Or – “So, We’ve Had This Program For All Of Ten Minutes And It’s Already Being Abused.”


It’s fascinating to me that no one in Tony Stark’s SHIELD has apparently the slightest inkling of what’s going on in Stamford with this supposedly military outfit. With all the time and energy that Iron Man has expended in trying to control every single aspect of superhuman life, I can’t believe that he wouldn’t AT LEAST debrief his ‘best friend’ Jim Rhodes on the things that happen in this camp. Of course, the presence of a freakin’ Nazi doesn’t do me much in the way of giving them the benefit of the doubt, and of course, there’s also the Nazi’s pet scientist Baron Von Blitzschlag. (See what I did there?) Henry Peter Gyrich has a long history of not trusting the capes as well as general asshattery, and both traditions are in full-force this issue…

AI1.jpgPreviously, on Avengers – The Initiative: The superhuman registration act changed the face of superhuman activity in the Marvel Universe, seemingly forever. Gone are the days when a radioactive isotope, cosmic ray bombardment, or insect bite, be it glowing or genetically altered, gave you a license to accessorize, clog up the New York skyline, and find out that your girlfriend’s father is actually local Supervillain ‘Fill-In-The-Blank.’ Now, if you want to flaunt the law in a funny suit, you have to go to boot camp. Camp Hammond, built on the ruins of Stamford, Connecticut, site of the New Warriors battle with Nitro, was meant to be a shining beacon of hope that heroes could actually be trained to work within the law. To that end, the first four issues of this book have shown us thievery, chicanery, at least one accidental death, a coverup of that death which would qualify it as a felony murder, (at least from what I understand) the theft of billions of dollars of nanites, which led to the depowering of the only weapon that might have stopped the Hulk. What we’ve got here is nothing more than a publicity exercise, and most of that is bad. Months ago, in the early days of the program, a woman named Armory washed out, and since she didn’t read the fine print, didn’t realize that the super-weapon that she possessed was now property of Vince McMahon the U.S. Government. There’s only a slight snag, though… It only worked for her.


And as with every Initiative review thus far, we’ve come to the point where I say: $&@* you, Gauntlet. He is everything that is wrong with every military cliche, wrapped up in a package that even LOOKS like it was cribbed from Lou Gossett, Jr in ‘An Officer and A Gentleman.’ I cannot stress how much this particular scene bugged me, and I even agree with the sentiment behind it! Frankly, his New Warriors beating can’t come soon enough for me. While Gyrich and his pet mad scientist fail (again) we’re given a flashback sequence showing how Big G gathered a few choice operatives (new guy Trauma, old school villains Constrictor and Bengal, and three operatives in Scarlet Spider Suits who finish each others sentences well enough to make me wonder if they aren’t Madroxes) for a pet project of his own: The Shadow Initiative.


The ‘7 is a perfect number’ thing cracks me up, as it’s a nod to the days when Gyrich took over government sponsorship of the Avengers, and forced them to whittle their ranks down to seven active members. Meeeeemmmooorriiiiies… H.P. explains what their mission is as the mysterious Mutant Zero (about whom Doc Samson tells him to “not use any of her old names,” which I presume is a hint as to who is under the mask…) gets up and walks away. The team is told that she was only here to meet them, and that she will never fraternize with the other team members. Their mission is a simple one: find and retrieve the lost Initiative recruits, led astray by Rage. The story of the kids’ battle with the Hulk is as short as it is sad, eight panels in all, told in flashback no less. They’re being held at Madison Square Garden with the other prisoners of war, and the main problem isn’t going to be getting IN. It’s going to be getting PAST the Initiative troops already in the field. Yellowjacket, War Machine, and Justice are in a holding pattern, setting up a perimeter in preparation for Iron Man’s ‘contingency’ (which apparently we won’t know unless we read I.M. #20. So much for the “don’t have to read it all” camp…) while Yellowjacket notices a strange marking on a wall…


It’s about Vance being a prime suspect in the incipient beating of Gauntlet. Y’know what might make him more palatable to me? If they called him Sgt. Gauntlet. Then I’d expect him to be spouting one-liners from Full Metal Jacket every fifteen seconds and basically being a waste of space in my comic book. Meanwhile, we shift forward a bit to the Shadow Initiative on the prowl. Constrictor and Bengal have been told that their job is to cover Trauma at all costs, he being their “big gun,” the only Omega-level threat that Gyrich has in his arsenal. The Steel Spiders are apparently running cover in the skies (and recording everything, a fact Bengal reminds ‘Stricky of when he remarks how all the jewelry stores are unguarded) and Mutant Zero is nowhere to be found. Snake-Man and Tiger-Man slip into the Garden undetected before they encounter Hulk’s Death’s Head sentries.


