Or – “Let The Merciless Beatings Commence…”


It’s no secret that I haven’t been the biggest fan of Gauntlet thus far. He’s been, frankly, a cartoon, a parody of every ‘tough D.I.’ we’ve seen in every form of media thus far, borrowing liberally from Lou Gossett in ‘An Officer And A Gentleman’ and R. Lee Ermey’s prototypical Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in ‘Full Metal Jacket.’ He’s utilized the deaths of innocents (and I count Namorita, Microbe, and Thrash in that number) to manipulate his charges, and has played lip service to caring about his recruits while allowing half a dozen of them to get beaten nearly to death by the frickin’ Hulk. It’s obvious that the beating was pre-ordained to get us to see his side of the story, to get past the facade of soldier cliches and show the man inside the big metal hand. Let’s see how it works out…

NAv1.jpgPreviously, on Avengers – The Initiative: Superhero registration is a reality. All heroes must now train with the government in a pseudo-military complex, trained by Henry Pym, (an absent-minded professor with no military experience WHATSOEVER, and a history of mental instability) Henry Peter Gyrich, (an ineffectual mid-level government suckup) Vance Astrovik, (convicted of manslaughter as a teenage hero himself) James Rhodes, (who at least has Air Force experience) Gauntlet himself, and Baron Von Blitzschlag, a former Nazi, apparently. With minds like these spear-heading the project, how can it be anything less than a skyrocketing, glow-in-the-dark, gonzo, bull-moose disaster with a side of fries and a consomme of raspberry sauce. Seriously, who thought that this batch of people should be where the heroes of tomorrow look to show the way? In any case, after months of abuse and yelling “baby-killer,” we finally get to see the home life of Joseph Green, a.k.a the Gauntlet, a world where his loving wife tells him that the eggs aren’t runny, and his cute daughter wants him to play “Big Bunny, Little Bunny.” (Is that a poem?)


It’s a cute moment, and I like his daughter, but somehow, knowing that he’s a loving father makes his terrible demeanor in the workplace even worse, to me. Also note the shadowy figure in the alleyway there… Gauntlet hears a noise behind him, and turns only to find himself on the wrong end of a beating repeatedly kicking and bludgeoning the sarge, leaving him in a pool of blood. Not far away, Yellowjacket and Tigra go for a morning run, and she chides him for not getting any exercise, making Tigra the new M.C. for the game show that warms your cockles, curves your spine, and makes hair grow on your palms… Crap! ON! YELLOWJACKET!!!!! “You’re supposed to be a superhero,” she chides. “You should be able to keep up with me.” Hank confirms what readers of Mighty Avengers have suspected by reminding her “I kept up with you last night.” Well, then… Hank got the fuzzy, sexy girl, maybe our game show got cancelled, but suddenly she smells blood, and the twosome finds Gauntlet, badly beaten. At the main gate, H.P. Gyrich does damage control on his cadets ‘field trip’ into New York, when Miss NASCAR 2006 suddenly shows her face.


I still dislike Sally Floyd greatly, but anybody who gets up Gyrich’s nose is all right with me. And unlike her harangue of Cap’n Steve, Sally knows what she’s talking about, as not only are the heroes under lockdown, those with New Warrior ties (Ultra Girl, Slapstick, Rage, and Debrii) have been put under lock and key. Their spirits rise when Justice arrives at their cell, but fall again when he’s thrown in with them. Gyrich is annoyed when SHIELD finally takes an interest in their activities, just in time to investigate the beating of Gauntlet. They find Mrs. Green, standing at her husband’s side, and for the first time (that I can remember, anyway) we see that Gauntlet’s cybernetic right arm is the only one he has. The agents speak with Mrs. Gauntlet, and I feel very manipulated by the attempt to make Gauntlet into a sympathetic character…


Back in the holding cell, the former Warriors are getting just a bit tense, as Ultra Girl is taken out to get interviewed… As an aside here, I’d like to touch on one of the questions I keep hearing about Slapstick and Ultra Girl: when did they actually join the Warriors? Slapstick worked alongside the New Warriors in one of their Marvel Comics Presents serials (the one with the time-travel and the dinosaur, somewhere in the mid-140’s of that title, I believe) and Ultra Girl met the Warriors in her 3 issue limited series from sometime back in the 90’s… Neither of them really officially joined, per se, but Warriors membership isn’t precisely like Avengers membership, anyway. Regardless, Slapstick’s antics get on the nerves of the appropriately-named Rage…


