As Kieron Gillen’s swan song (for now) in the Marvel Universe, Siege #1 has an exciting premise as versions of characters from books he’s written ranging from Uncanny X-Men and SWORD to Young Avengers and Journey into Mystery team up to defend the Shield, which borders all of Battleworld from a variety of threats including Ultron knockoffs, giant ant zombies, and an even worst threat revealed in the comic. They are rag-tag band of warriors from all over Battleworld, including Abigail Brand (the protagonist), Ms. America, Lady Kate Bishop (from the 1602 universe), Ben Grimm, Leonardo da Vinci, Leah (Loki’s girlfriend in Journey into Mystery), and an army of Scott Summers clones must . Basically, it’s like reading the Jon Snow POV chapters in Game of Thrones, but sassier. And Siege #1 has some of the problems that those early Jon Snow chapters had, such as some interesting bits of lore and characterization, but almost no plot. The comic reads like a prologue to the real action of the miniseries and takes it sweet time establishing the setting, cast, and some of Abigail Brand’s backstory. But it’s definitely not without entertainment value.
Captain Marvel artist Filipe Andrade and colorist Rachel Rosenberg breathe life into the the barren wasteland of the Shield using wispy, watercolor tinged art. The world of the Shield hasbeen hinted at in the Secret Wars tie-ins (Wolverine climbs it in Old Man Logan #1.), but Andrade and Rosenberg give it the fullness of a fantasy world with a ancient history, like Westeros, Calormen from Chronicles of Narnia, or Robert E. Howard’s Cimmeria. The art seems like it is covered in fog or dust, which unfortunately limits expression while creating atmosphere. Rosenberg does give each cast member a little memento of who they were in the main Marvel universe, like Leah’s raven black hair, Abigail Brand’s green goggles, and ruby red whenever the Endless Summers use their optic blasts.
Siege #1 also succeeds in revealing Kieron Gillen’s vast knowledge of both the comic and tragic parts of the Marvel Universe. This is fitting for a writer, who ended his Young Avengers run with the ultimate party and his Journey into Mystery epic with the exact opposite. He pokes fun at the proliferation of Summers family members over the years with the “Endless Summers”, who act as cannon fodder for the Shield as well as making Leah full of sarcasm with a hint of sadness. However, Abigail Brand is a sympathetic character and gets a dark, if cliched backstory that shows why she is the toughness as nails commander of the Shield, who fights not for glory, but survival. Gillen and Andrade showcases her fierceness and skill as a fighter in a brutal opening sequence where she beats Ord of the Breakworld (Her antagonist in Astonishing X-Men.) to death in a hail of fire, blood, stark composition and terse dialogue.
Unfortunately, these dark and silly moments (Ms. America and Lady Kate’s conversation is, of course, the highlight of the comic.) don’t add up to much of a whole. Siege #1 is heavy on talk and reduces Leonardo da Vinci to exposition man while offering glimpses of tension through three two page spreads from Andrade, James Stokoe, and Jorge Coelho that show off the post-apocalyptic, body horror, and science fictions influences that Gillen is working with. His dialogue is witty as ever, and Gillen sets up some nice internal tension between Brand and Leah as well as another member of her command. But there’s no real payoff, except for a name dropped on the final page. (If Gillen was trying to parody some of the post-credits scene in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, he passed with flying colors.)
Siege #1 has an idiosyncratic ensemble of characters, a gorgeous, if a tiny bit derivative setting thanks to Filipe Andrade and Rachelle Rosenberg, and a sense of humor about itself. However, certain intriguing characters like Ms. America and Leonardo da Vinci are left as one note sketches and the plot progresses at a glacial pace, so Siege #1 ends up being a mixed bag of a read with potential to become a better comic.