Siege: Mighty Avengers


By Dan Slott, Koi Pham, Neil Edwards & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-4800-5

One of the most momentous events in Marvel Comics history occurred in 1963 when a disparate array of individual heroes banded together to stop the Incredible Hulk. The Avengers combined most of the company’s fledgling superhero line in one bright, shiny and highly commercial package. Over the decades the roster has continually changed, and now almost every character in their universe has at some time numbered amongst their colourful ranks…

More recently, Norman Osborn (the original Green Goblin) had, through various machinations, replaced Tony “Iron Man” Stark as America’s Security Czar: the “top cop” in sole charge of a beleaguered nation’s defence and freedom, especially in regard to ultra-technological threats and all metahuman influences…

On Stark’s watch a Superhuman Registration Act resulted in a divisive Civil War amongst the costumed community with tragic repercussions, but the nation and the world were no safer and the planet was almost lost to an insidious Secret Invasion by shapeshifting alien Skrulls.

After executing the Skrull leader on live TV, Osborn’s popularity skyrocketed, and when Stark was inevitably fired the former villain got his job. Slowly at first, Osborn began to exert overt control over America, instigating an oppressive “Dark Reign” which saw the World’s Mightiest Heroes driven underground.

To cement his position, he replaced the Avengers with his own hand-picked coterie of criminals and impostors. As well as heavy-handedly commanding all the covert and military resources of the USA, Norman now had his own suit of confiscated Iron Man armour and as Iron Patriot led his team of ersatz champions. On paper at least, the country should have been beyond any possibility of threat or harm…

Eventually however the madman’s reach exceeded his grasp and Founding Avenger Henry Pym reclaimed the hallowed Avengers name; forming his own squad of champions to restore both the team’s reputation and his own.

In the past the periodically unstable Dr. Pym had operated as Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath and Yellowjacket whilst fighting crime, disaster and injustice, but since the Skrulls killed his ex-wife Janet Van Dyne (she was actually only mutated and lost in another dimension: it’s comics and nobody dies forever) he’s been calling himself The Wasp in her honour…

Aided by the mystic machinations of Wanda Maximoff, the once-reviled Scarlet Witch, Pym reluctantly gathered a disparate group of veterans and neophytes under his banner. Former Young Avengers Stature and a juvenile Vision joined Quicksilver, Hercules, child prodigy Amadeus Cho, U.S. Agent and faithful butler Edwin Jarvis in a reorganised, revitalised gang soon augmented by robotic siren Jocasta. The steel seductress had been forcibly encoded with the lost Janet’s brain patterns and memories…

The things modern superhero comicbooks do best are Spectacle and Cosmic Retribution: the cathartic comeuppance of someone who truly deserves it.

This collection reprints the Mighty Avengers chapters of the epic, demi-Wagnerian Siege saga (#32-35, February to June 2010): selected portions of a vast publishing event which re-set and restored the traditional “Stan & Jack” Marvel Universe after a time of appalling political darkness.

These tales wrapped up the eccentric history of the ever-changing team and offered a welcome hint of a new dawn in the otherwise bleak and angsty world of Marvel’s costumed cohorts…

Osborn has been playing a deadly double game from the start. The Cabal is a loose and treacherous association of super-villains and outcasts comprising Norman, Asgardian Mischief God Loki, sorcerous gang-boss The Hood, mutant telepath Emma Frost, Taskmaster, Sub-Mariner and Doctor Doom.

Cracks began to show – both in the criminal conspiracy and Osborn himself – and some of the confederates started fast-tracking their own schemes, forcing Iron Patriot to promise to conquer Asgard for Loki. Doom then seceded from the group, prompting a disastrous battle between the hidden Masters of Evil…

At this time Asgard was displaced from its other-dimensional home and floating scant metres above the soil of Oklahoma. Using his position as Chief of Homeland Security Osborn manufactures an “Asgardian incident” and launches an all-out invasion on the Gleaming City, overruling the new American President to do so.

