SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "Siege" #1, in stores now.
In ancient times, the city of Asgard, the home of the Norse Gods, was a sacred place in the Marvel Universe. It was a place mortals feared to tread, but now one man not only has plans to not only enter the city, he's also going to wage war against its inhabitants. The opening shot in that war arrived this week in "Siege" #1, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Olivier Coipel. Norman Osborn and his ally, the Asgardian god of Mischief, Loki, came together and fabricated an incident that would allow them to invade Asgard. Osborn then lead the combined forces of his Dark Avengers, the intelligence agency H.A.M.M.E.R. and the U.S. Government's superhuman Initiative program in a attack on the city which currently floats over the American town of Broxton, Oklahoma.
In this, our second installment of STORMING HEAVEN, we welcome back Brian Michael Bendis for a page by page commentary on the action and incidents of "Siege" #1. If you missed the first part of our feature, where we discussed the "Siege: The Cabal" prologue, check it out here and then hurry back. The fun is about to start.
CBR News: Here we see that Soldier Field, the home of the Chicago Bears, is ground zero for the destructive incident that Osborn and Loki fabricate in order for Norman to invade Asgard. Why did you choose Chicago?
Brian Bendis: I picked it because it's a city I know and it's a city that feels rather American to me. It's right there, and I didn't want to blow up anything in New York any more.
Originally it was going to be Wrigley Field and Joe Quesada, who is a big baseball nerd, calls me up one day and goes, "No! That's horrible!" And I go, "It's supposed to be horrible." He goes, "No! It's un-American! You can do football! Use the Bears." And I'm like, "Isn't that just as American?" and he goes, "No." [Laughs]. So I went with that.
I'm not a sports guy. I just wanted a truly American thing being disturbed and turned into something horrible. I played with it being a school, but I felt that was too close to "Civil War."
So even though we open here with an incident like in "Civil War," the big difference here is that the inciting incident was manufactured and the one in "Civil War" was an accident that was bound to happen. I know some people are going, 'You just ripped off "Civil War," but Norman and and Loki have said in their dialogue that they're looking to recapture that moment from "Civil War," so they can do whatever they want.
Have you received any feedback from Bears fans over the destruction of Soldier Field?
Yeah. I didn't realize that a lot of fans were having so much trouble with the Bears emotionally that they were thrilled to see it. I've done a slew of interviews for the Chicago press, and it seems like Chicago really loved it and thought it was hilarious.
I have done local press before where they're either really upset over things like this or really happy. You never really know what you're going to get, and, really, I didn't mean any disrespect. I don't know anything about the Bears. I told the "Chicago Sun-Times" that I just discovered this week that Refrigerator Perry is no longer with the Bears organization. So that's what I know about the Bears. But it is hilarious that all these Chicago radio stations have been like, "They need a kick in the ass! Let Marvel Comics tell them to get off their asses and get to work!" And I'm like, "All right!"
The central figure in the middle of this incident is Volstagg, of the Warriors Three. Why did you have Norman and Loki choose him? Is it because he's gullible?
He's certainly not gullible. He's a great warrior. It came from the fact that JMS [J. Michael Straczynski] had an idea in his "Thor" run about Volstagg wanting to go out into the world and be like Thor. I thought it was an interesting idea with a lot of possibilities, and I was kind of thrilled to find out he wasn't going to touch upon it again in his run. So I thought, Volstagg was the perfect example. As Loki says, "There's a lot he doesn't know." It's almost like he's living on a different planet. If you're looking to create an incident around someone who wouldn't recognize it as an incident till it was over, he is absolutely your candidate.
Here, Norman and Loki talk about why they did what they did. When we spoke about "Siege: The Cabal," we discussed Norman's motivations, but is there anything you can tell us about Loki's motivations in "Siege?" He's often depicted as someone who has secret and sinister reasons for doing what he does.
I'm not going to say too much about that, because it's a major plot point in the story. But I did say in the prologue, and I think it's sometimes lost in the way Loki is interpreted, that Loki is the God of Mischief; so it can be very easy to write him as a mustache twirling villain who just wants to create trouble. And at one time, that's just what he was, but over the years he's certainly evolved into something else. He points out to Norman that he's the God of Mischief, but it's not like he creates mischief for mischief's sake. He says that he uses mischief like Thor uses his hammer. It's his tool to get things done.
Now, when you're doing business with Loki and he screws you over, you can't be upset. You did sign on the dotted line. But there is a lot to the character that sometimes gets swept under the rug. I like the idea that there's a new Asgard. Thor seems more contemplative and regal, and Loki has come back a little more focused. That's the way I'm interpreting him in this series.
Usually in stories, the inspirational speech is delivered to an army of heroes. Here you have Ares giving one to an army of villains.
Yes, but in their eyes they're not the villains of the story. To them, this is the truth. Plus, you've got the God of War leading an army into battle. You've got to take moment and really embrace that.
Earlier in the issue, Osborn lies to Ares to get him on board with the invasion of Asgard. So does Ares fit the archetype of the noble general that gets duped into fighting a politician's dirty war?
Maybe. One way or another, that will be dealt with in the next issue.
How important of a character is Ares in the overall story of "Siege?"
Ares is massively important. It's too bad that there's a printing error in "Siege" #1. Marvel is going to fix it in the next issue and put a version online that fixes it. One of the text pages outlining Ares' battle plan got printed incorrectly at the printer. I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but page three of the back matter is actually the same as page one. So you're missing a block of Ares plan. It's no one at Marvel's fault - we all worked hard on it and it will be online so people can see what Ares' plans and point of view are.
