborn down, which is not going to be addressed, I guess. Bendis’ Dark Avengers was great, but ending at a scant sixteen issues seems like a waste, considering it seems like he’s only beginning to build an alternative, evil Avengers mythology (and how great would that be?).

But other than that, I’ll withhold judgment until this Wednesday. Your thoughts? More and more, this Heroic Age is looking like a plea to appease the most rabid, regressive fanboys out there.

Greg: Your comments about the return of a more familiar Avengers are well taken, although I don’t expect we’ll ever see Bendis cater to nostalgists the way Geoff Johns does. And knowing your preferences, neither, probably, do you. But ‘The Heroic Age’ does come across as a possible attempt by Marvel to emulate DC’s regressive approach of recent years (Grant Morrison’s richly enjoyable Batman comics notwithstanding).

Not all of forward-thinking super-comics work of the last decade has been disregarded, but some of it certainly has. The aftershocks of Bendis and Alex Maleev’s clever, idiosyncratic Daredevil run are still felt in that title, but much of what occurred during Morrison’s time on New X-Men was promptly forgotten. And although JMS’s years on Amazing Spider-Man had their slap-your-forehead moments, as you’ve noted, the comics were reliably entertaining, and unique for the Straz’s willingness to write Peter Parker as a competent grown-up and family man. These developments, of course, were literally written out of the series. What remain promising about ‘The Heroic Age’ are the signs of odd, non-traditional cross-pollination continuing throughout the Marvel universe. And to an extent, this is a sure thing. It can’t really be said that we’re returning to a decades-old status quo when Wolverine, Spider-Man and the Thing are all Avengers, and Bucky Barnes is (still) Captain America.

My impressions of Siege, three issues in? It’s brisk, fun, and unlike the Marvel event that preceded it, Secret Invasion, you don’t need to depend on tie-in issues for context. (This is hugely important, I think; Marvel went so far as to advertise Secret Invasion on television, but it would have been totally inaccessible to someone who wasn’t reading other Marvel titles.

With Siege, we see Norman Osborn and H.A.M.M.E.R. attack Asgard, and Captain American and company move to defend it. That’s it and that’s enough.) Siege doesn’t have the inventiveness/genre subversion of the Bendis Daredevil issues, but I’m not sure that would be appropriate anyway. He and Copiel set out to tell a fast-paced punch-‘em-up, and so far it’s working for me.

I wouldn’t criticize fans for expecting something transcendent, which Siege is not–Marvel has done plenty to stoke fan expectations–but so far Copiel and Bendis have produced a fine slugfest. Regarding Copiel’s artwork: he’s at least the right person for this kind of project, skilled at the kind of widescreen battle spreads that Siege demands. (If you can’t get John Romita Jr., you could do far worse.)

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