Bendis’ Avengers: Siege

When Marvel Comics first announced its latest event, Siege, in late 2009, I couldn’t have been more excited. After years of uncertainty and internal conflict during Civil War, World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, and Dark Reign, it looked like the good guys were finally coming together. Siege presented the return of classic heroism that Secret Invasion should have been. On top of it all, Captain America was back! The inspiration, the glue that held the Marvel Universe together, was finally returning to the spotlight, restoring the heroic symbol of Bendis’ Avengers. Overall, I remember feeling a sense of satisfaction when Siege was released. My patience was finally rewarded, and all of my favorite characters were going to get a win for the first time in years. On top of this victory, I was ecstatic to see the reunion of heroes such as Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. I remember reading in awe as Marvel’s trinity came together for the first time since Avengers Disassembled. Reuniting the three biggest Avengers, to me, symbolized a resurgence of hope in the Marvel Universe.

Reunited and it feels so good

This feeling of hope returned at the perfect time. For the past year and a half, doom and gloom pervaded the atmosphere of Marvel Comics. Norman Osborn practically ran the world during the Dark Reign era, creating a miserable environment for heroes such as the New Avengers and the X-Men. Fortunately, the end of Osborn’s reign was in sight. The former Green Goblin was clearly losing control of his power, repeatedly humiliated or undermined by heroes who defied his authority. Additionally, Osborn lost control of his own secret group, the Cabal, illustrated during a falling out between Doctor Doom and himself. Compounding Osborn’s unstable reign of authority was the return of Steve Rogers, the original Captain America. After returning from the dead in Ed Brubaker’s Captain America: Reborn, Rogers remained in the shadows, waiting to make his move against Osborn and his corrupt regime. Additionally, Thor had been back on Earth for a while at this point, establishing new Asgard above Broxton, Oklahoma. Since Asgard hovered eight feet above Earth’s soil, it was considered a sovereign land, immune to Earthly law. Yet Loki, Thor’s brother and a member of Osborn’s Cabal, quietly plotted against his brother and Asgard. All of the pieces were in place for one grand, intersecting event.

The end of a Dark Reign…

The premise of Siege is fairly straightforward, bringing together several plot threads. Loki manipulates Osborn, who is losing his sanity and political clout, into one last, desperate move: the siege of Asgard. Accompanied by HAMMER, the Dark Avengers, and many super-powered villains, Osborn launches a full-scale assault on Thor’s home. Despite his best efforts, Thor is ultimately overwhelmed by Osborn’s forces, especially the Sentry. Backed into a corner, Thor and the Asgardians appear to be fighting a losing battle against Osborn and his army. The intervention of Steve Rogers, however, comes in time to save the day. Witnessing the siege on television, Rogers assembles every hero he can find, including the New Avengers, Young Avengers, and Secret Warriors. Meanwhile, Tony Stark, recovering from his ordeal during Dark Reign, enters the fray, reuniting with old friends Captain America and Thor. Together, the heroes come to Asgard’s rescue, putting a stop to Osborn’s regime once and for all. The battle is hard fought, and not without cost. The Sentry, working for Osborn, loses control of his power. Everyone present must then join forces to stop the rogue Avenger.

Whose side is Loki on again?

Siege‘s reunion of heroes would not be possible without Captain America. After Civil War, the Marvel Universe became very uncertain and less hopeful. Without Captain America’s inspiration and leadership, the Avengers felt a little more cynical and hollow. Returning to the Marvel Universe, Steve Rogers brings with him all of the pure, good-natured heroism which was missing in recent years. Rogers’ mission is simple: defend Asgard from Osborn’s forces. There is no political agenda, no morally gray areas, and no compromise. It’s the simplicity of Rogers’ motivations which carries over to the rest of the heroes. Cap inspires the Avengers to do the right thing for its own sake. Indeed, Bendis perfectly demonstrates Cap’s leadership skills. Rogers calls, and countless heroes immediately answer and assemble behind him, without question. Bucky, the current Captain America, even recognizes this, relinquishing the iconic shield to Rogers. Bucky knows that people want to be inspired by Rogers. More importantly, the Avengers should follow Captain America into battle, shield and all. When Cap yells the iconic “Avengers Assemble!” it’s a grand moment, one that makes readers want to get up and cheer. No one else comes close to this iconic level of leadership. Rogers clearly hasn’t lost a step since he’s been away, immediately responding against Osborn’s illegal assault on Asgard. It seems as if Rogers has been waiting for this moment, to step in when the world truly needs him and the Avengers once more. Cap’s preparation shows true heroism, the kind that is always ready to defend the world against power-mad lunatics like Norman Osborn.

