Saturday, February 6, 2010

Siege: Embedded #2 Review

This is Christine, and I thought I'd make my debut here as a regular contributor to The Weekly Crisis with a look at Siege: Embedded #2. As you all probably know, Siege: Embedded is to Siege what the various Frontline minis have been to previous events. And, as usual, we're exploring the goings on in the Marvel Universe from Ben Urich's perspective. This time, we find him traveling with two companions in the form of old friend and fellow journalist William Stern, and Volstagg, likely the country's most hated Asgardian. So, is it any good and does it add anything to our appreciation of the main event? Hit the jump and find out!

Written by Brian Reed
Art by Chris Samnee

While the main series gives us a second issue that brings the quality up a notch compared to what we saw last month (see Kirk's earlier review of Siege #2), its companion series feels like it's losing steam.

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.

The issue's sole action scene sees Volstagg exchange the fashion magazine for his battle ax and swiftly deal with the threat at hand. The scene is nicely drawn and shows us Volstagg's more powerful nature. The severity of the threat is brought into question a little later, however, when Osborn's goons are disposed of in a fashion that reminds me of the ease with which one might fell a Star Wars storm trooper.

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.

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Flip The Page said...

I can't think that Volstagg has ever been that far removed from the man-child characterisation. That said all the flaws you've pointed out are on the money and this was an incredibly enjoyable review and I'll keep it in mind when it comes to getting the trade or not

Matt Ampersand said...

Haha, that image of Volstagg saying "I am bored" with a worried face cracks me up.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Top review, Christine, I'm not checking out any Siege titles, and don't mind spoilers, so I'm reading plenty of reviews on the titles to stay fresh, so this helps.

I'm also a huge fan of Chris Samnee, because of his DD stint, and hope to see him take the exposure from this and parlay it inot another quality gig.

Christine Hanefalk said...

@Flip The Page
I will admit that I haven't read Volstagg's previous appearances in Thor, but I suspected that this wasn't that far off from how he may have behaved in the past. The problem is still that his behavior is such a contrast compared to everything else going on that it gives the book a sitcom vibe that just doesn't seem to fit. Thing is, I find many of the scenes very entertaining, including the one posted here (I'm totally with you, Matt). I'm just not sure I wanted this kind of funny for this book.

Anyway, I've got the rest of this mini on my pull list so will try to cover the rest too. Thanks for the comments guys, it's good to be on board! :)

Brandon Whaley said...

Nice first article! I didn't pick this one up this week so thanks for keeping me up to speed :)

Robert said...

Congrats on your debut on this site, Christine!

Chris Arndt said...

Well, in the Thor comics I own Volstagg isn't a large idiot or a man-child or particularly naive.

He is, however, boisterous, skilled in battle, very strong, and exaggerates his feats and abilities far beyond his own courage, fortitude, or ability. he is Falstaff...

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