Thursday, May 13, 2010

Siege-Bomb Baby!

Siege #4 (of 4)
New Avengers: Finale One-Shot

Dark Avengers #16 (of 16)
The Sentry: Fallen Sun One-Shot

Written by Brian Michael Bendis & Paul Jenkins
Art by Olivier Coipel, Bryan Hitch, Mike Deodato, and Tom Raney

So Marvel set off the Siege bomb this week, and boom! Just like that, all in one week, Siege (and by extension all the stories started by Brian Bendis and company stretching all the way back to Avengers: Disassembled) is done. And it was, I have to say, one hell of a ride. And it's all pretty much SPOILERS from here, so if you make the jump... YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!

Asgard in ruins, Loki given a hero's death, Osborn removed from power, the evil Avengers apprehended, Steve Rogers made the world's top cop, the Hood's gang taken down, the Registration Act repealed, the Sentry dead... Whew! I had a lot of fun reading all this in one sitting last night, seeing all these plot threads come together and, at long last, after far too freaking long, being given an actual ending.
That's what's been missing from the on-going story of the Marvel universe for quite some time now: closure. I was okay with it in the case of Civil War; that book itself had a satisfying end note, and set up an interesting new status quo. But ever since then, it's felt like one long run. Event book after event book, leading into each other like some kind of horrible moebius strip, with no satisfying endings anywhere along the way. The Avengers books suffered from this particularly.

As much as people talk about Bendis "getting his way" at Marvel, I'd actually argue that his Avengers plans have been continually scuttled and undercut by the expansion of his plotlines into things that had to encompass the whole damn Marvel line. He's a careful plotter by nature, slowly dealing out the pieces of his story and building on small moments to a big finish. But with Avengers, he's had to give his story over to the company as a whole, with other writers handling his characters and situations and often not handling them very well. His small moments were, of necessity, sacrificed to the ham-fisted bombast of your average mainstream funnybook, and the results were never as satisfying as I think they might have been had he been left alone to tell his own story in his own way.

The same, of course, could be said for Paul Jenkins and his work on the Sentry. A nice little self-contained story about human nature and comics history, Jenkins' original Sentry mini-series was a perfect little stand-alone story. The character never should have been brought back, much less woven into the tapestry of mainstream Marvel continuity. I enjoyed what Bendis did with him, but Jenkin's "Fallen Sun" one-shot reminds me that the character was never meant to bear the kind of weight that's been put on his back these last years. I'm also impressed with Jenkins' ability to give his passing genuine pathos, especially in light of the fact that all of it is entirely manufactured. The character has NO actual history with anyone who attends his funeral in this story except for Tony Stark, and yet Jenkins made me feel these fictional mourners' pain as they remember stories that were never written. It's a nice reminder of the character's genuine heroism, and makes me feel kind of bad for the pathetic wretch he became under Bendis' pen in Avengers.

But such is the nature of big-time corporate spandex storytelling, and there's no use crying over it too bitterly. Bendis pulled it out in the end and gave me a solid evening's entertainment. Whether it was worth the 17 dollars I paid for it is another question, of course, and goes a long way towards explaining why I won't be continuing with Avengers after this. But as a capper to a long, mad run of super hero funnybooks, with the economics taken out of the equation, this was aces.

Grade: A-


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