by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Olivier Coipel (pencils), Mark Morales (inks), Laura Martin (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story: Norman Osborn finds his reason to begin his assault on Asgard.

What’s Good: This is some really impressive, massive work by Coipel and Martin.  The art here is gorgeous and some of the best stuff I’ve seen from Coipel.  The assault on Asgard, with its horde of fighter jets, is truly impressive and the mandatory explosions look great.  The book is maintains the “high budget” feel a book like this requires.

Perhaps unexpectedly, the most enjoyably written character in this first issue is actually Ares.  His disagreement with Osborn and the generally badass way Coipel illustrates is a blast (he rides into battle on a fighter jet, bent on one knee).  It’s clear Bendis wants this to be a war comic, and he’s placed Ares in the General position.  The result is a nice fusion of modern combat and ye olde fantasy heroism (the obligatory motivational speech in front of a horde of cheering warriors).  Seeing Ares lead modern HAMMER troops and superheroes as though they were Camelot’s finest is a lot of fun.

Beyond that, Bendis seems to want to make this issue, and this event, as straightforward as possible.  At the very least, you’re guaranteed not to get the sort of convoluted mess that other recent events have devolved into.

What’s Not So Good: With that simplicity comes a sense of things being a bit rushed and thus, nowhere near as emotionally significant as they should be.  Norman creates an “incident” involving an Asgardian to give him his excuse for the invasion of Asgard.  Now, putting aside the fact that this reads a lot like Civil War, this Bendis’ writing of this “incident” is a complete failure.  It’s meant to be the event that motivates the entirety of Siege, but Bendis’ handling of it manages to take a lot of the wind out of the arc’s sails.

There’s just not enough build-up to it.  Loki literally suggests the plan on page one, and by page 6, it’s all over. Worse still, Bendis doesn’t spend one minute exploring the aftermath of this event.  There’s no news reports about it, no people mourning, nothing.  We just get the giant explosion, and in the next scene, Osborn’s prepping the team.  It’s completely deflating.

Even worse are the characters Bendis chooses to use for this incident.  It’s all perpetrated by a list of complete d-listers that I’m certain most comic readers won’t recognize.  And of course, they go unnamed.

The incident itself, which is meant to be pinned on Volstagg, also defies all logic.  With Osborn’s no-name cronies blasting Volstagg, why is that the world is only aware of Volstagg’s presence, but not that of the people blasting him?  And even dumber still is the fact that these same guys are later seen alongside Osborn on national television.

Then there’s how Thor’s dealt with.  It takes a page and a half.  Great.  Sentry-haters will have a field day, as will people wondering just who this team of d-list wunderkind actually are.

Finally, I can’t help but feel aggravated over this book’s relationship to Thor’s comic.  Apparently, they exist in a completely different continuity from each other.  In Thor, Balder and the Asgardians are living in Latveria, battling Doom.  In Siege, this never happened.  They’re all still chilling in Asgard.  What the hell?  If you want to bring Thor back into the Marvel Universe with an event, it seems like common sense to have that event and Thor’s comic actually be in sync.

Conclusion: “Seven years in the making” somehow manages to mean “slapped together.”

Grade: C –

-Alex Evans