Leading the charge

Making another triumphant return is Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. Bendis makes this return one of redemption, as Stark has fallen far since Civil War. After becoming director of S.H.I.E.L.D., failing to prepare for Secret Invasion, and losing everything during Dark Reign, Stark is due for a comeback. In the beginning of Siege, Stark is still recovering from the events of World’s Most Wanted and Stark Disassembled in Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man run. The consequences of these story arcs nearly broke Stark, as penance for his more villainous acts during Civil War. While I admit, it would have been nice to see some of the consequences for Stark’s actions somewhere in Bendis’ Avengers run, the beginning of Siege at least peers into how far Stark has fallen. This look into Stark’s broken state makes it all the more satisfying when he gets back in the game. It’s especially nice to see Captain America bring Stark’s armor to him, mending the rift between old friends. When Stark returns, in a very retro-looking armor, he evokes the Iron Man of old. There is a certain nostalgia for simpler times from this classic suit of armor, accompanied by Stark’s reunion with the Avengers. Indeed, Stark’s return to the Avengers feels like old times. Iron Man returns to his role as the brains of the group for the first time since before Civil War. Bendis gives Stark several stand-out moments, including turning the HAMMER helicarrier into a massive bullet, and remotely shutting down Osborn’s Iron Patriot armor. These moments highlight Stark as another essential component to the Avengers.

Back to basics

The final piece to the puzzle which Bendis assembles is the god of thunder himself, Thor. Despite returning to Earth several years prior to Siege, Thor remained somewhat detached from the Avengers. In Thor’s solo title, much focus was spent on rebuilding Asgard and re-establishing Thor’s connection with Earth. It is this pull between two worlds which defines Thor. While Thor loves the Earth and lives to protect others, he also has a duty to Asgard, which has taken up much of his recent life. It is only when Osborn and his people invade Asgard that Thor sees what he’s been missing on Earth. When the Avengers arrive, especially Captain America and Iron Man, Thor is reminded of humanity’s capacity for selflessness and nobility. Additionally, Thor remembers the close friendships that he’s established in the Avengers. It’s this reminder of the Avengers’ place in his life which inspires Thor to fight back against Osborn’s forces. In return, Thor brings the raw power which the Avengers have been missing recently. During the final fight with the Sentry, Thor summons everything he has to take down the berserk Avenger. Adding centuries of battle experience to the table makes Thor pivotal against beings like the Sentry. Combining this power with his nobility and connection to other realms, Thor is a vital member of the Avengers.

The wrath of a god

Opposing these classic heroes is a classic villain, Norman Osborn. At first, Osborn tries to appear as more than a simple villain, posing as a major political figure. Indeed, the original purpose for invading Asgard was to assert the authority of the fifty state initiative all around the US. Yet Osborn goes too far, taking on a sovereign territory illegally. Moreover, Osborn attacks the gods, demonstrating the hubris in his position of authority. As a whole, this misuse of authority demonstrates a situation in which the political order is abused. When the world’s “top cop”, in charge of the superhuman community, goes rogue, who is there to respond? When the system of accountability breaks down, how can these rogue agents be stopped? Osborn’s actions almost cry out for an answer from Captain America and his Avengers, showing the flaws in the superhuman registration act. More importantly, Captain America’s Avengers show how more traditional heroism triumphs over politically ensnared superheroics. While the Avengers fight to protect Asgard and its people, Osborn fights to gain more political power. This greed leads to Osborn’s downfall, highlighting the problem of mixing heroism with politics. Ultimately, Osborn’s true nature is exposed. When his armor is removed, Osborn reveals his green-painted face as he screams psychotic nonsense at the heroes. Despite all of the political rhetoric and media manipulation, Osborn is just another power mad lunatic who gets punched out by Spider-Man.

The moment we were all waiting for…

All of the problems with the superhuman registration act culminate in the Sentry’s spiral into madness. Since the reign of Tony Stark, the Sentry has been manipulated by everyone in a position of power. Registering the Sentry and using him for the government’s agenda, everyone in power has treated him as a blunt instrument. This exploitation has finally tipped Bob Reynolds over the edge. Throughout Dark Avengers, Osborn continued to push Reynolds mentally and physically, encouraging him to let loose on whoever Osborn targeted. Now, being told to destroy Asgard, the Sentry is given full clearance to relinquish control of his own power. This character downfall is very reminiscent of the Scarlet Witch in Avengers Disassembled. Specifically, the Sentry tears Ares in half, similarly to how the Vision was torn in half during Disassembled. Yet, through previous experience, the Avengers know what must be done. Before the Sentry can cause any further harm, Thor kills him, ending Reynolds’ reign of terror on Asgard. Personally, I can’t say that I’ll miss the Sentry. By the end of Siege, I was fairly sick of the character. He’s generally become a plot device with no personality. I think Bendis made the right move by killing him off.

