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On The Throne Siege Special! - On The Hot Seat with Punchy!

Written by Steven Harris on Thursday, May 20 2010 and posted in Features

Porcelain38 and Punchy have a no holds barred debate on Marvel's Siege crossover event!

Today marks a new day for the Outhousers as we debut a new feature for our site! On The Hot Seat will allow two posters to enter debate about a current hot button topic within the comic community and present varying opinions. Each poster is allowed an opening statement and then will be able to rebuttal with questions aimed at their opponent.
So..let's begin! ~ Porcelain38


   Marvel's Siege limited mini-series was promoted as an event seven years in the making, and what a tumultuous seven years they have been.  For the better half a decade Marvel readers have witnessed the destruction of the Avengers at the hands of the Scarlet Witch and the entire hero community ripped in half by the Super Human Registration Act. The death (and later resurrection) of both Thor and Captain America happened while Tony Stark became one of the most polarizing figures in comics. An entire alien race tried to take over the Earth and it was Norman Osborn (former Green Goblin) who saved the day. Under Norman's Dark Reign a pact was struck between Norman, Loki, Dr. Doom and the Hood.  Siege is the accumulation of all these events that promised to usher in the "Heroic Age" of the Marvel Universe.

    Today we'll  have  two of the most outspoken posters on the Outhousers discuss and debate on whether or not they felt as if Siege was a success, and more importantly, lived up to expectations.

Now I know have a reputation of being a "Bendis basher" on this site, but I reassure you I do like a majority of his work. My favorite ( non-Daredevil ) book of his is/ was Dark Avengers. Dark Avengers was the perfect blend of psychotic humor and anti-heroics carried over from Warren Ellis's Thunderbolts but only on a more massive scale. From the moment Norman Osborn took control of the Marvel U, you know he was going to fall, and when he did he was going to fall hard. The lead up to Siege was perfect. You saw Thor banished, Captain America resurrected, and Tony Stark in the process of being hunted and reconstructed into a better man. Meanwhile you saw Osborn fall under Loki's influence and the Sentry start to lose it ( we'll pick back up on this in a little bit). I can remember being incredibly excited to see how Siege was going to play out, but unfortunately this event "seven years in the making" did not live up to expectations.
We'll start with the initial mini-series itself: Siege. Bendis has proven himself with events like House of M and Avengers: Disassembled,  so hearing that  he had a "master plan" installed me with faith that Siege would be worth the wait. With the series only being  four issues I knew Bendis wouldn't have to spend time with filler ( unlike a certain Invasion) and the straight balls-to-the-wall action made it a fun read. However within the opening pages of Siege we have a repeat of Civil War, with a large amount of civilian casualties. This plot device worked with Civil War, but in Siege it had that "been there, done that" feel.  The rest of the series was fantastic. You got to see the Avengers reunite, Asgard collapse, the fall of Norman Osborn, and the trinity of the Marvel U reunite all under the masterful artistic direction of Oliver Copeil.  However Siege ends with the death of The Sentry, a former hero, at the hands of Thor. How can you usher in a "Heroic Age" with a truly un-heroic act? Am I the only one who sees the flaw in this? Sure you can argue "it had to be done", but these are superheroes, there is always another way. Siege proved to be a means to end and reunited the Avengers, and despite having some cool moments and a conclusion we all wanted, it had it's flaws.
During the hiatus between issues #3 and #4 or Siege, Marvel published five one-shots (now collected as Siege: Battlefront). Each issue was done by a different creative team and focused on a certain character or team. Truth be told....most of this was filler and could've been told within each character's solo-book. The only book that could claim the title of "necessary" was the Loki one-shot and only cheapened the character's semi-heroic death in Siege. The Secret Warriors tie-in had one of my favorite moments within the entire crossover and had to deal with Nick Fury asking Steve Rogers to a card game later next week.  The Captain America one shot had only reinforced facts that readers of the solo Captain America title already knew within a month of Steve Rogers being back. The Spider-Man one shot provided a nice little one and done story with Venom and gave a nod to his and Mrs. Marvel's relationship. The Young Avengers one however has the biggest fault to it. The Young Avengers manage to take down the Wrecking Crew in less than a dozen pages, something the New Avengers haven't been able to do in their own title for what seems like years now. Overall each book was a fun way to kill some time but in the end added very little to the overall story.
Each time an issue of Siege was released it's complimentary book Siege: Embedded was also put out. Where Siege had superhumans and gods battling for the soul of the Marvel Universe, Embedded took a different approach. Embedded follows Ben Urich teaming up with a friendly cameraman and Volstagg as they march to Asgard in attempts of recording the ensuing battle. Anyone who has read any of the past "Frontline" mini's now to expect from a book like this, and is one of the better mini's to date featuring Ben Urich. If you like Ben Urich then it's great, if not then it's nothing more than a "every man" point of view of the more interesting series.
Siege was not only the end to Norman's Dark Reign but to four separate Avengers titles.  My biggest compliant to these "endings" is that they are totally unnecessary save for Mighty and Dark Avengers. The New Avengers has seen plenty roster changers over it's series so why should it change numbering with the dawning of "Heroic Age"? Same goes for the Avengers: Initiative. Avengers Academy is the same idea as what the Initiative started as. Look at the Thunderbolts, a book which has changed roosters and purposes and yet kept the same numbering. So these "endings" aren't actually endings, but just a cheap marketing ploy.  The Mighty Avengers seemed to have a mercy killing of an ending, ever sense Slott's take over the book hasn't fired on all cylinders. 

