SIEGE: EMBEDDED #2
Written by Brian Reed
Art by Chris Samnee
The first issue introduced three main subplots. 1) We have Ben Urich's search for the truth about the tragedy in Chicago, 2) Norman Osborn's manipulation of the media through popular pundit Todd Keller, and 3) Volstagg's journey back to Asgard. Of course, the latter is very much connected to the former as Volstagg happens to be hitching a ride back home with Ben and Will's.
The most interesting thing that happens in the second issue is the development of the Todd Keller plot. Just going by the fact that he'd invade Asgard in the first place, Osborn obviously comes across as unhinged, but what we see here suggests that it may be due more to hubris than outright insanity. While you would certainly expect someone bent on world domination to be well aware of the power of the media - something which has been alluded to previously - this issue clearly shows that Osborn is confident in his ability to manipulate the press, and that he is willing to take a very active part in influencing how his actions are perceived. The biggest weakness I see with the handling of this subplot is the overly simplistic depiction of the media or, more specifically, the Patriot News Network. While I can see the appeal of creating a Marvel Universe version of Fox News - with Todd Keller as its Glenn Beck - it just doesn't feel that interesting, and the comparison comes across as too obvious.
So, what about our three amigos? Ben, Will and Volstagg end up spending most of this issue on the road, stopping occasionally so that Ben can interview random people about their views on what's going on in the news. It seems to me that the person he should be interviewing is Volstagg. Then again, considering that Volstagg comes across as a bumbling fool, he may not be a great source of intelligence. The characterization of Volstagg is the biggest problem for me with this issue. I think that Brian Reed might have been going for the noble savage archetype, but he instead gives us a clueless man-child who is best dealt with by shutting him up with pork rinds and women's fashion magazines(!). I can't help wondering why Volstagg doesn't seem to be the least bit bothered by the fact that he was involved, albeit unwittingly, in the deaths of thousands of people. The character does have a certain charm, but he doesn't command any real respect for either himself or his people.
What this issue is lacking in the writing department, it very nearly makes up for with the art. I've been a fan of Chris Samnee's since his guest spot on Daredevil nearly a year ago, and my advice to anyone who hasn't done so already is to check out his blog which features new sketches almost daily. Samnee's art has a great combination of detail and softness, and is a perfect fit for this kind of (relatively) down to Earth story.
Verdict - Check It. While it offers some insight into Norman Osborn's rather ambitious media strategy, this particular issue reads like a quirky road movie with Volstagg as the Jar Jar Binks-like character (yes, I went there) that you don't quite know how to relate to. The art is spectacular, and the story has its moments, but this doesn't feel like essential reading.