Or – “Here’s The Story… Of A Man Named Hardball!”
With Ann B. Davis as Cloud 9!Â Of the eleven characters on this cover nonyptic (I don’t think that’s really a word, but I couldn’t think of another way to describe a tryptic with 9 squares) one is about to buy the farm, to shuffle off this mortal coil, to ring down the curtain and join the bleedin’ choir invisibule…Â I’m not necessarily taking bets or anything, but three of these guys have a healing factor, two have whiskers on their masks, and one is an angry clown.Â Place your bets, spins the wheel and takes ya chances!
Previously, on Avengers – The Initiative:Â Since the Fifty-State Initiative made it a law that every superhuman had to be trained by the government, we’ve seen government property stolen, spies infiltrating the recruits, blackmail, assault with a deadly weapon, teenage girls mutilated, teenage boys killed in action, lying, cheating, stealing, and general mayhem (General Mayhem on the bridge… TEEEEN HUTTT!)Â And of course, this is the Marvel Universe, which means that every single thing that can go wrong will, and in the most catastrophic and pyroclastic way possible.Â So, the weapon that was cut off the mutilated girl has been combined with the cloned body of the murdered teenage boy to create a horrifying Reese’s peanut butter cup of evil.Â “You got your weapon of mass distruction in my zombie skate punk!Â You got your zombie skate punk in my weapon of mass distruction.”Â Too great tastes that kill bureaucrats together!
When last we left our heroes, the clone known only as KIA had blowed stuff up real good, as well as possibly killing several of the Initiative’s finest members.Â This time, we kick it off with a flashback to New York, in a time just “a few years ago,” as Dan Slott finally answers one of the questions that stick in my craw: when the hell did Ultra Girl and Slapstick become full-time New Warriors?Â Sure, it’s not exactly “How do I prove Fermat’s Last Theorem?” but for a comics fan who has every issue of all three volumes of NW, it does stick in the mind.Â Turns out that they helped out with repelling a Badoon invasion, and were issued their own communicators (an important plot point.)Â Three days ago at Camp Hammond, Ultra Girl, Debrii, Rage, and Slapstick met up to discuss a little New Warriors old business: the disappearance of Vance Astro, Justice.Â The foursome worries that Justice has gone rogue or been killed, when they hear a mysterous beep.Â After a full page bit of business with Slapstick’s bottomless pockets, he finds his New Warriors communicator…Â with Vance on the other end.Â “I need you to trust me.Â I need you to go AWOL as quietly as you can… and meet me in Tennessee.”
In the present day, Cloud 9 busts into the girls barracks, looking for Ultra Girl (or anybody who will answer the alarm) only to find Komodo and Hardball in flagrante delicto.Â She covers her eyes, and screeches that they’re all under attack, as K.I.A. (a maddened pseudo-zombie clone of M.V.P.) faces down The Gauntlet.Â GO, PSYCHO ZOMBIE!Â KILL THE CLICHE!!Â EAT HIS LIVER WITH SOME FAVA BEANS AND A BOTTLE OF SUNNY D!!Â Oh, wait… Um.Â Sorry about that.Â KIA finds Henry Peter Gyrich instead, locked in the control room of Initiative headquarters.Â Gyrich assembles his personal guard (“I signed on to an elite strike force, not a babysitter’s club,” complains The Constrictor) including all three Scarlet Spiders and the mysterious Mutant Zero.Â Meanwhile, Taskmaster and the Astonishing Ant-Man crawl from the wreckage of last issue’s cannonfodder, and find their emergency alarms ringing, an alarm that would pull any hero to immediate action.Â “Hey, I got two episodes of “Chuck” on my iPod!” says Ant-Man.Â Heh.Â “You’re good people,” replies Taskmaster, and they settle in to watch…Â That’s one of the most interesting scenes in this book so far, actually, proving the point that maybe we DO need screening for our superheroes.
The Shadow Initiative engages K.I.A. in combat, only to see Contrictors arms severed at just below the elbow by razorwire from K.I.A.’s tactigon.Â The Scarlet Spiders unmask and confront him, wisely thinking that their faces (identical to his own, as they’ve all been cloned from M.V.P. as well) would throw him off his game.Â It only works for a second though, and he beheads one of the Spiders in just a split second.Â Mutant Zero grabs Gyrich, and begins chanting “We are not here, He cannot see us.Â We are not here.Â HeÂ cannot see us.”Â That sounds a lot like the M.O. of Wiccan, but he has one Y-chromosome too many to be in her armor.Â Suddenly, Gauntlet attacks, but K.I.A. realizes that it’s the glove, not the man, in charge.Â He is punched out of the building, and confronted by a task force of Initiative recruits and trainers, but K.I.A. quickly punks out all of them, including Nighthawk, Triathlon and Gargoyle while only Gauntlet and Scarlet Spider score hits on the cyborg zombie.Â Baron Von Blitzschlag gathers the three cadets who saw M.V.P.’s murder, and sends them to gather brain patterns from a healthy Michael Van Patrick. They race across the compound, teleport to Tennessee, and grab Michael, only to be confronted by…
THE NEW WARRIORS!!!Â
And we ain’t talkin’ Jubilee and her amazing interchangable friends, either, folks.Â This is the real thing.Â Justice looks particularly badass, in fact, a great art job by Stefano Caselli.Â The story is remarkably riveting, even lacking a strong heroic turn.Â It’s good to finally see Justice thinking forÂ himself, even if it does come at the worst possible time, and the different agendas in play make for a complex storyline from Dan Slott and Christos Gage.Â My major complaints are the Mary Sue-ism at play (only the original characters created for the title escaping the wrath of the clone) as well as the deus ex machina powers of the Tactigon.Â I’m also not liking the fact that Gauntlet is set up as our last great hope, given my dislike of the character, but overall it’s a nice issue.Â It even kinda made me like Debrii…Â kinda.Â The shakedown brings us the truth:Â Avengers The Initiative #10 rates 3 out of 5 stars, with the good outweighing the bad by a stretch.Â I’m looking forward to the denoument of the whole K.I.A. thing, and greatly missing “Crap! ON! YELLOWJACKET!!”