After the jump, a spoiler-filled discussion of the Siege crossover and the new X-Universe wide “Second Coming” storyline.
Over the past several months, I’ve lamented how Siege is the empty-calorie diet of the Marvel Universe, an enjoyable, unhealthy confection whose greatest aftereffect is the shame of consumption. It’s conclusion is — well, terrible and even worse than the build-up suggested. Perhaps you’re interested in the resolution of the storylines that Norman Osborne’s Dark Reign established, like Osborn’s manipulation by Loki. Nope! Osborn just flips out and runs away after Asgard falls and the Void takes over the Sentry, leaving Volstagg to conk him on the head. Dark Reign over! No need for any exploration of how and why the U.S. national security establishment took its marching orders from this madman — Obama just has the Air Force turn on H.A.M.M.E.R. and we’re back to normal. Because as everyone who works in this field can tell you, presidents order different branches of the military and intelligence services to attack each other all the time.
Or maybe you’d like to know how Loki, a fucking God, managed to miscalculate so severely over managing the Void’s psychosis. Maybe you’d like know, for that matter, how the Void is a Biblical evil and the consequence of junkie-Sentry drinking that magic goofball potion, or why he becomes a giant bug when he’s unleashed. Why ask why? Thor can just kill him first. Sure, Iron Man can drop the entire H.A.M.M.E.R. helicarrier on him and that won’t kill him, but if you got hit with Mjolnir, that would be like lights-fucking-out. Even though Thor threw Mjolnir through the Void and then lightning’d him — all with the augmenting power of the Norn stones working on Thor like an Asgardian version of the Cream and the Clear — just a couple pages before and that didn’t kill the Void.
But, look, it’s a comic book. Inconsistencies like that are par for the course. The bigger problems are the sheer laziness in the storytelling. Brian Michael Bendis is one of comics’ greatest writers and Olivier Coipel is one of comics’ greatest artists. And the Siege books were plotted like shit. Siege #4 opens up with all the heroes dying. It might have some emotional impact if they didn’t all come back to life two pages later. You can really go through the previous issues and count up all the unnecessary panels and dangling plot lines — hey, why’s it matter now that Fury didn’t let Phobos avenge Ares’ death? — and tear your beard out of your face in frustration that when it came time to kill all the heroes in the Marvel Universe, they couldn’t even spare more than two pages’ worth of suspense. Worse, not only do the actual Siege books demonstrate shitty plotting, none of the crossover component books do any more than show one big fight scene. Bendis’s are the worst of them all — Dark Avengers precedes Siege and most of New Avengers is irrelevant to it.
(So Steve Rogers is now the new Nick Fury, just like everyone expected, and he tells Bucky that Bucky proved his worth as Captain America. Fucking when? When during Siege does Bucky out-Captain America Steve?)
Meanwhile, over in the X-Universe, “Second Coming” is showing you how it’s done. Long story short: Cable and Hope are back from the future; all of the X-Men are huddled onto Utopia; and X-Force has failed to stop the genocidaire alliance of Bastion, Cameron Hodge, the Mutant Response Division and the Right from figuring out a workable plan to finish off the world’s remaining dozens of mutants. You can plausibly argue that all previous 25 issues of X-Force — possibly my favorite superhero comic out now — are leading up to this. Every single chapter of “Second Coming” is efficient and economical, changing focus to different characters depending on the book, but always advancing the overall story. That story is frighteningly plausible (for a comic book): if there are only a handful of X-Men left alive and Jean, Xavier and Magneto are off the board, then a villain team-up really would be able to finish them off. And if you were among those villains, a plausible battle plan would definitely involve taking the teleporters out first.
Yes, this means Nightcrawler dies. It’s a pretty holy-shit moment. Matt Fraction writes a pitch-perfect funeral scene that archly laughs at the idea that Kurt will stay dead — Doug Ramsey says something like, I was recently dead, so who knows, maybe this will all sort itself out… — and then Wolverine freaks out and feels an emotion and his claws pop and it’s like what would happen if a superhero died. Acrimony, recriminations, a bloodlust for revenge. No Norn stones glistening you back to life two pages later. No giant bugs or abrupt fake resolutions of complex and multifaceted storylines.