Dueling Review: Siege: The Cabal #1

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As powerful as I, your Robot Overlord am, I have yet to comprehend your silly holidays and mail shipping schedules! The holiday you call Thanks-Giving was two weeks ago – why then, would you delay the comics arriving in stores last week?  It has thrown off my control of the Matthew and Stephen units and gave them a day of rest, when they should have been doing my bidding!

MY BIDDING!

I’ll let this incident slip this time meat bags, but you will rue the day you miss your Dueling Review deadline.

Stephen: You kind of sound like Victor Von Doom, you know?

SILENCE COW!  Now get back to the grind wheel and review Siege: The Cabal #1! Your Robot Overlord Commands It!

100_SIEGE__THE_CABAL_1.jpgSiege: The Cabal #1
COVER BY: David Finch
WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILS: Michael Lark
INKS: Array

Previously, on Siege – The Cabal:  The superhuman Civil War did more than just divide the Marvel Universe, it caused everyone to change what they expected a superhero to be.  Superhuman registration followed, and Tony Stark led to Norman Osborn, who is perfectly willing to lie, cheat and steal whatever it is he wants to serve his ends.  Assembling several cohorts (The Hood, Namor, Emma Frost, Doctor Doom, Loki and Willie Lumpkin, though some have turned on him) he has created a Cabal to take the Marvel U to it’s new Norman-led state of chaos.  Norm’s biggest problem is the floating City of Asgard, now Thor-less, that he wants to attack…

Stephen: I should point out I’m not a huge reader of all things Marvel, and what little I do suss come from Matthew’s reviews, the Marvel podcast, and the many press releases and sneak peeks we run on the site.  That being said, it was pretty easy to follow what was going on in the issue, even though I will never understand why super-villains decide to team up.  By their very nature they are megalomaniacs bent on bending the world to their will.  Put two or more SVs in a room, and eventually they are going to turn on one another.  And forget letting the leader be a multiple personality disorder case, because that’s only going to lead to big bad trouble that we see building in this issue.  It’s just too bad this issue is all build and little deliver.

Matthew: This issue is an interesting read, but once again, it’s all about setup with no follow-through.  We’re shown that there are cracks in Norman’s armor, we’re shown that Doom and Norm have bad blood (since Doom still stands beside his old ally Namor, someone who turned on Norman during the Utopia debacle) but it’s all talk talk talk.  I complained about Dark Avengers Annual being nothin’ but Prologue, and here again we’re paying out the nose for something like 30 pages of “Uh oh, somethin’ is about to happen!”

Stephen: Isn’t that the purpose of a lead-in issue?  To give us a lot of build up, so that when the big event drops, we know why it happened?  I think there are some interesting moments in the issue; the whole Norman Osborn Secret Weapon is still a mystery (kinda), and the way Loki and the Green Goblin personality twist Norman are interesting moments as well.  I really thought the conversation between Norman and the Goblin personality at the beginning was well written, but I agree we are getting some classic Bendis action with all the jibber-jabber.

Matthew: Bendis does well in setting up tense situations, but the resolution of them leaves a lot to be desired.  When Norman finally turns on Doctor Doom in this issue, it’s a moment I’ve been looking forward to for some time, but it comes across way too “by-the-numbers” for me.  “Oh, it’s a Doombot, and also a time bomb!”

Stephen: The good news is I actually knew what a Doombot was without having to go to the Wiki.  Score one for the Marvel N00B!

Matthew: One scene that DOES work well for me is the President (who remains unidentified, but it ain’t Jimmy Carter) informing Norman that there will be no invasion of Asgard.  Norman tries to push it, but the President shuts him down.  It’s good to see that there IS a limit to what he can get away with, proving that the entire government isn’t corrupt.  Are you as tired of the whole “Norman Osborn: Campus Cop” thing as I’m getting to be?

Stephen: It sounds like Dean Osborn is putting the Asgardians on double super secret probation.  And when that happens, things really start to fall apart.  I know why Norman is in the position he is in, but I don’t understand why the American Public would go along with it.

Matthew: Loki is played very well here (though I kinda liked him better in Sif’s body) as he reminds Norman that the Civil War started with Stamford, and subtlety explains that perhaps this needs to happen again.  I’m very upset with Marvel for using Volstagg the Voluminous in the manner that the preview of “Siege #1″ is going to use him, as the new Speedball.  Why must we take any character with any vestige of whimsy or fun and make ‘em grim and bloody?  Why does everything have to be some damnably dark?  It’s not more realistic!

Stephen: Have I ever told you how much I like Batman?

Matthew: Oh, god… here we go…

Stephen: See, back in the ‘80s this feller by the name of Frank Miller took Batman, who was once a fun and jolly hero, and turned him into a dark avenger (not THAT kind of dark avenger) that was all brooding and angry at the world, and was full of self loathing for what he had become.  THAT, my friend, is why Volstagg must become the next dark hero full of self flagellation. The Dark Knight Returns has become one of those fixed moments in time, and no one can change the long term impact of that mini-series… not even your precious Doctor Who.

With that in mind, what’d you think of the art?

Matthew: I like Michael Lark’s art, but it’s reminiscent of the teams on Captain America, The Marvels Project, The Torch, and indeed, much of the published output.  Is Marvel creating a new “house style?”  Where’s Skottie Young or Steve Ditko to shake things up?

Stephen: I think Skottie is doing that Wizard of Oz adaptation, while Ditko is doing something I can’t quite talk about right now, because I told him I’d keep a secret for a while longer…

I saw a video clip from inside the Marvel offices recently, and was surprised that there was a room full of artists on computers working on comics.  While it was brief, it reminded me of the assembly lines from the good ol’ days of building cars.  While there’s nothing wrong with this (I’ve spent my fair share of time in the bullpen), your flippant observation about the art style might have more truth to it than you know.  Still, i wasn’t terribly bothered by the art.  I’m kind of used to the heavily photocopied, and fill the the muddy areas with lots of black look that a lot of publishers are running with these days.

Matthew: My frustration with pacing at Marvel, specifically Bendis-related pacing, has gotten more and more noticeable in recent months, and this issue only adds to my irritation.  It’s well-written, with some witty dialogue, and not unattractive art, but it’s NOT 30 pages worth of material and it’s certainly not four bucks worth of material.  This entire issue consists of a conversation, a short confrontation, and Norman Osborn flipping out.  The revelation that Norm is talking to his Green Goblin mask reminds me of Spider-Man the movie, in the same bad way that the Superman/helicopter scene from Superman: Secret Origins #3 reminded you of Superman: The Motionless Picture.  Siege: The Cabal is nothing but filler to get us to the big crossover, and earns a disappointed 2 out of 5 stars overall from Matthew.

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Stephen: I’m not as invested in the issue as a lot of other people.  I’ve become very accustomed to Bendis’ writing style from all his Ultimate (Comics) work, so perhaps I’ve been numbed over the past ten years, to that which frustrates you right now.  There are many moments in the story that do need to be told in order to see the big picture and to get to the big exposition (or explosion if you’ve read the sneak peeks).  This issue is not much different than what DC did with the Blackest Night prequel.  If you’re looking to fill some time, and want some talky-talky, and some fighty-fighty, then this issue is a good casual read. I’m giving Siege: The Cabal #1, 3 out of 5 Stars.

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