Slapstick is an awesome character, with all the powers of a living cartoon, a powerset I’d really enjoy having (and shouldn’t they be wearing those stupid fatigue pants?) Justice steps in to calm the conflict down, and Rage goes off in his face. “YOU DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO! Where do you get off? Why am I even here? I was an Avenger LONG before you ever–” Vance calmly replies that he’s not an Avenger anymore because he lied to them about his age, stole and wrecked a quinjet, and was basically a jackass, and Rage points out the elephant in the room. “How about the time you murdered your old man? That make you Avengers material?” Justice, remarkably, keeps his calm, and Rage backs down, just in time to get interrogated. The SHIELD agents play ‘bad cop/worse cop,’ but Rage just tells them the truth: He hates Gauntlet, admires whoever did it, but he didn’t beat the man down. They ask him about the events of the previous day, and he explains what happened 24 hours earlier…


Wow. Just… wow. That’s about the most fascist ‘Big Brother’ bull$#!+ I’ve ever heard. Also, since Rage is roughly six foot ten, either Gauntlet is huge, or the artist is having problems with perspective. And, honestly, are we even supposed to LIKE this character? Rage lives up to his name, screaming that he’s innocent, and the agents leave him to his own anger, hoping that he’ll crack. As they leave, the Baron arrives with bad news: the blunt force trauma was NOT caused by a fist, but by a blunt instrument, something large and round… I suddenly get a bad feeling in my gut about this. I know who did it… A couple of floors up, Komodo, Cloud 9, Hardball discuss how much this all sucks, and Cloud 9 says that she needs to get out and see MVP. The others remind her that MVP was killed in action, and rather loudly talk about what’s supposed to be a big secret, until…


Oh, goody. Now HANK’S acting like Gauntlet. Seriously, what credentials does Doctor Pym have to work in a military capacity? Founding the Avengers isn’t exactly an Army posting, especially given his spotty career there… Bygones. Back in the Warriors’ cell, Ultra Girl asks Vance if he did it, and reminds him that she can keep a secret, kissing him and reminding him of their secret affair (!). Vance doesn’t have time to answer, as the agents arrive to debrief him and also accuse him of murder. “I’m sorry, officer, but I’m under direct orders not to talk about it. It involves matters that have been deemed ‘classified.’ ” We flashback, and see Vance confronting Gauntlet about the status of MVP (whom he saw alive and well at home) with Gauntlet telling him point blank that the kid is dead. Justice realizes that he’s awfully defensive about it all, and asks, “It was you! It was your exercise, wasn’t it?” Gauntlet loses his cool, thinking that Vance blames him, and it gets ugly…


“He gets that from ten people a day!” Heh. Vance finishes explaining how he would have beaten Gauntlet, by explaining that he’d then dispose of the weapon. “You should check with Doctor Pym and see how far my powers could fling something of that heft. Then, I’d suggest you bring in some men and women to search that area…” They do, and find nothing, which combined with Vance’s ultra-cool convinces them of his innocence. They do, however, find the cape-killer armor that Hardball used in his secret mission to steal the nano-probes that would have depowered the Hulk two issues ago, and Hardball compromises himself more by asking his new master what to do. When told to put them off the trail, he uses his powers to plant evidence that leads SHIELD to the hidden lab where Von Blitzschlag does his unholy work. But before he can break in, Mrs. Green comes running for help, yelling that Gyrich is trying to wake up her husband. Henry narrowly avoids having all his secrets revealed, and Gauntlet awakes to explain what really happened.


Gyrich dismisses the SHIELDies, as their investigation is now complete, and I hope to gawd that somebody realizes exactly how dangerous this installation has become, and the potential for even greater disaster that looms over them all. The SHIELD agents leave, frustrated that they’ll never know who REALLY did it, since the evidence doesn’t give any indication of the Ghost’s involvement. Also, there was the matter of the shadow in the alley, contradicting the official report, and the fact that the blunt trauma came from a flat, ROUND object. Of all the cadets present, Ultra Girl and Rage would have used their fists, Debrii and Justice would have used their telekinesis, leaving only one suspect whose M.O. fits. One suspect who carries a hammer… A round, flat hammer.


Someone who is, apparently, a little bit crazier than I thought. Rage is right to be concerned, as Slapstick is virtually invulnerable, super-strong, and bug$#@& nuts. I’m of mixed emotions on this reveal, as I like giving Slapstick some air-time, but I don’t know that making him a crazy sergeant-eater is an improvement. Of course, in this company, he’s practically normal.

