“Siege” #1 follows Battleworld’s equivalent of the Night’s Watch and, despite the puns and sarcasm, it often has the moroseness to match. Filipe Andrade and Rachelle Rosenberg present a moody world where the people are made of sharp angles and the sky is made of temperamental swirls. At the center of this world is Abigail Brand, commander at the Shield, whom Kieron Gillen imbues with a pessimist’s stubborn bravery and a general’s war-weariness. Her interactions with the supporting cast provides plenty of humor and relief, so it can occasionally feel like there’s a tonal disconnect, as if the cast can’t quite agree on what sort of book they’re in. Like many of the “Battleworld” tie-ins, this first issue is mostly setup, so it moves a little slow as a single story. However, it assembles a great cast and builds out one of “Battleworld”‘s coolest set pieces — especially in the spreads from James Stokoe and Jorge Coelho — so I’m 100% on board for issue #2.
The cast is one of the selling points of the book, a motley army of Abigail Brand, Lady Kate Bishop, Ms. America Chavez, Leonardo da Vinci, The Thing, Kang, Leah Shieldmaiden (upgraded from handmaiden) and an army of Cyclops clones called, yes, the “Endless Summers.” This is the sort of issue that includes both puns like that and lines like “Kill me. I’m sorry. I was wrong. Kill me.” Brand’s war-weary voice dominates most of the book, but the reader does see short scenes with the rest of the team members. Though they’re fighting a neverending war with no possibility of ultimate victory, their jokes are familiar and sarcastic. It’s a lot of fun to see some of these characters again and together, even briefly. However, the lightness sometimes makes the book feel a little confused — not because sad stories need to be entirely humorless, but because the art can’t stretch the same way the script does.
Andrade’s artwork can be quite beautiful, but it isn’t built for humor. He and Rachelle Rosenberg open the issue with a gorgeous shot of the Shield in twilight colors, the soft palette and linework getting redder and sharper as the Shield curves toward the reader, and their use of formless backgrounds and dagger-shouldered figures creates an enigmatic, elegiac feel throughout the issue. When a temporal distortion strikes, they really convey the force and warp of it, and I loved the repeated effect of Brand’s unreadable green-glasses-eyes. However, while “Siege” has been billed as a tragedy, it’s a tragedy where the characters still whine about coffee; a little artistic lightness or wryness to match would have helped the book feel complete.
That said, the use of guest artists for the two-page spreads is a world-building joy. James Stokoe and Jorge Coelho each illustrate one battle at the Shield, and the jarring aesthetic change really works for the story. The armies that attack the Shield are meant to be mashup monsters from other worlds and, when their attacks are marked by a change in artist, it really looks like another viewpoint — another way of arranging matter and seeing colors — has broken through the Shield. It’s a super cool effect, and I hope it continues in the coming issues.
“Siege” #1 is a psychological portrait of its team at work and, as a result, it can feel a little tonally jumbled and slow. However, it’s kicked off an incredibly appealing team-up and premise and, given the ending, it’s going to have a banner second issue.