SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "Siege: The Cabal," in stores now
For about a year now the Marvel Universe has been under the iron fisted rule of the villainous Norman Osborn. When he was given the position of the U.S. Government's top superhuman law enforcer he abandoned his costumed identity as the Green Goblin, donned an Iron Man-style battle suit and became the "hero" known as the Iron Patriot. In the following months, Osborn used a variety of tools to expand his power and keep his enemies in check, like his own team of "Dark Avengers," the intelligence agency H.A.M.M.E.R., the forces of the U.S. Government's Initiative program and a secret Cabal of the Marvel U's top criminal minds.
This January, Osborn will use all those tools to try and accomplish a goal that will either make him more powerful than ever, or end his Dark Reign once and for all. That goal? The invasion and subjugation of Asgard, realm of the Norse Gods. It's a story that will be chronicled in "Siege," an Avengers event story that begins in January, unfolding in the pages of a four issue mini-series and several tie-in issues.
In this, the first installment of STORMING HEAVEN, "Siege" writer Brian Michael Bendis joins CBR to provide page by page commentary on "Siege: The Cabal," the one-shot special by him and artist Michael Lark, which sets the stage for Norman Osborn's war against Asgard.
CBR News: Brian, you open things up with an interesting conversation between Norman Osborn and...himself?
Brian Michael Bendis: Yeah, I like the reveal that the other voice talking is the worst possible thing you could expect from Norman. You turn to this page, and it's revealed that he's falling down the hole again
In this conversation, it seems like the voice of Norman's Green Goblin persona is becoming much stronger and more dominant and Norman's actual personality is in danger of becoming subservient to it.
Yep. He's burning the candle at both ends. Victoria Hand is warning him left and right to not go down this road. I've met people who don't know when to stop. They torture and beat themselves and that's what Norman is doing. He's also surrounded himself with this Cabal of people who don't have his best interests at heart. Loki has been poking and puppet-stringing him pretty good. So that's a big part of what's going on too.
With his alter ego set to reemerge, many readers are wondering how you see Osborn. Is it as a truly evil man, or more as a man struggling with a mental illness that makes him vicious and dangerous?
Evil is a tough one, because his vision for the world is arguable. Norman's perspective is not evil. It's a point of view, and the fact that he's chemically altered himself and has other psychological issues doesn't help. It's not that I sympathize with him, but in creating this storyline, I've certainly come to understand him.
The topic of Norman and the Goblin's discussion is Asgard, which is currently floating over Broxton, Oklahoma. That's something which displeases both of his personas. Why do you think they have such a big problem with Asgard?
Imagine if Afghanistan or North Korea was suddenly floating over Arizona - it would be an incident. It wouldn't be a case of, "Hey, look at that!" There would be hell to pay. We talk about this more in "Siege." An argument is made that if Asgard is left alone, maybe everyone can live in harmony. Norman doesn't feel that's his job, though. It's his job to see Asgard as a threat to American soil on American soil and act accordingly.
Here we have the arrival of a pretty perturbed Doctor Doom. What's on Victor's mind in this scene?
One of the the things I like about this scene is that everyone is saying exactly what they want to say. No one is hiding their motivations. Norman says, "I want this," and Doom says, "No." So what you're seeing is what you're getting. The question is, how far are these characters willing to go to draw their line in the sand? Ultimately, that's what this special is about.
So Doom's breaking point when it comes to Osborn is his friendship with Namor?
Yeah that's a big thing. Doom and Namor are friends and allies. They have been since the earliest days of the "Fantastic Four," all the way through "Super-Villain Team-Up." Norman made a big bold move against Namor in "Dark Reign: The List-Uncanny X-Men," so there has to be payment.
Here, Doctor Doom gets smacked down by Norman Osborn's mysterious and powerful enforcer, a character you first hinted at in the "Secret Invasion: Dark Reign" one-shot. Will will be learning who this character is anytime soon? Will their identity be revealed in the "Siege" mini-series or another book?
You'll learn the character's identity soon; within the next month or two. Their identity will be revealed both in the pages of "Siege" and "Dark Avengers."
Also in this scene, it looks like Taskmaster is realizing that he may have gotten in over his head when he accepted Osborn's offer to join the Cabal.