All the tools are here for a pretty good issue, but the whole thing didn’t really gel for me. The art by Steve Uy is very ‘Speed Racer,’ with a strong anime influence that overpowers the characters, and the heights of the characters (Ultra Girl, f’rinstance, is half-Kree and taller than Vance Astro, as well as the aforementioned Rage size issues) are all over the place. The story goes in many directions at once, and the characters’ motivations aren’t clear. Gyrich once again manages to get away with murder (though not as literally as the last time) and even though SHIELD finally looks into what’s going on at Camp Hammond, they don’t actually DO anything. Gauntlet’s story makes me wonder what’s going to happen with Slapstick, if the Star Chamber is once again going to do their depowering shtick, and what sort of consequences are in store for Hardball’s spying. Most of all, I didn’t find the ‘humanize Gauntlet’ effort successful at all, making me feel more manipulated than anything else. The overall effect of Avengers: The Initiative #6 was a little bit annoying, with more questions asked than answered, ranking only 1.5 out of 5 stars.


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. Ben
    September 26, 2007 at 4:01 pm — Reply

    I agree with everything you put to type Matt…with emphasis on the art critique. Worst looking Tigra EVER.

  2. quelonio
    September 26, 2007 at 4:21 pm — Reply

    Slapstick is scary as only a clown can be.

  3. September 26, 2007 at 4:47 pm — Reply

    My Pitch for Marvel: “The Curse of Stamford”, or possibly “Baldwin Syndrome”. Something, Someone is taking characters who are nice, funny, or generally just lighthearted and awakening their darker urges in the form of “Baldwin Syndrome”. Unknowns such as Gauntlet or Hardball merely act horribly despite having good intentions, while people with known mental conditions such as Gyrich or Yellowjacket have the ugliest aspects of their problems severely increased. The curse is eventually found to be caused by, ta-dah, those 600 victims as well as the NW Ghosts. Honestly, it’d be a bestseller.

    That, or there’s just some Earth-Alpha A-Hole who likes to hang out around Slott’s stories…

  4. September 26, 2007 at 5:00 pm — Reply

    Bought it, read it, didn’t enjoy it as much as the last one. Not really having any idea who Slapstick was beforehand, the “psycho clown” thing is a pretty interesting angle, especially if they figure out a way to run with it.

    I still think trying to show us that Gauntlet’s not all bad is a bit forced, unless he’s going to come out of this and be nice or something… Somehow I keep envisioning him blaming New Warriors for this one, too. Or what about an entire ARMY of New Warriors getting in a lucky blow on the “Big Bunny”?

  5. September 26, 2007 at 5:19 pm — Reply

    First, does anyone else have a problem with Gauntlets wife wearing a replica of an American flag as an apron?

    Agree with the art. If I want anime/manga looking art, I’ll buy a manga book. I want good art, like was seen in the last issue.

    Rage losing his cool was an issue back when he was an Avenger, and combined with his age was part of the reason they removed him from the roster. I had the issues back in the day and remember the big reveal that he was only 12 or so.

  6. September 26, 2007 at 6:19 pm — Reply

    I think the review’s a little harsh. The art does detract significantly from the book this issue, but that last page with Slapstick is perfect in my opinion. I thought the book hit all the right notes, showed Gauntlet isn’t the complete ass he appears to be in the earlier issues, built a bit of a mystery up and wrapped it all up nicely with a nice reveal at the end.

    The MPs were mostly looking into the attack on Gauntlet, not investigating Gyrich so I have no problem with their lack of a full base sweep or deep investigation. I thought it was a little sloppy sending them off wiht the half drugged / awake testimony of Gauntlet, but they did a fairly decent job and I wouldn’t have expected them to find out all that much about the CSA’s black ops stuff.

    I’d easily give this a 4 stars, maybe 3 for the horrible art, but it was definitely a good issue in my opinion.

    Kirk Warren
    The Weekly Crisis

  7. Tater Nuts
    September 26, 2007 at 7:10 pm — Reply

    I agree completely with the review. This series gets on my nerves and Dan Slott’s writing even wrose than the idea behind the fascist Initiative.

    And Rage is too awesome to be with these douchebags. I know he probably joined The Initiative because of Vance but I always pictured him with the new New Warriors.

    And trying to make Gauntlet relatable was just stupid. It was so manipulative I felt the strings. LAME!

  8. Brother129
    September 26, 2007 at 7:40 pm — Reply

    When is Little Bunny going to become a New Warrior?

