Alternate Cover: Siege fatigue

All the related tie-ins to Marvel's Siege crossover are tiring James out...

Siege

This week, Marvel released the first chapter of the Siege crossover to bear the name. A decent introduction to the story, Siege: The Cabal tells us how Norman Osborn’s alliance of villains is faring under the weight of internal backstabbing and conniving (the answer: poorly) and explains both how and why he’s going to regard the Earth-bound Asgard as such a threat. But all that’s just the story. The comic also contains a Siege checklist. Judging by online reaction, I wasn’t the only person whose heart sank when they got to that page.

Siege, after all, was promoted as the first of Marvel’s new ‘smaller’ event comics. After spending the best part of a year reading comics about Norman Osborn (Dark Reign), and the previous year having Skrulls show up in almost every comic I read (Secret Invasion) I was looking forward to a short, focused story. The truth isn’t quite what I wanted.

Admittedly, Siege – the core series – has been scaled down to a nice, manageable 4-issue run, so the story won’t drag on for months like Secret Invasion and Civil War before it. But far from being smaller, the number of related tie-ins, crossovers and one-shots brings the total number of Siege comics to 37 – assuming no more are announced.

Annoyingly, the vast majority of the tie-ins are books I’m already reading. We were already warned that Dark Avengers and New Avengers would tie in fairly heavily, and you can’t fault Thor for being a tie-in – but add to that list Mighty Avengers, Avengers: The Initiative, Thunderbolts, issues of New Mutants and Dark Wolverine and the tie-in series Siege: Embedded and suddenly the ‘small’ crossover doesn’t look so small. Admittedly, it’s shorter than most, but the results are a checklist that’s still twice the size of the similarly small-scale event, Fall Of The Hulks, which runs through the Hulk books at the same time.

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Marvel’s Sr. Sales VP David Gabriel recently said that he doesn’t believe that the phenomenon of “event fatigue” exists. The problem isn’t the events themselves, but that the ones that exist are too long. In a sense, it’s a fair observation that I actually did agree with, but only up until this week. Just the sight of the Siege checklist has left me feeling that familiar weariness that Secret Invasion (and, to an extent, Dark Reign) brought on, and Siege has barely begun! If that’s not event fatigue, I don’t know what is.

Whether I’m alone in this, of course, is another question entirely. The numbers show that these sprawling crossover events boost sales significantly across the board, but arguably in the form of diminishing returns, as comic sales sink to new lows again and again, with even top-selling books struggling to crack the 100,000-units barrier according to sales estimates.

It’s easy to sympathise with those who want to prop comicbook sales up with events in an attempt to get more readers, but in my case, it’s actually having the opposite effect, making me less and less interested in series that I’ve otherwise been happily reading for years.

Certainly, there’s a sense that Siege is going to bring the Marvel Universe full circle, re-assembling the Avengers and ending a meta-arc that began seven years ago with the dissolution of the ‘classic’ Avengers line-up. If that’s the case, then maybe Siege will lead to a few years of smaller, creator-driven stories. And if not, then maybe we’ll see how real the phenomenon of event fatigue truly is.

James writes Alternate Cover every Monday at Den Of Geek. His previous column can be found here.