Siege: The Cabal

Posted by on February 3rd, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Marvel; Brian Michael Bendis: writer, Michael Lark and Stefanio Gaudiano: artists, Matt Hollingsworth: colorist; $3.99

©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

Dr. Doom still gets thrown around a lot for somebody so august. First there’s the SMASSHHH; then, when he’s exiting the wall’s other side, a “BOOM” that takes up the width of two pages. Big jagged letters, and you see rock flinders everyplace; Doom’s traveling headfirst, hurtling beef in gray armor and a green hood. His limbs are folded, and I guess in the old days they would have been sprawling, but otherwise the pattern is much the way Kirby designed it all those decades ago. Back then you had the Thing hitting Dr. Doom, and something about “Aunt Petunia” and some pseudo-Shakespeare for Doom. Now Norman Osborn triggers a device and does so in the middle of a board room talk that has gone south. “Last chance,” he says. Next bubble, tiny as the first: “In or out, Doom.” And a few panels along … BOOM.

Doom goes through a wall because Cabal has a big irruption of Marvel-style activity in the middle, a 10-page stretch of masonry getting burst, extravagant ray-blast crackle, a roomful of tiny killer robots flying about (the robots are designed Gothic style, with the kind of angles normally seen on Batman or cathedrals or, come to think of it, Annihilus). Then Norman Osborn and the Sentinel size up the aftermath (“*Coff!* AGH!”). There’s some talk — the president, by hologram, argues with Norman Osborn. (“You have my answer, Norman. The answer is no.”) Then Loki drops a malign suggestion that Osborn picks up, and the plot of Siege, a 37-issue crossover, is under way. Something to do with an engineered incident to turn the public against superbeings. The suspicion grows that Marvel wants to do a second 9/11 echo. They figured it worked well enough in Civil War, so why not again? Last time it was the public being turned against superheroes, this time Asgard, next time Atlantis or the world of Howard the Duck.

Cabal follows this page sequence: 11 pages of Bendis-style talk, the 10-page irruption, the concluding five pages of set-up talk for the crossover. To me, the surprising thing is how easily the components snap together. In Tarantino, you get the classic sequence of verbal fencing followed by explosion of violence, but the proportion between the two stages of the sequence isn’t so wildly out of balance. Two men are talking, then two men are shooting. The Bendis-Kirby one-two is more like two men talking followed by effects from the end of Armageddon. The page just blows up, and so does the next page, and the next. Then the dialogue resumes. You’d think the tone would have been ruptured, but no. Maybe the costumes make all the difference: It doesn’t matter if the characters talk like loan sharks and numbers operators if they’re dressed like gods and machines. Or maybe the action is so formulaic and expected, such a convention, that it counts as much in the story as the songs did in an old-style musical (that is, possibly some but never all that much).

©2009 Marvel Characters, Inc.

The surprise is how suave and commanding the usual Bendis stuff remains. The issue opens with a dialogue between the tortured Norman Osborn and an unseen tempter, who of course turns out to be the Green Goblin mask. Osborn has been through this debate so many times, going back to a panel drawn by John Romita that no doubt involved a fireplace and Osborn making a fist. Here the same old conflict is played out, the Goblin tempting Osborn into cutting up rough, but the tempting is done with Bendis’s trademark repeated close-ups, repeated words, hard-guy reasoning. “You pull this off … you are bulletproof.” Then, a second word balloon, one floating on its own: “Untouchable.” The sequence is brisk, just two pages, but we’re given the full treatment: the rhythmic drama, the malign, voice-inside-the-head persuasiveness.

The sequence winds up, you see the Goblin mask in Osborn’s hands, and there’s a letdown — that again. But letdowns of this sort are part of the deal. If you read superhero stuff, the same fellows are going to be back doing much the same stuff, and what you hope for is snazzier word balloons and panel sequences to dress up the proceedings. Brian Michael Bendis has them on tap, and I guess that’s enough to keep the whole deal moving forward.

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One Response to “Siege: The Cabal

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