I’ll be darned if they don’t LOOK heroic as heck. The boys wade into the robots (seen up top) and in one panel have cleared the decks, though with quite a bit of clashing metal. Trauma steps forward to rattle their cages about being “stealthy ninja guys” and in a fit of poetic justice, trips an alarm. More robots attack, and Constrictor tells Trauma to help them. “My thing?” he replies. “It don’t work on robots either!” The Death’s Head robots surround them, but suddenly stop, identifying another target. Scanning the room, they find Mutant Zero HANGING FROM THE CEILING ABOVE THEM, having sneaked in unseen with her teammates. That’s hardcore. The sentries fire, and Trinity M.Z. leaps into action…


“According to Gyrich,” reports Bengal, “she can only be “activated” once per mission. Hopefully, when we need her most.” Hmm… Has anybody seen Husk lately? After a really awesome joke by the Constrictor (“Looks like we’ve got our own ‘Deus X Man.”) Bengal catches the scent, and leads the others straight to the little lost super-powered lambs. Constrictor does the honors on the door, to find…


…that Hulk considers them to be so little threat that he literally just locked ’em in a closet. That’s a bit harsh. Trauma whirls and faces down Korg of the Stone Men, transforming physically into Korg’s greatest fear: The Mighty Thor, bane of Korg’s people. ‘Thor’ tells the stone man that he is ready to fight him, and Korg collapses, fearing himself unworthy. (Thor Girl, for her part, simply says “My god…” and I think she means it quite literally.) Cloud 9 attacks Elloe, choking her out with the cloud substance she creates, and Trauma is horrified to see the shy, sweet girl he knew in boot camp to have become an attempted murderer. The Scarlet Spiders call in, and tell them to get moving, as The Hulk is on his way, but they barely get to the surface before ol’ Greenskin arrives. Trauma takes the fore (!) and stares down the Hulk, transforming into his greatest fear: The Abomination. “You’re afraid, aren’t you? Afraid that there’s always gonna be someone bigger than you.” He punches the Hulk, and apparently his transformation comes with a measure of super-strength, as Hulk feels it. A swat knocks Trauma away, though, and he transforms into Juggernaut, still playing the fear card.


“Tell them.” Hulk snarls. “Go back and tell them. Let them know. I’m not afraid of ANYTHING.” Hulk leaps away, and the Scarlets quickly grab Trauma and get him out of the DMZ. Returning to camp, we find that recruits gathered around their fallen comrade, thanking him for his escape (even though Cloud 9 wants NOTHING to do with him after the death of MVP in the first issue.) Earlier in the issue, Dani Moonstar had opines that Trauma’s ability to sense fear would make him an excellent therapist, while Gyrich theorized that the same power would make him the perfect weapon. Seeing his friend’s discomfort and her changes, Trauma makes his choice.


Nicely done, indeed. With his power level graded down, Trauma should be able to figure things out for himself, without Gyrich’s ‘power envy’ dragging him into dangerous situations. It’s an interesting issue, with new and different takes on The Constrictor,(disappointed that even though he’s acting as a hero, since he’s on the underground team, nobody will SEE it) Trauma’s transformation, the Scarlet Spider and Mutant Zero mysteries (Are there any Marvel character who can turn into three people? Collective Man could do five, and we already know where the surviving Cuckoos are…) as well as finally getting some daylight through the darkness of Gyrich’s personal power base.

Unfortunately for me, though, needing to tie into Planet Hulk is sort of a loss leader in this issue. It makes it possible for Trauma to get where he needs to go, and it may even temper Rage’s… uh… rage, but I wonder if there wasn’t another way to cover that territory. I liked the foreshadowing in the city, making me wonder if Vance is the one who throws down with Gauntlet, but then I realize that I don’t WANT Vance to be the one who does something like that. I’d prefer it to be Ultra Girl, Slapstick, or Rage, or even a heretofore non-Warrior character who just sympathizes with their cause. I can’t tell if it’s my copy of the issue or not, but I found the coloring to be dark and a bit muddy (yes, it’s a stealth mission, but not everyone can adjust the contrast in Photoshop) and Gauntlet’s tirade at the beginning of the issue left a bad taste in my mouth. Overall, it’s not a bad issue, balancing out to a well-done 2.5 stars. There are bits of greatness sprinkled throughout every issue, though, and I’m firmly back on board with Dan Slott on this one…


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. Mark I.
    August 29, 2007 at 11:53 am — Reply

    “Rip off your @%$$% and @&^$#^ down your @&%#.”

    I know we try to keep the language to a minimum here, but what the ^%$@$ was that supposed to be? There are only a couple of body parts that have funny names that require censoring, and none of them are involved in the classic “Full Metal Jacket” quote that Handjob, er, Gauntlet is biting from!

    So what, pray tell, was he saying? Sloppy writing in that panel…

  2. Josh
    August 29, 2007 at 12:44 pm — Reply

    Man, I love Slapstick.

    “They were. I just went along ’cause everybody else was doing it and I wanted to be popular.”