  9. Brent F.
    September 26, 2007 at 8:56 pm — Reply

    *shrugs* Slapstick still looks like a hero to me. Gauntlet might as well have been a Nazi, every other word out of his mouth was filled with biggotry. Had Slapstick beaten a Naz or someone in a KKK robe would you think he was evil?

    The kid’s been listening to this jerk bad mouth his dead friends constantly and forced to follow his commands. I’m surprised he was the first one to snap and do what needed to be done.

  10. Rowan
    September 26, 2007 at 11:42 pm — Reply

    I think slapstick being the one that snapped was awesome, it really took me off guard and I think that Gauntlet deserved it , yes he was only doing it because he is there Drill SGT but holy crap, has Gauntlet ever done anything ? I mean, I know the NWs have a lot but Gauntlet is a guy with a big ol Right Arm which impresses his daughter and no one else

  11. September 27, 2007 at 12:10 am — Reply

    The kid’s been listening to this jerk bad mouth his dead friends constantly and forced to follow his commands. I’m surprised he was the first one to snap and do what needed to be done.

    Mmm. Up to a point, I agree… I still think that Slapstick has gone way beyond the pale, and his actions are about as indefensible as Gauntlet’s.

    I think the review’s a little harsh. The art does detract significantly from the book this issue, but that last page with Slapstick is perfect in my opinion.

    Slapstick is one of the characters that I’ve always had a soft spot for… As with any of my reviews, your milage may vary, and I don’t expect every one to agree with me. Initiative is up and down my star ratings like a whore’s drawers (TM John Constantine) every month, and this one just struck me really wrong… More than likely it’s a continuation of the disrespect of the Warriors and a Gauntlet-heavy issue when he’s just Sergeant Carter from Gomer Pyle with a potty mouth. Either way, we love to hear all opinions, even if you don’t agree. :)

  12. September 27, 2007 at 12:41 am — Reply

    Brother129: She-Hulk has shown that Gauntlet’s daughter becomes the sidekick to the hero Southpaw when she grows up, taking the name ‘Kid Glove’.

  13. Jim
    September 27, 2007 at 10:37 am — Reply

    What is up with Gauntlet’s mustache? Why is the middle part missing? It looks like he has a biohazard symbol around his mouth.

  14. davek
    September 27, 2007 at 2:54 pm — Reply

    I still think that Slapstick has gone way beyond the pale, and his actions are about as indefensible as Gauntlet’s.

    Perhaps. But Slapstick is I’m assuming a minor, and Gauntlet is supposed to be a guiding force in making these kids better. Slapstick acted out like a sixteen-year-old would, after six months or so of brutal conditions, being physically pushed and emotionally whipped by a bullying drill instructor that has (as much as we’ve seen) not demonstated the other side of the coin in this sort of environment.

    I mean, the whole point of “The Initiative” is the supposition these kids are not mature or skilled enough to handle these sorts of powers and need to be trained correctly. Slapstick proved that to be case, in my opinion – it wasn’t a mature response, not at all… but as a minor, I’m not surprised he did it in the slightest. I’m not excusing it, but I know why I happened and I would like to think someone in that sort of position as Stark/Pym/etc woulda kinda figured that would happen with this sort of continual tack.

    Aaaaand, in mind this demonstrates how crummy Gauntlet is, because he doesn’t practice what he preaches. Granted, Slapstick bushwhacked him but I would like to think he had some sort of training in this scenario. If he can’t handle a sixteen year old bushwhacking him, how can he really know how to train these kids against someone truly, truly dangerous?

  15. Mark I.
    September 27, 2007 at 3:54 pm — Reply

    davek, I feel ya, but if you look at who and what he is, Slapstick can be f***ing scary to deal with.

    Handled correctly, he could be one of the most powerful “deus ex machina” heroes in the Marvel Universe up there with Sentry. Conversely, if he was written properly he could be one of the most dangerous villains as well.

  16. Baal
    September 28, 2007 at 2:49 am — Reply

    I’d like to point out that Slapstick could have easily have killed Gauntlet if he’d wanted to. What he did was wrong but it falls into his established character. As Slapstick Steve(?) is impulse run wild and his impulse was to hurt Gauntlet physically as much as Gauntlet hurt him emotionally. Plus, since there is no consequence really to Slapstick from his actions so it makes sense he would not conisder the consequences of his actions in heated moments. It’s a logical step for the character and I look forward to see where Slapstick is taken from this point on. Will he act worse? Was this a one off? Only Dan Slott knows and he’s one of the greats writing right now so I’m excited about what will come out of his mind next!

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