Heroes Reborn: Siege Society #1 is a single-issue tie-in to the Heroes Reborn title, an event that tells the story of a world without the Avengers. This installment — written by Cody Ziglar, drawn by Paco Medina, and colored by Pete Pantazis — takes a look at one of the infamous super-villain groups in this strange new world. Led by Baron Zemo, the Siege Society is a branch of Hydra set on continuing the mission of the Third Reich in the take over Europe, and the ‘cleansing’ of society.
Nazis. They’re Nazis, basically.
On the surface, this is not necessarily a bad premise. Lately, Marvel has tried to shy away from associating Hydra with Nazis, in an attempt to justify high-profile characters such as ‘Hydra-Cap’ and Bob the Hydra agent. Having it explicitly stated in the text that this Hydra-aligned team are, without a doubt, Nazis, is actually quite refreshing. However, this premise falls apart when you factor in the inclusion of classic Avenger heroes into the team –Hawkeye, Fire Ant (Ant Man), Black Widow, and the Silver Witch (Scarlet Witch).
The intention behind putting these characters in a villain team was clearly to suggest that it was their participation in the Avengers that led their path to reform. This, in and of itself, is somewhat reductive of years of characterization, but not that controversial. The glaring issue, however, is how the concept is taken an enormous step further, in the implication that these characters would be Nazis if it were not for the Avengers.
It seems slightly ludicrous that this has to be pointed out as an issue. Why was this concept okayed in the first place? The problem is not the hypothetical situation where these characters are on the other side of the law — in fact, that idea alone brings up opportunities to explore the moral implications of the law, and who it serves. But, there is a huge difference between suggesting, on the one hand, that these characters might have turned into thieves, and on the other, that they could have become white supremacists bent on fascist expansion in Europe. The implication reverberates into the mainstream 616-continuity, as insinuates that these versions of the characters are one bad day away from declaring “Heil Hitler”.
Whilst these ridiculous ramifications can be awkwardly laughed off with characters such as Hawkeye and Ant-Man, it is incredibly offensive when placed on Romani character, the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff). Once more, this should not need pointing out. The Nazi party inflicted genocide on the Roma people during WWII. To have her allied with a Nazi is a perverse betrayal of Wanda’s roots. What is worse, is that this is not even the first time this has happened. Or the second! In both the Avengers: Age of Ultron film, and the Secret Empire event, Wanda is also tied to Hydra. Ziglar tries to do damage control in the issue by pointing out that Maximoff is working with Zemo for her own means, but this is not nearly enough. The bottom line is plain and simple: a Romani character should never be written into an organization that has historically sought to wipe out their very race.
There are also some questionable decisions made around the politics of the team. Black Widow and other Siege Society member, ‘Soviet Agent’, are both described to be members of the Soviet Union. For one thing, this means the Soviet Union presumably still exists in this universe, which is skipped over. Moreover, their relationship with Zemo is perplexing, given Soviet Russia and the Third Reich were not exactly known for getting along with each other. There may indeed be an explanation for this unlikely political union somewhere in the event, but it is not in Siege Society #1.
Once you get over the confusing team line-up, the issue itself is adequate. The plot flows fluidly and clearly, with some riveting action sequences included. This is helped by well-panelled art from Medina and Pantazis. Medina’s character designs also stand out. Hawkeye and Fire Ant’s costumes are very fun, seemingly paying homage to the more funky visuals of the ’90s — the period from which the first Heroes Reborn event was published. Joe Sabino’s lettering is, as always, equally distinct, adding to the fast pace of the issue.
Unfortunately, the better parts of Heroes Reborn: Siege Society #1 do not make up for what it has going against it. It is puzzling that the creative team went with the premise of integrating classic Avengers into a team with Nazi ideology. Perhaps it was not down to the creative team at all — if this is the case, they did well with what they were given. Regardless, this addition to the Heroes Reborn story is at best, uncomfortable, and at worst, offensive.
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