And that only leaves The Dark Avengers, which was the perfect ending to Siege. Leaving Norman alone with his faults in a cage saying " You know what? I was in charge for fifteen minutes" was the only satisfying ending to Siege. The entire book had been leading up to this moment and the pay off was worth it. 
My biggest complaints with Siege had to deal with the characterization of Loki and the Sentry. Fan's of JMS's Thor run know that Loki had a master plan to save Asgard, and yet he failed.  Saying Loki "underestimated" the Void is just lazy writing seeing how Loki was in the room when the Void attacked Dr. Doom. There is so much wrong with Loki's plan it comes across as just lazy and makes Loki nothing more than a dues ex machina when he uses the Norm Stones. The Sentry is a character who is a brilliant concept and can only work in the Marvel Universe. However Bendis has no idea how to write this character. In every event leading up to Siege, Bendis has purposively written the Sentry out of the main action. In Dark Avengers, Bendis killed the Sentry for what seemed like every other issue and only muddled up the character's origins. Schizophrenic superhuman? Force of god? Molecule altering powers? Galactus? All of it seems like Bendis never got a full grasp on the character. The fact Bendis chose to kick off the Heroic Age with his death is an odd idea considering how the Sentry would've fit in perfectly within this new Marvel age, if given to an appropriate writer.
In the end Siege was a fun read but riddled with flaws that often distracted me from fully enjoying the entire event. Hopefully with all of this now pushed behind us, the Heroic Age brings us something more entertaining.


Much like my esteemed colleague Porcelain has a bit of a reputation as a Bendis basher on this fair site of ours, I am often perceived as being a Bendis sycophant, someone who sucks up whatever decompressed gibberish he spurts onto the page. And while it's true I do like Bendis a lot, and appreciate his dialogue more than is probably appropriate, I like to think I'm not totally blind, I mean, Mighty Avengers was pretty bad.

But I did love Siege, for me, it was a perfect capper to 7 years of some of the most enjoyable Marvel Universe stories I've ever read, and perhaps the best example of what a Crossover Event can be. I firmly believe that Bendis did have a master plan, and while it may have shifted somewhat, to have carried out such a long-form piece of storytelling in the current climate of '12 issues and done' that many writers espouse, he should be applauded. It's really only Bendis and Geoff Johns who have been able to do stories like this, and whether you like the end result or not, it's an impressive feat. Bendis has written well over a 100 Avengers comics by now, this is something that stands up there with Kurt Busiek, with Roger Stern, even with Roy Thomas himself.

But most of all, Siege was just a lot of fun to read. I'm talking about the main mini here, those 4 issues of Bendis and Coipel working their asses of to provide the most exciting action comic I've ever seen. There are events here that are just perfectly conveyed, the death of Ares, that incredible last page where Cap's shield wings it's way towards Iron Patriot's face. That was something I've never seen before, and something no medium other than comics could hope to match.

I have to take issue with Porcelain's claim that the Volstagg/Soldier Field Explosion is bad storytelling because it's ‘been there, done that' when compared to Stamford. The reason for this is because it's similarity to the events of Civil War #1 are very deliberate, and are a central part of the plot. Loki and Norman deliberately engineered the events in Chicago in order to remind the US Public and the President of the disaster in Stamford, and give a legitimate reason to attack Asgard. Norman needed to make his own 9/11, and he did. This not only plays on all of those crazy 9/11 conspiracies you read about, but it was a very clever use of recent continuity, and in my eyes actually improved Civil War, it made the event seem even more important. Perhaps it was too subtle however, as Porcelain is not the first person I've seen complain about Siege just repeating the events of Civil War. It's not a rip-off if it's deliberate! It's meant to remind you of that book!