He finally overreached himself and led an unsanctioned assault on Earthly Asgardia (see Siege, Siege: New Avengers and Siege: Dark Avengers) when an army of outlawed heroes united to stop him…

Written throughout by Dan Slott and primarily illustrated by Koi Pham, this strand of the cataclysmic confrontation opens with ‘Mighty/Dark: The Real Deal’ (inked by Craig Yeung) as troubled Quicksilver writhes in guilt and frustration. He is with the squad only because his sister Wanda is a member, but so far she has managed to avoid every overture of the super-swift mutant as he hunts for her in their transdimensional Infinite Mansion

He misses her again as she pops in to warn of a crisis on Earth and pops out again before he can corner her. Of course, nobody has informed peevish Pietro that Pym believes the Witch to be an impostor…

Arriving on Earth, the team happily ruins one of Osborn’s interminable press conferences. Iron Patriot is trying to put a positive spin on the fact that his Avenger team has failed to stop the Absorbing Man rampaging through radical energy research station Project Pegasus.

Scoring points is soon forgotten, however, as the berserk fugitive explodes out of the complex, having just acquired the reality-reshaping properties of a Cosmic Cube…

‘Deus Ex Machinations’ sees the rival Avengers outfits agreeing to a most necessary truce and team-up to combat cosmic thug Crusher Creel, but even as the reality ripping fight ensues, Osborn is heading for the Cosmic Cube – and control of absolutely everything – with Pym determined to thwart him…

In the end brains win over infinite brawn and Pym even manages to psych out Osborn, forcing the demented demagogue into a surly, face-saving retreat. The day gets better and better after Pym returns to the Infinite Mansion. His patient research has finally uncovered who has been masquerading as the Scarlet Witch, but the Scientist Supreme has completely missed the fact that his 10,000 mass-produced Jocastas have been compromised by his most implacable enemy…

Armageddon approaches in ‘Pre-Siege Mentality’ (illustrated by Neil Edwards, Andrew Currie & Andrew Hennessy) as Loki tricks his brother Thor into attacking Pym’s Mighty Avengers. After a catastrophic conflict the unpredictable savant then destroys his own team by offering Loki a place on it and can’t understand why everybody else quits in disgust…

Pham & Yeung return to limn the last two issues beginning with ‘Salvation: Heir Apparent’ as agents of the Global Reaction Agency for Mysterious Paranormal Activity pop in to revoke Pym’s authority and end their relationship with the Avengers. Pym is already distracted by the malfunctions in his Jocasta units and when news of Osborn’s manufactured Asgard incident breaks he’s completely off-guard and unprepared for a resurgent Ultron to attack him with a legion of enslaved and comprised Jocastas as his murderous brides…

With the metal marauders in complete control of the Infinite Mansion and eagerly hunting him, Pym takes his last faithful Jocasta and G.R.A.M.P.A. agents Ace and One-Eyed Jacquie into the trans-dimensional Underspace around the lost citadel and reveals his greatest secret…

‘Salvation: WWJVDD (What Would Janet Van Dyne Do?)’ discloses the fate of his former wife and only love: mutated into an ever-expanding living explosion of Pym-particles he has been secretly attempting to restore. It’s too much for the Jocasta-with-Janet’s-mind. Slighted and furious, she attacks the callous Scientist Supreme even as in Oklahoma, Pym’s Mighty Avengers answer the call to arms against Osborn… and are cut down like chaff…

Ultron meanwhile believes he has finally beaten his despised creator, but Pym has one last card to play and one final trick to pull off…

And with Ultron temporarily forestalled, Pym rejoins the founding Avengers for the last battle against Osborn… which occurs in the aforementioned Siege, Siege: New Avengers and Siege: Dark Avengers

Fun, furious and fast-paced, this is a compelling but incredibly frustrating chronicle which deserves to be more than just a stepping stone to a greater epic. There’s no real ending, just a charge into danger, and that’s not really fair to the reader.

Nevertheless this is still a beautiful and powerful Fights ‘n’ Tights thriller full of fabulous incidents of character, suspense and adventure, all magnificently rendered by incredibly talented creators – as further proved by Pham’s cover gallery and unfinished original art pages included as extras – but the inescapable truth here is that this book is only half the story (at the very least) and will be all but incomprehensible to new and casual readers.

Caveat so very Emptor, my friends…
© 2009, 2010 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.