Or – “Ballistic: Stark Vs. Rhodes.

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One of the mysteries of Avengers: The Initiative so far is how a hero like War Machine, with a history of fighting AGAINST human rights violations and disliking Tony Stark’s manipulative side, ever got involved with a para-military superhuman strike force in the first place.  An answer or two is forthcoming in this issue, which also features a graduation, a resignation, and Iron Man not being the world’s biggest tool.  But the bigger question is:  WHO IS THE NEW 3-D MAN???

AI1.jpgPreviously, on Avengers – The Initiative:   The first batch of Initiative recruits at Camp Hammond have had a rough time of things, what with murder, deceit, psycho-killers, War War Hulk, traitors in the fold, body parts getting blown off, and basically wholesale slaughter.  Oh, and also, H.P. Gyrich, jackass supremo, runnin’ the whole show.  That series of missteps  have undermined the base of what SHOULD be a well-oiled machine, turning the putative international peacekeeping force into a cult of personality protecting nothing but it’s own secrets.  Last issue’s climactic battle with KIA (a clone of the murdered trainee, wearing the weapon of another) has left the Initiative fractured, many of the team members maimed, dead, or insane in the membrane, and the former New Warriors out in the cold.  Now, the first batch of recruits is ready to graduate, and Iron Man has FINALLY seen fit to step in and deal with how far off target his “magic bullet” project has really come to be…

 We start off with a behind-the-scenes look at our characters preparing for graduation day, dressing (or in the case of the late Trauma BEING dressed by a mortician) in their best suits, while the Initiative’s leaders prepare for a rite of passage of a different sort: and official inquiry by the head of SHIELD.  Iron Man flies in, sits down and gets right to the point.  “Mr. Gyrich.  You were present during the training exercises that claimed that boy’s life.  What happened?”  Henry lies through his capped, tombstone-like teeth.  “I don’t recall.”  Director Stark rightfully points out that, since that escapade led directly to the KIA incident, which left ELEVEN people dead, perhaps he’d like to refocus his memory?  While Gyric engages in blatant lies terminalogical inexactitudes, we see the recruits of the Initiative paying their respects to the family of the deceased Dragon Lord. 

At the Camp Hammond chapel, Cloud 9 and the recruits pay their respects to the murdered Trauma.  Cloud 9 explains that he’s being buried on base because she doesn’t think his family will have anything to do with him anymore.  Everyone thinks about how very depressing THAT is for a moment, when suddenly…

…TRAUMA SITS UP.  The room bursts into chaos as everyone freaks out (understandably, as they’re being visited by a MUTANT ZOMBIE!!!!) and Trauma himself asks the important question.  “I really don’t know why I’m not dead.”  While we deal with that madness, Nighthawk visits the infirmary and his new pal Frank Schlichting, aka The Constrictor.  Stricky had his arms severs just below the elbow in the battle with KIA, and orders Nighthawk to stop.  He is uncertain for a moment, but Constrictor just wants to try out his new bionic arms, replacing his old adamantium cables.  While that goes on, the Crusader (secretly a disguised Skrull) wonders if the Earth scientists can detect his real nature.  ‘Hawk gives the injured men their medals, but is taken aback when Baron Von Blitzschlag asks if he gets one for his injuries as well. “The U.S. government does not give medals to Nazis, Baron.”  The ancient mad scientist snorts, and points out, “Ah, but you are happy to employ them when they can help you, eh?”  Oooh, snap!

Back at the inquest, Iron Man brings in one of his witnesses, Suzy Sherman, aka Ultragirl.  Suzy explains tha Justice and the rest of the Warriors aren’t coming back, relating the tale of how they became a “Counter Force” (terrible team name, if they’re going with it, by the way) to the Initiative, and how Iron Man gave them a 24 hour reprieve from capture for their actions against KIA.  Iron Man dismisses her, and asks how and why the cloning of MVP was cleared, before somebody explains that it WAS okayed, by nearly the highest levels of SHIELD.  Iron Man is appalled that nobody cleared it with him, and Gyrich once again explains that “he can’t recall” what occurred.  Iron Man stands up, and tells Gyrich that he’s just about done with all the doubletalk and B.S.  Gyrich takes this moment to angrily point out that SHIELD has “his” property, the Tactigon, in their possession, so they’re just as dirty as he is.  When Henry demands to know where the weapon is, Iron Man gets right up in his face, and smarms “I don’t recall.”  Heh…