  3. August 29, 2007 at 12:53 pm — Reply

    I got to agree with Mark I. I see no reason for the first and third word to be censored. It’s like the letterer ran out of room and just said @%$# it.

    Suprisingly, I REALLY like the art. The coloring is a little iffy, but it remindes me of good animation. I’ll end up getting the trade for this eventually.

  4. Ben
    August 29, 2007 at 2:48 pm — Reply

    So, two questions come to mind.

    One, is catagorizing something Omega level actually that subjective? I thought Omega level, like it is with the mutants, was a big freakin deal in the Marvel Universe. Now, in one issue, we have two Omega level things (person and object), and one of them is downgraded because of his mental state?

    Secondly, is Vance Night Thrasher?

    Aside from those bits, this issue seems like a big hit in my book. Sure, would have liked to see a bit more elaboration on the recruits battle, but what can you do.

    Oh, and did the blond haired kid end up revealing his other powers Matt?

  5. Baal
    August 29, 2007 at 5:24 pm — Reply

    Yeah, I don’t get why Trauma was downgraded. His power is still wonky off the charts but I do like that Cloud 9 made him come out of his self-absorption.

    And the comment “So much for the “don’t have to read it all” camp…” It didn’t work. I haven’t bought an Iron Man solo book since long before Heroes Reborn and don’t plan on buying it now that it stars Dr Doom 2007. They could print the secret to being gay AND getting into heaven in the middle of the book and I probably STILL wouldn’t buy it. Some standards you just don’t fall below no matter what the temptation.

  6. Randy B.
    August 29, 2007 at 7:27 pm — Reply

    Could the Spider trio be a re-working of the 3-D Man?
    Or maybe LMDs?
    I haven’t really been a fan of the Civil War stuff but I do like the Initiative because it shows, so far, everything that’s wrong with trying to make traditional superheroes into soldiers.

  7. Brent F.
    August 29, 2007 at 8:42 pm — Reply

    Vance being Night Thrasher would be an interesting surprise.

    I think Mutant Zero is Cecilia Reyes, who has been missing since M Day and her brother joined Sentinel O.N.E. in order to find her.

    I also fear that the Scarlet Spiders may be Parker clones.

  8. Brother129
    August 29, 2007 at 9:34 pm — Reply

    If anyone still cares….Gauntlet’s tirade comes from the movie Dr. Detroit. Remember when Dan Ackroyd threaten to rip off his antagonist’s head and defecate down his neck? Ah memories…it was very lame here. Anyways. I really enjoyed this issue. It’s the best one of the series so far. I appreciate the healthy amount of mystery and I really appreciate that this book at least makes an attempt to be grounded in continuity with references to at least 3 other titles…..

  9. stridey
    August 29, 2007 at 11:39 pm — Reply

    I don’t know about you guys but I think Mutant Zero is Psylocke, although I have no idea where in the Marvel Universe she is at the moment.

    Look at the sword Mutant Zero is using. It looks exactly like Psylocke’s psychic katana, same color too. And hanging from the ceiling? Moving so fast? Taking down those Death-Heads quickly? Ninja.

  10. Carlos L.
    August 30, 2007 at 12:16 am — Reply

    I also think the scarlet spiders are clones. The Madroxes theory is good too, but I wouldn’t count on it.
    The ‘Skrull’ I was thinking might be a mutant Skrull with ‘Madrox’ powers.
    No ideas about mutant zero though…all we know is she’s female.

  11. Brent F.
    August 30, 2007 at 10:21 am — Reply

    Psylocke is with the Exiles. However, there was another X-Man named Revanche with similar powers.

  12. August 30, 2007 at 11:33 am — Reply

    I don’t know about you guys but I think Mutant Zero is Psylocke, although I have no idea where in the Marvel Universe she is at the moment.

    She’s appearing in Exiles every month, and Chris Claremont has made a big deal about her being unique. I’d say there’s little to NO chance that she’s Psylocke.

  13. August 30, 2007 at 11:37 am — Reply

    Psylocke is with the Exiles. However, there was another X-Man named Revanche with similar powers.

    Yeah… I know every character has fans, but there can’t be that many Revanche fans out there..

  14. Josh
    August 30, 2007 at 12:18 pm — Reply

    Revanche died a long time ago back in X-Men thirty-something. She was dying of the Legacy Virus and had Matsuo gut her so she wouldn’t suffer.

  15. Brent F.
    August 30, 2007 at 12:55 pm — Reply

    Since when has death stopped an X-Man?

  16. JAC
    August 30, 2007 at 1:45 pm — Reply

    3D man had the ability to sence Skrulls. Dom dom dooommmmm.

  17. Josh
    August 30, 2007 at 6:41 pm — Reply

    Aside from Colossus coming back from injecting himself with the Legacy Virus cure, none of the othe x-characters that died as a result of the legacy virus have come back. Then again, only Pyro and Mastermind had any type of real popularity.

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