Taskmaster didn't realize what he was walking into. It was like, "Come to this meeting. You might find it interesting." Then all of a sudden, it's World War III! I also enjoyed writing Doctor Doom's dialogue towards Taskmaster earlier in the book.
It also looks, based on their dialogue in this scene, that the Hood's allegiance now lies fully with Loki.
For those who don't know, the Hood lost his power set in "New Avengers" when Doctor Strange and Doctor Voodoo exorcised Dormammu. So the Hood was all dressed up with no powers to go. He's got a team of super-villains and no way to control them. Loki then comes in to cause a little bit of mischief and points him towards the Norn Stones, which are an Asgardian bit of business from Kirby's days on "Thor." They're something Loki used to use like a bag of magic marbles.
So it was a case of, "Here you go! Now you're up and running and maybe even better than before." All of these guys are, "What have you done for me lately?" types, so Loki's definitely got the Hood in his pocket.
Are any of the other Cabal members aware of this?
Doctor Doom is a pretty busy individual these days - is this scene sort of his exit from the "Siege" storyline?
Yes [Laughs]. It was a good entrance and exit. There's always another story waiting for Doom's involvement.
What exactly is going on with this scene? Is the disabled Doombot releasing nanites to attack Osborn and Avengers Tower? And where did you get the idea to have Doom attack Osborn in this manner?
Those are little Doombots that are being released. They had to be undetectable to Norman's armor and had to be something of an upgrade. They also had to do a lot of damage quickly, so a swarm like this could overwhelm Osborn and the others. Physically and psychologically, this was a good move on Doom's part.
Just how powerful is this swarm of Doombots? Is Avengers Tower actually in danger of coming down?
Yes. They're ripping the building apart. This isn't a small thing.
I also noticed in this scene that the Sentry directs Victoria Hand to evacuate his wife from Avengers Tower. When we last saw The Sentry's wife, it was in "Dark Avengers" and she shot him in the face with an alien weapon. What exactly is going on with the two of them? Have they patched things up off panel?
No. You'll find out their situation in issues #13-14 of "Dark Avengers."
Here, Norman Osborn is making his appeal to the President of the United States to allow him to attack Asgard. The President's back is towards us, so it could be Barack Obama or an entirely different person. Was this on purpose?
I try not to show to the President because it feels like he'll date this story greatly. I just put together my 10th Anniversary trade for Marvel, and it was nice that none of the stuff I remember being terribly proud of was terribly dated.
At the end of the one-shot, it appears as though Loki is giving Norman a lesson on the proper way to start the war he wants to wage against Asgard.
This is one of the big differences between "Siege" and other events of it's ilk. The plan going forth involves lessons learned from "Civil War." "Civil War" didn't start because the superheroes had an ideological problem. There was an incident that set things in motion, and Loki says, "We need an incident." So, much like we've seen in our own modern history, it's not beyond world leaders to fabricate incidents if it serves a purpose.
Bendis's Final Thoughts on "Siege: The Cabal"
This was a blast to write, and I hope people enjoy it. It was one of those stories that's full of scenes that you can't wait to get to, but you have to earn them. So writing this issue was a lot of fun. All the beats came together quickly and organically. I hope people enjoy it, and this is just a tickle of what's to come.
I think Michael Lark did an amazing job on this book. I've known him a long time. We were at Caliber together. My first big book and his first big book debuted in the same month. I was doing a book called "Quivers" and he was doing a book called "Airwaves." I've always been enamored by Michael's art style, and he's made leaps and bounds. I can't think of a book in the last 15 years that's had his name on it and hasn't been of the highest quality, so it was absolutely wonderful to work with him on this story.
Matt Hollingsworth is the gold standard to which all colorists have to abide, and every once in awhile he just rolls up his sleeves and hits one out of the park. This is one of those times. I love the guy.
Bendis looks ahead to "Siege" #1 (on sale January 6th)
"Siege" #1 is in the can, and I believe it's at the printer, so it's going to ship on time. What you have to look forward to, and I think people will be a little startled by, is that "Siege" is four tight issues; a lot happens, very quickly. I think people will be surprised by how much happens right away and who it happens to.
With "Siege," you're witnessing a story that sets up a status quo for the Avengers books, and by the nature of the Avengers books, the mainstream Marvel Universe is quite different than it used to be. So it's a very exciting time, and with "Siege" #1, you get in right on the ground floor to see how it all unfolds.