Or – “It’s Too Bad That The New Warriors Don’t Have Their Own Book… Wait, What?”

With all things Skrullapalooza breaking loose in the Marvel Universe, it’s sometimes hard to remember that OTHER storylines are in media res.  The threads of disaster that were set up in the very first issue of this book have finally woven together into an indian couch blanket of lies, deceit, death, and payback, and like most couch blankets, it’s rough, unattractive, and something stinks.  Get your scorecards ready and prepare to check off characters who get squished, stabbed, and lit on fire, folks, because this battle is gonna get bowling-shoe ugly.

Previously, on Avengers: The Initiative:  Whomever put Henry Peter Gyrich in charge of Camp Hammond probably wasn’t too familiar with his resume…  As usual, what started out as a good idea has gone sour in a very real way, with some recruits working for the mob, some going rogue to fight the Hulk, some breaking away to team up with their old partners and settle some scores, and one Michael Van Patrick getting his face blown off.  Of course, MVP’s family and friends don’t know that, as former Nazi $#!+head Baron Von Blitzschlag has cloned one of him and sent them home (after first making a few ‘Boys From Brazil’ for his own purposes.)  But one of those clones achieved awareness, found out that “he” was “dead,” and snapped like a spandex waistband on a 500 pound woman at the Wal-Mart, putting on The Tactigon (an insanely powerful weapon of mass “OH CRAP!”) and going on a killing spree.  Trauma, Thor Girl, one of the Scarlet Spiders and founding Avenger Yellowjacket (!) are among those thought dead, and the clone, dubbing himself KIA considers that only a good start…

The battle rages from page one, with a flashback, as Komodo, Cloud 9, and Hardball swoop in from above, trying to keep KIA from scoring kills on Stingray, Nighthawk, and other characters who are only in the scene to play “Hey, it’s that guy!”  The threesome is quickly overpowered, and exercises the better part of valor, teleporting away to 42, the Negative Zone meta-prison.  One there, the kids inform their superior office, War Machine, what has gone down in his absence, and Rhodey decides it’s time to make his stand, John Wayne style.  He orders his men and the recruits to take off, while he plans to engage KIA, and destroys the portal, thereby trapping the murderous cyber-zombie in the Zone.  One of his men protests, saying “Sir, you’re just one man!”  Rhodey reminds me why I love him, by triggering his suits many weapons, every inch of his armor breaking open to expose a gun.  He turns to the gate, bristling with enough firepower to kill a yak from 200 yards away, and replies.  “Wrong.  I’m the WAR MACHINE.”  He prepares to bite the hand that feeds him, and prepares to turn the tides and set his demons free, but KIA’s super-gun has enough juice take on even him…

Back in Tennessee (Ten-Ten-Tennessee) Vance Astro has really been real stressed, down and out, losin’ ground, but he and his former New Warriors army (Rage, Ultra Girl, Debrii and Slapstick) capture our three protagonists as they exit the tele-portal from the NZ, only to find that Michael Van Patrick is willing to help their cause.  He wants to know more about the mind-wipey device that Hardball and company have brought, and they explain that it will wipe his mind, but then overwrite the KIA personality with his.  The Warriors and his father protest that Michael shouldn’t have to die again to fix another of Gyrich’s snafus, but it’s kind of a moot point.  The Scarlet Spiders follow through the Negative Zone portal to find War Machine barely alive, having been beaten down by KIA in Hulk-Hogan-squash-match fashion.  War Machine opens his mask to breathe, and we see Rhodey’s face for the first time (and it ain’t pretty anymore.)  For reasons that I can’t remember if we know or not, half his face has been replaced with a Terminator-esque steel skull-head.  The Spiders disobey orders and head through the teleport to Tennesee where they find…

…total chaos.  KIA quickly downs Justice with psionic feedback, dissolves Slapstick into his component “electroplasm”, and he then poisons Komodo with a venom that will outpace even her healing factor.  Hardball realizes the only way to save her is to amputate her legs… again.  (In her human form, Komodo is a double amputee.)  He uses his power to dismember his girlfriend, then holds her close and whispers “Shh… They’ll grow back this time.”  It’s a weirdly sweet scene in the middle of a pitched battle.  The big-time Mighty Avengers arrive, and fare no better than the recruits did, but Cloud 9 suddenly has an epiphany.  She walks straight into KIA’s line of fire, and he panics, thinking she’ll get hurt.  Cloud 9 walks up to him, stroking his zombie-face, realizing what this is all about.  “I know who you are.  Who you REALLY are inside.  And I know how you feel about me.”  She kisses him gently as he tries to say she’s “on his list” but he succumbs to her feminine wiles…

…and she uses her powers to fill his lungs with her semi-solid clouds.  KIA chokes and falls, and the heroes attack en masse.  The fight rages again, but Michael Van Patrick, and the Scarlet Spider clones swoop in.  Michael realizes that if the helmet will erase his mind, it will also erase KIA’s copy of his mind!  The creature collapses, and the clones and Cloud 9 stand over him, haunted by what they’ve seen and done.  She introduces herself the MVP (or the first clone of him, or…  hell, I dunno) and they seem to be on the cusp of a beautiful friendship.  Not so very promising is what happens immediately afterward, as Slapstick takes the helmet off KIA’s lifeless form, and read the display.  “Ready to tranmist brain patterns to new host body…  Hmm… Now THAT would be funny!”  Ominously, the killer clown stick the helmet in his pocket and dances away.

I have to say, I love Dan Slott when he brings the funny, but this issue’s sense of drama is strong as well.  Is that Christos Gage’s efforts?  Is it a team?  Do I care when the book works this well?  The storybeats in this issue give away a few hints at mysteries (including one we didn’t even know WAS a mystery) and bring the first big arc to a close in a big way.  Still up in the air, though, is who’s dead and who’s alive (How can we play “Crap On Yellowjacket” if he’s dead?) and what’s going to happen now.  Surely somebody will realize that Camp Hammond is a bad idea now, right?  Either way, this is a very strong issue, with excellent, if quirky, art from Stefano Caselli, and a strong character turn from Cloud 9, who has so far been a wishy washy type.  With “graduation” nearly upon them, I hope that we get to see the survivors of this first batch of super-soldiers in action after they leave this title (assuming they do…)  It’s a 4 out of 5 star issue for me, and I still recommend this as the best of the three Avengers titles.

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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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4 Comments

  1. Tremaine
    April 27, 2008 at 6:13 pm — Reply

    Well, when Slotts takes time to wrte/plot his issues as opposed to Bendis, the payoff can be good as the case with this issue

  2. Brother129
    April 27, 2008 at 6:53 pm — Reply

    They packed A LOT in this story, I felt like I was reading three different comics, and yet, it worked for me.

  3. April 27, 2008 at 9:59 pm — Reply

    …and she uses her powers to fill his lungs with her semi-solid clouds. KIA chokes and falls, and the heroes attack en masse.

    THANK YOU! I was trying to figure out what the heck she did there!

  4. Josh P.
    April 28, 2008 at 7:27 am — Reply

    And here I thought that was the steamiest kiss ever…

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