Over the edge

Siege brings together some big ideas from throughout Bendis’ Avengers run. After tearing the Avengers apart in Disassembled, Bendis uses Siege to bring the team together again. The whole story is a return to form for the Avengers, and Marvel heroes in general. Bendis celebrates exactly what makes the Avengers heroes. Rather than acting as a fascistic assault force, the Avengers assemble to defend others. The team comes together on a day like any other, fighting the foes that no one hero could fight alone. Indeed, since Thor couldn’t fight Osborn’s army alone, the Avengers came together to stop this fascistic empire. Bringing in iconic Avengers Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, further emphasizes the Avengers’ return to their roots. Marvel’s trinity represents a group of diverse heroes uniting to fight against a common foe. Through the return of the Avengers, Bendis highlights key differences between Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Norman Osborn. There is a humility inherent in the heroes, one which Osborn does not possess. Indeed, Osborn’s hubris leads him to attack the gods, showing the selfish motives behind a politically-backed super-cop. The Avengers defend the gods, without any thought of political gain or public image. Simply defending those in need, because it is the right thing to do, motivates the Avengers. The purity of the Avengers’ motives highlights their own heroism, and the flaw in trying to politicize superheroes. Eventually, people like Osborn wind up in power. These manipulative villains twist heroism into something ugly and dirty, removing the idealism behind superheroes. Additionally, Siege brings a lot of ideas in Bendis’ run full circle. For example, Loki tries to create an incident similar to the one in Stamford, Connecticut, which started Civil War. Yet this attempt is not as successful, showing how you can’t artificially start a war. Furthermore, Osborn, without authorization, invades Asgard, similarly to how Nick Fury illegally invaded Latveria in Secret War. This move led to the downfall of Osborn, just as it did with Fury. The Sentry lost control of his power, just like the Scarlet Witch in Disassembled. Yet this time, the hero’s loss of control brings the Avengers together, rather than tearing them apart. It’s twists on previous plot threads such as these that make Siege such a satisfying culmination of Bendis’ previous work.

Fighting the good fight

There isn’t that much to be said about Siege‘s plot. This is not to say that the plot is bad, it’s just not overly complex. Once Siege gets going, it essentially becomes a massive brawl on Asgard. The fight is immensely satisfying to watch, serving as the pay-off to years of events and shifts in the status quo. Finally, a triumphant battle for Marvel’s heroes! The only real issue I had with the plot was in Osborn’s motivations. I get the idea that Loki was manipulating Osborn, but this could have been made more explicit. At first, it just felt very sudden that Osborn was immediately ready to invade Asgard. If Bendis had built up Loki’s manipulation of Osborn, gradually leading into Siege, the beginning of the event would have been more believable. Once the event gets started, however, I can overlook the questionable motivations behind Siege. The whole event is short and sweet, lasting only four issues. After making Disassembled too short and Secret Invasion too long, Bendis gets Siege just right. The event says what it needs to say, serves as a blockbuster conclusion to much of Bendis’ Avengers run, and does so in just the right amount of time.

But where’s the motivation?

Overall, I love Siege. It’s a great conclusion to the long, winding road on which Bendis places the reader since Avengers Disassembled. Bendis especially did a great job tearing everything apart, only to bring it back together, even better than before. The Avengers feel stronger than they ever were, Nick Fury returns, and the heroes feel like heroes again. If Bendis’ run ended at Siege, I would still feel completely satisfied. Everything ties itself up nicely. I’m still not a fan of the Sentry, and Osborn’s initial motivation to invade Asgard felt a bit rushed. Yet both the Sentry and Osborn served their purposes well in the story. Giving the Avengers a reason to reunite and a powerful foe to overcome only makes them shine brighter. As far as villains go, Osborn and the Sentry are certainly worthy of this kind of event. There are also so many stand-out moments and pieces of character development throughout Siege. Marvel’s trinity shines throughout, and the artwork by Oliver Coipel captures the epic fight scenes beautifully. Siege is a major crowd-pleasing event, which, after years of build-up, feels earned. By the end, I found myself very excited for the future of the Avengers.

Looking to the future

Indeed, the ending of Siege teases the new status quo: the Heroic Age. Following years of internal conflict and rifts between the heroes, the Avengers can finally reunite as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Steve Rogers becomes Marvel’s new “top cop”, abolishing the superhuman registration act. Rogers also hand-picks members for four different Avengers teams. Iron Man and Thor rejoin the Avengers, and the team feels stronger than ever. While Norman Osborn is gone for the moment, after his arrest at the end of Siege, he will return soon enough. In the pages of Avengers and New Avengers, Osborn makes one last attempt at power. Bendis shows Osborn’s persistence towards political power, continually trying to defame and eliminate the Avengers. The most lasting change from Siege, however, is the redefinition of the Avengers. More specifically, what does it mean to be an Avenger? After Siege, practically anyone and everyone can be an Avenger. Mixing the old members such as Iron Man and Thor, with new ones like Spider-Man and Wolverine, Bendis creates an Avengers in which all are welcome. Even heroes such as Daredevil and the Thing will eventually join the team. This addition of new members shows that, while Siege concludes Bendis’ more serious narrative, he now has the chance to simply have fun with the Avengers.

We’re gonna need a bigger tower…

That’s all for today. What did you think of Siege? I’d love to see your thoughts on Twitter, @book_column, and be sure to share this blog with your friends! Thanks for reading! Check back in tomorrow, when I dive into the New Avengers tie-ins to Siege!

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