Now we move on to the various and sundry tie-ins to this event, of which Porcelain took some umbrage. I didn't read that many tie-ins, only the ones which were in ongoing titles I was already collecting, and the Secret Warriors and Loki one-shots (the pull of Gillen and McKelvie was too strong!), and I felt on the whole that they worked. Of course, no event tie-in has ever been ‘necessary', what matters is if they are good. I think one of the strengths of the tie-ins here was that many of them took place during the massive battle royale in Asgard, this was an epic fight which took place over an indeterminate length of time, which meant there could be many stories taking place at the same time there. You could have the Constrictor's relationship with Diamondback happening at the same time as the Thunderbolts fought the Mighty Avengers, at the same time as Nick Fury drunk some whiskey, at the same time as Spider-Man fought Venom. It allowed for the main mini to maintain it's own sense of a cohesive story, yet allow fans of certain characters to go even further if they wanted to. It was certainly better than the repetitive Blackest Night tie-ins, which were basically the same story over and over and over. At times they even made the main series better. At first I felt that #4 itself was a too abrupt ending, but once I read New Avengers Finale and Dark Avengers #16, it all came together.

The Sentry is another problem which Porcelain raised, and I have to admit, I did think he went out like a punk. But then I actually really liked The Sentry, and felt that the character work Bendis was doing with him in Dark Avengers was simply phenomenal, the conversations he was having with Norman Osborn were some of the best dialogue I have ever read in a comic, there was real depth there, it was almost as much about what the Sentry/Void/Bob was not saying as what he was. And seeing that complex character reduced to a big angry spider was disappointing. I did like how it made him the big bad and allowed Loki to make a heroic sacrifice though, I like Loki less as a cut-and-dry villain than as a complex trickster who may actually be doing things for the best. And with him dead, it leaves Thor in an interesting place.

In fact, I feel Siege leaves the whole Marvel Universe in an interesting place. While some readers may feel disappointed that it seems that the status quo has been restored, I disagree, the current ‘Heroic Age' is markedly different from the pre-Disassembled Avengers. Spider-Man, Wolverine, Luke Cage, Bucky Cap, Spider-Woman and other characters are still very much a part of the Avengers line, and they show now signs of leaving. The relationship of the ‘Big Three', Iron Man, Thor and Steve Rogers is in a very new place, and Steve himself in his role as ‘Top Cop' is a new development. This may not be as big a shift as ‘Dark Reign', but it's not like Bendis has turned back the clock to 1987.

Siege wasn't perfect, but it was incredibly exciting to watch unfold, with beautiful art, great moments and it leaves the Marvel Universe in a great place. Avengers #1 has already come out and was awesome. I await Secret, New and Academy with baited breath.

In short, Porcelain is wrong! And everything he stands for is wrong!


Porcelain38: First, and foremost, I am not wrong. I am quite awesome. Secondly, I can go tit for tat for you on Blackest Night ( which is still the best crossover of the past decade) so don't even try to bring that up!

Punchy:I only bring up Blackest Night because it is the most recent comparison, and you have to admit a lot of the tie-ins were the same thing, character gets resurrected, taunts hero, hero finds a way to defeat it. Over and over. Not to imply it was bad overall, it just was repetitive.

P38:Ok, so you claim that the Soldier Field incident that kicked off Siege is necessary? You don't think that Bendis should have opened with something different? Something to separate it from Civil War? What if people hadn't read Civil War, what then?

Punchy: No, because I think that the connections were a very deliberate and very clever idea. Plus I think that Bendis was justified in expecting people to have read CW, 1, because it's the highest selling comic of the last decade, who hasn't read it? And 2, it's a reward for readers who have stuck with this 7-year plan. Plus, for a write who is often vilified for ignoring continuity, it seems silly to criticize him when he uses it so well.

P38:Over the past couple of years Bendis has offered different orgins for the Sentry. I feel like this shows that Bendis never really understood the character.

Punchy: It adds to the ambiguity of the character. Plus, it's something that Paul Jenkins himself established in his 2nd mini.

P38: I still think Jenkins should be the only person to handle the Sentry (minus the Fallen Son epilogue).

Within Loki's one-shot he makes some back door deals and practically receives a "get out of hell free card". I feel that this cheapens his death within the main series knowing that he has a way out of death for the time being.

Punchy: Nope, because it still has impact, you never expect Loki to die, he always gets imprisoned somewhere. I like seeing Gods get taken down a peg. If he comes back, I can accept that, but I never feel that future resurrections cheapen deaths, the death of the Phoenix still has impact, as does Cap's, and many others.

P38: With Siege being an event "seven years in the making" with numerous tie-ins, did the means justify the ends?

Punchy: You mean the overall Heroic Age ends? Yeah, sure, definitely. An event is always judged as much on it's aftermath as what happens in it, and so far Heroic Age is damn good.

With the Heroic Age awaiting our readers and heroes alike, it's an indisputable fact that everyone is looking for the future while the past is debatable.  

I would like to think Punchy for his contribution, and invite you the reader to share your opinions.


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