You wouldn't think that "Shock and Awe" tactics would work against gods, but I'd say this page here makes the case that they could.
Yes, Coipel's rendition of this scene is fantastic. I see a lot of reviews are pointing out what I've been saying for months; that this is a fantastically drawn book. There's no greater joy for a writer like myself than to be able to sit back and go, "Yeah I don't need to do anything to that page. I don't need to touch it. It's all there." That's the best feeling in the world.
Coipel and I first worked together on "House of M," and I'm really proud of that work. For years now, though, I've been wondering, "What if we did another project together? What would it look like? What are his strengths? And what would I do differently?" And here we are now with four issues worth of strengths. I think this page represents all of that to me.
This is a page that I'm sure has some caused some readers to wonder where "Siege" fits in with the current "Stark Disassembled" arc that Matt Fraction is telling in "Invincible Iron Man."
It's all going to line up very quickly. Matt and I are very good friends and have dinner often. So everything will line up. Since this this ships before "Captain America: Reborn" finishes and before the end of "Stark Disassembled," some might feel like I'm pushing or bullying Matt and Ed [Brubaker], and I'm absolutely not. Things will line up fantastically.
With Cap, I've had a lot of Steve Rogers showing up in my books, but "Reborn" was supposed to ship by now. I'm a huge fan of Ed's, and I was hoping, not to stand in his way, but to accentuate what he's doing by getting in there right away with Steve Rogers and the Avengers; giving the feeling of, "Look who's back and look what he's going to do!" So I apologize that didn't line up the way we hoped, but there's just nothing I can do at this point. In "Iron Man," Matt lines things up very quickly, and if you've been reading "Siege" and you haven't been checking out "Invincible Iron Man," please do! Matt is doing a historic run.
Thor joins the battle for Asgard. I don't believe you've had an opportunity to write the character much before this, so how does it feel to write Thor?
I've only written him in bits and pieces and I've made some jokes over the years that Jews shouldn't write Thor, but those were just jokes. Obviously Jews created this version of Thor. It was just at the time my instincts would be to have him go, 'Oy vey!' and then drop the hammer! [Laughs]
Also I've been working all year as a consultant on the Thor movie. So I've been listening to Kenneth Branagh expound in beautiful Shakespearean tones about Thor. I've been in a room with all these Thor authors and artists, and it's really been inspiring to me and very inspirational on how to handle Thor.
And, as I said earlier, enjoyed what I perceive to be a more contemplative, less words-more action, type of Thor. That has a lot to do with Coipel's powerful imagery as well. So I wanted to bring that Thor full fold into the Marvel Universe. He's been a little off to the side doing his own thing and "Siege," if anything, is about these characters reentering the Marvel Universe and maybe fixing it or making it worse. We'll find out. That's a big part of why I'm doing this. So that's what this image means to me. I only wanted to write Thor when I had something really special to do with him, and I hope this is it.
You close the issue with Steve Rogers angrily staring at the news footage of the invasion, and we all know that when you have a shot like this with Cap, some big stuff is going to happen afterward.
It's a funny page to me, because it's exactly what I wrote, but there's something very cute about the motion lines around the fist. I didn't write that, but Coipel literally had his fist trembling. It's a version of my favorite Steve Rogers, which is Steve from the '70s, running down the burning streets of Harlem and ready to take on the world. I think this is definitely an image that makes you want to come back for more.
Do you enjoy writing back matter text pages like the ones found in "Siege?"
Yes I did them in "Secret War," and I've found over the years that when people talk to me about "Secret War," they talk more about what happened in the back matter than the main pages. So they seemed to stick with people.
Also it's a great way to get across some outstanding bits of information without cluttering up the artist's schedule. So we're having a lot of fun with the back matter pages. I thought, "If we're doing a story about a war, we'll do the war and handle the planning from this angle," which gives you a lot for your money.
This also gives you a sense of what's to come in my other $3.99 books like "Dark Avengers." It's back matter material that isn't just padding, it's a big part of the story, coming in and out of "Siege."
Bendis' final thoughts on "Siege" #1
It's a long time coming, and it's fascinating to me how the stakes of anticipation have risen over the years from event to event. When "House of M" came out, the expectations were like, "Okay, show us what you got!" Then, after "Civil War" when I did "Secret Invasion," it was like, "You better show us something we've never seen before!" So the expectations keep building. It's both daunting and exciting. I'm excited for people to see the burst of Marvel fun that they've got coming to them.
Also, I thank people for hanging in there with us. "Dark Reign" has been a long haul and people stuck around and took the whole ride. So "Siege" is my thank you.
Bendis looks ahead to "Siege" #2, on sale February 3rd
In issue #2, you get payoffs on almost everything you saw here; payoffs on Cap, Thor, Norman, and the Sentry. There are gigantic payoffs coming. Remember, by the time issue #2 is done, we're halfway through the story. So a lot happens
Also, this is a war story and there's a big casualty next issue. It's so big I'm shutting off my Google alerts. I'm not trying to make anyone mad, but when I saw the finished art, I went, "Jesus." It was a scene that Coipel really seemed to enjoy drawing, and, for some reason, Laura [Martin] loved coloring. I wonder what people's reactions will be from that scene, which even made me wince!