This week, we got 3 books released that were a part of Siege. And like a chump, I have dutifully read them all. As Siege-branded one-shots, these books face the terrible task of trying to make it appear that important stuff happens in them, even though they’re not part of the main series. There are three approaches you can take to achieve this effect.
First, you can just do a comic where Stuff Happens and hope everyone who hasn’t read it can keep up. As a rule of thumb, a comic is often good when stuff actually happens in it.
Second, you can do a comic where No Stuff Happens. These aren’t necessarily bad – indeed, they tend to have more staying power because the stories work in isolation – but you’ll maybe feel a bit betrayed that you bought a comic you might not previously have bothered with because you thought Stuff might Happen in it.
Third, and finally, you can do a comic where Stuff Pretends To Happen. One example of this was that issue of Hulk: The List where he got slightly irradiated again, but it didn’t actually seem to matter (or get acknowledged) in the long term.
So, with the parameters established… the comics:
I won’t go on about how great a writer-artist team Gillen McKelvie is, but this is a one-shot that manages to be both fun and entirely helpful in clarifying what Loki’s reasons are for all his plotting and scheming. And at the end, stuff happens.
McKelvie’s Loki is the perfect embodiment of a trickster god, charismatic and ingratiating, almost all style and very little substance. Much has already been said about the guyliner-sporting, androgynous look employed, which I can’t really add to, but I would like to draw attention to the moment where Loki reveals his intention take on the Disir and transforms from a sly, subtle (if theatrically so) figure into a warrior badass. An unusual posture for Loki to take (literally) but one that becomes all the more striking for that reason. He is, after all, from a warrior people, so of course he knows how to fight. Combined with the dialogue, it’s probably my favourite page in the issue. That said – if I’m being honest, as much as I like how McKelvie draws Loki, it’s impossible not to love his take on Hela and Mephisto more.
Gillen, meanwhile, weaves together disparate plot threads into an actual tapestry of events. It certainly helps that he’s got Thor, this one-shot and New Mutants #11 to hammer out Marvel’s norse mythology during Siege, and you’re certainly rewarded for reading them all. Gillen is in full-on Shakespeare mode, too, showing how Loki treats the world as his stage and everyone else as merely his players, complete with a bow to the audience at the end. This, friends, is Comics with a capital C.
Verdict: Stuff Happens.
Siege: Captain America
I know some of you have already disagreed with Seb’s recent article, disputing how confusing it is to have two versions of the Flash with identical powers, wearing the same costume and using the same name. If you want to see how that works in practise, try reading this issue, which features Captain America and Captain America fighting Crossfire and Razorfist in a the ruins of Asgard. Which, just in case you were hoping for some visual cues, are generic and featureless. The story itself is the kind that it’s necessary to tell right now, hammering out the identity issues between Bucky-Cap and Steve-Cap. And, if you haven’t read one that establishes Bucky as the new Cap, this is as good a place to start as any – although as far as Siege goes, it isn’t really important, but nor does it have much in the way of ramifications for the characters either. It’s simply one of a set of torch-passing/torch-accepting stories that need to exist at the moment.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of technically weak areas that drag the comic down. Due to the nature of the problems, I suspect it’s the artist (and I might go into more examined detail later) but we get things like: a civilian, caught in the collapse of Asgard, telling an assembled Steve and Bucky, in a two-panel exchange, that “I know you can do it…you’re Captain America.” I’ve scrutinised it and I can’t tell whether he’s supposed to be addressing Steve (as in the first panel) or Bucky (as in the second panel), and it’s actually kind of important to know, given the identity issues that are central to the story. Maybe he thinks he’s seeing double after his injury. Or maybe he just means “There’s a good chance that at least one of you must be Captain America since you’re both dressed like him.” There’s also a nigh-incomprehensible sequence where the two first engage Crossfire that – and I don’t play armchair editor very often – really should have been cleared up with dialogue, if not redrawn entirely.
Verdict: No Stuff Happens.
Siege: Young Avengers
Finally (at least for this week) the Young Avengers fans get thrown one of their semi-regular bones. Like everyone who read them, I really enjoyed the first couple of Young Avengers series, and Young Avengers Presents… – but after that, I’ve had trouble keeping track of the characters, especially because I’m not reading Mighty Avengers which I gather features a whole bunch of them. The thing is this: they’re great characters, and they work great together – but if, like me, you only read about them when the book explicitly says “Young Avengers” on the cover, it’s rapidly becoming clear that there’s not a continuing franchise to follow – and trying to create and/or advance inter-character subplots when they’re so rarely in the same room together strikes me as a difficult task, so it baffles me somewhat that McKeever tries to do so here.
On the plus side, McKeever’s character work is enjoyable and his plotting nice and tight. Mahmud A. Asrar does a more than adequate Jim Cheung impression for his part. If this were but one issue of a Young Avengers ongoing, I’d certainly be reading the series – but knowing that it’s just a one-shot, hanging helplessly in limbo… it’s hard to get too excited.
Also, the final verdict: this is not a comic where stuff happens. Unless you consider the inching-forwards of various Young Avengers romances to be “stuff” when there won’t be another Young Avengers comic on shelves unless the latter half of this year – and as much as it’s a fun read, well… I don’t.
Verdict: Stuff Pretends To Happen