Stark tells Gyrich that he’s out, he’s finito, he’s toast, and H.P. flies into a rage.  “Me?  I’ve got connections in the CSA, O.N.E., and the White HOuse!  If anyone’s gone it’s YOU!  You and your SHIELD interference…  You’ll see!  I’m not going anywhere!”  Cut to two hours later, with Gyrich resigning from government service, claiming to spend more time with his family.  A familiar, You Tube watching, NASCAR lovin’ face stands up, and yells “Sally Floyd, Frontline!  Mr Gyrich…  You don’t HAVE a family!”  Double Heh…  It’s good to see Sally and Iron Man looking less putzy in comparison to Henry.  Final smashcut to the graduation ceremony, as Triathlon takes on the costume and mantle of the 3-D Man, Ultragirl wears Ms. Marvel’s old red and black uniform, and Hardball, Komodo, and Cloud 9 put on superhero suits that put the “Ugh” in ugly.  The recruits get their assignments (with Trauma staying at Hammond to be a counselor) and Cloud 9 is assigned to Montana…

Montana?  Seriously?  How many superhero situations can there be in MONTANA?  You can’t even get cell service in big chunks of Montana, can you?  Not that there’s anything wrong with the Big Sky Country, but…  Superheroes in Montana?  Either way, we see Cloud 9 on her first mission as the leader of the new Freedom Force (with such luminaries as Equinox and Think Tank) impassively leading her team into battle and looking very much brainwashed in her hideous red, yellow and powder blue ensemble.  A little girl cheers the appearance of heroes to save her family, but her mother shushes her.  “This is her job,” says the mother, and we get a closeup of Cloud 9 looking incredibly serious.  I’m not sure if this was the intent or not, but it makes me very sad to see her like that, almost lobotomized by the oppressive Initiative soul-crushing process. 

Still, it’s a pretty good issue, overall, tying up old threads while giving us the beginnings of the new storyline and some new mysteries to focus upon (although the question of who Mutant Zero is, as well as what happened to War Machine, and others have yet to be answered.)  The art by Steve Uy is good, but is ill-served by some rather agressive pastel computer coloring, especially in the Cloud 9 and 3-D Man’s horribly gauche new uniforms.  Chris Gage and Dan Slott bring the funny and the touching in equal amounts, and manage to wrap up the first arc of the Inititive with style, in a 3.5 out of 5 star outing that makes me like Iron Man for a while, makes me dislike Ms. Marvel as usual (dressing up a teenage girl in your old uniform? Mid-life crisis much, Colonel Danvers?) and makes me wonder what the next batch of recruits will bring…

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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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6 Comments

  1. Salieri
    May 18, 2008 at 6:57 am — Reply

    As a Doctor of Guessology of the Department of Uncertain studies in the Royal College of Allamistakeo, it is my professional opinion that Trauma is a blood relative of Nightmare, the classic immortal lame Dr Strange villain who vaguely resembles the Sandman and rides a ‘Night Mare’ in green pyjamas. This connection may become apparent in the aftermath of Secret Invasion, as Nightmare is solicited to return within the pages of INCREDIBLE HERC during that event.

  2. ~wyntermute~
    May 18, 2008 at 2:52 pm — Reply

    I actually kinda like Cloud 9’s post-grad outfit… wasn’t her initial character hook that she was a snowboarder, or that sort of X-treme athlete? If i’m remembering that part right, this sort of “helmet-with-a-spandex-suit-and-clunky-boots” look used to be (maybe still is?) cool with that subset of the population, i believe… so it could kinda fit in that regard….

  3. May 19, 2008 at 12:01 am — Reply

    War Machine has a tiny fist.

  4. May 19, 2008 at 7:59 am — Reply

    Eric: I was thinking the same thing…

  5. Will
    May 19, 2008 at 9:21 am — Reply

    It should be that “Sandman” vaguely resembles Nightmare, since Nightmare preceded Sandy by 25 years. Just being a nitpicking nellie.

  6. Hat of Tim
    May 20, 2008 at 2:18 pm — Reply

    Have to take issue with Salieri there…since when has Nightmare been lame? Check out his appearances in the Gene Colan-drawn run in Doctor Strange during the ’60’s…and wasn’t partly responsible for the Hulk going totally nutso around about issue 300 back in the ’80’s? I rest my case milud…

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