Bendis has always been pretty good at leading into big crossover events. With a clear flashpoint in mind, Bendis can expertly weave together a story and character motivations across several books with the kind of skill matched by no-one else in the industry. It’s only when the story actually gets moving that things become somewhat mired.
Luckily, this issue is squarely in the former category as the first official lead-in to Siege, Marvel’s next big crossover. Although given the title of “Cabal”, it’s squarely a Norman Osborn character piece. Indeed, the group itself bears a fairly scant relationship to the anti-Illuminati established in the wake of Secret Invasion – and rightly so. A group of double-dealing, back-stabbing, self-interested villains couldn’t help but come apart at the seams, and it’s fitting that the in-fighting and arrogance has taken such a toll on the group mere months after its inception.
The conflicts that are established (or re-established) within these pages form the spine of the forthcoming event, and on that level it’s a massive success. Points, too, for seeing Bendis actually remember that Osborn is merely the head of HAMMER under the jurisdiction of the US government rather than a fully autonomous body. The parallels drawn here between both the dissolution of the Illuminati and the start of “Civil War” are entirely appropriate and subtly established, with Bendis, as ever, keeping the focus on conversational back and forth even when the mandatory action scene gets going.
Even the appearance of Michael Lark, providing artwork, it’s echoes a previous meeting of the “good” Illuminati, with Lark capable of exactly the same kind of scratchy, serious artwork that Maleev brought to the “New Avengers: Illuminati” several years ago. Lark, though, has a far better grip on the action scenes than Maleev had back then, and it’s a virtual revelation to see Lark taking on some more conventional superheroics after becoming very familiar with his street-level work on Daredevil. Although tasked with drawing some particularly difficult images (I’d love to have seen the descriptions for some of those Sentry panels) Lark makes every page look effortlessly simply. It’s a side of his work that I wasn’t familiar with, and certainly a welcome one.
Although not exactly the beginning of the Siege event, Seige: The Cabal #1 manages to do all it needs to, and more. It works both as a one-stop story for those who want to catch up with the Dark Reign mythos to read Siege, and as a discrete chapter connecting the current status quo with the forthcoming event. The only bad part? Getting to the end and seeing all the comics on the “Siege Checklist”. Once again, Bendis is going into full event-mode with the Avengers titles, with Thunderbolts and Thor both joining in. Like it or not, there’s going to be a lot of Siege in my comics for the next few months…