Monday, September 27, 2010

Avengers: Siege - Brian Michael Bendis

AVENGERS: SIEGE is a graphic novel collecting a recent mini-series published by Marvel, plus a couple of related stories. The book doesn’t actually say “Avengers” on it, but since they’re the main characters I feel justified in adding that tag. I’ve discussed before how I gave up reading comics in the Nineties in utter disgust at the constant rebooting, complete disregard for continuity and the long-time fan, and creative decisions that I considered ridiculous and wrong. In recent years I’ve slowly begun working myself back into comics, usually with collections like this one, and I’m glad to say that all the stuff that went on in the Nineties seems to have been brushed aside and forgotten for the most part. The Marvel Universe today at least bears more than a passing resemblance to the one I enjoyed so much during the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties.

Enough curmudgeonly rambling. What about the story at hand? I’m fuzzy on some of the back-story, of course, but as the book opens, Asgard, home of Thor and the other Norse gods, has been transported to the earthly realm and is now floating in the air above Oklahoma. Why? I dunno, but I’m willing to go with it. Norman Osborn (yes, that Norman Osborn, the guy who was the original Green Goblin and who was dead for a long time but now is alive again) has apparently reformed and is the head of H.A.M.M.E.R., which seems to have replaced S.H.I.E.L.D. as the main peacekeeping force in the Marvel Universe. He’s also organized his own teams of Avengers and X-Men made up of former super-villains. Ah, but Osborn is really still a bad guy and has also put together a cabal of other super-villains that’s operating behind the scenes. I don’t know how all this came about, but again, I’ll go with it. The real Avengers, led by Steve Rogers (who used to be Captain America, but then was dead, but now is alive again but not Captain America, who is now Bucky Barnes, who used to be dead . . . oh, the hell with it) are considered outlaws and are hiding out. Got all that? It doesn’t really matter.

Osborn, who has appropriated a version of Tony Stark’s Iron Man armor and now calls himself the Iron Patriot, for nefarious reasons of his own launches an attack on Asgard, putting the place under siege by most of the superheroes/villains who work for him. Thor and the rest of the real Avengers show up and try to stop him. That’s about the extent of the plot. It’s a real slugfest, as Stan Lee used to say, and lots of stuff Blows Up Real Good.

Tell you what, though . . . I pretty much loved it. This is the same sort of story that Marvel was doing forty years ago in its heyday, only then, of course, it would have played out in the pages of the regular Avengers title, on cheaper paper with less technically-advanced coloring. The script is by Brian Michael Bendis, rightfully regarded as one of the best writers in comics today, and he does a fine job of capturing the voices of the different characters. By the end of the story he’s also managed to sweep away some of the plot clutter of the past few years and gotten things back to a more traditional Marvel Universe (which is just fine with a reactionary old fart like me, of course). The art by Olivier Coipel is good for the most part, although the storytelling is a little hard to follow at times. I like his versions of Thor, Cap, Iron Man, and the other classic Marvel characters, though.

Reading this has convinced me that I’m doing the right thing by starting to read some of the core Marvel titles again. I’ll never be the comic book fan that I once was, but I still enjoy a good superhero yarn. SIEGE definitely falls into that category. If you’re a Marvel fan and haven’t read it yet, I recommend it.


Richard Prosch said...

I too am happy to have a recognizable Marvel U again. Bendis has done a fine job. I hope things continue along.

Evan Lewis said...

I'm a year or so behind (waiting for issues to be collected as graphic novels and arrive in library), but Bendis has done outstanding work with both teams of Avengers.

RJR said...

I just get confused. How many Spidermans (Spidermen?) are there, now? He's always been my favorite. (Oh, and Deadman and The Creeper.)


James Reasoner said...

I don't know for sure, Bob. I haven't even tried to get caught up on the Spider-Man and X-Men continuities. But I think there's only one Spider-Man and he's still Peter Parker.

Those early Deadman stories with art by Neal Adams were great. I never read the Creeper much, though. He was a Steve Ditko character, right?

Bruce said...

RJR - There is a collection of all The Creeper comics done by Steve Ditko that came out a few months back.