Review: Avengers – The Initiative #16

by

Or – “THE 3-D MAAAAAN!”

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The Marvel Universe has a lot of dark corners, filled with characters that somebody thought were awesome at one time, but have become somewhat embarassing in retrospect.  The Texas Twister.  The Collective Man.  Hammer and Anvil.  Deathlok Mark II.  But my favorite heroes are the ones with no chance of being considered mainstream cool, guys like The Mimic, It the Living Colossus, and the breakout star of the Initiative.  With a costume so ugly that Crazy Quilt isn’t sure about it, The 3-D Man’s only real moment of glory came against the alien Skrulls back in the ’50s.  With the You-Know-Whos invading secretly, this may be the 3-D Man’s chance to prove himself once again relevant and awesome.  If you’re smirking to yourself right now, you may want to remember this: until a couple of years ago, my list of lovable, unsalable losers included both Nova and Star-Lord…

Previously, on Avengers – The Initiative:  In the wake of the Civil War, the Marvel Universe has come to Av5.jpgthe truly ridiculous conclusion that having masked lunatics with licenses is less dangerous than having masked lunatics doing the same things without ‘em.  To that end, founding Avenger Yellowjacket (or, rather, a series of pointy-eared green-blooded hobgoblins in his image) helped to spearhead the Fifty-State Initiative, to put a chicken in every pot, and a government-sponsored group of jack-booted thugs in every state capital.  After thoroughly crushing the innocence and heroic intent of their first group of graduates, the idiots at Camp Hammond have inducted a second wave of young mystery men, only to have the Secret Invasion bust wide open around ‘em.  Gauntlet and his cadets head to New York, while the former Triathlon, now using the legacy name of 3-D Man finds that his goggles still have the ability to see Skrulls wherever they may wander, and (thanks to Skrull expatriate Crusader’s self-serving attempt to stay underground) sees the Initiative as full of them.  The Initiative is full of SOMETHING, I’ll tell you that for free…

In the wake of last months Quinjet crash, 3-D Man is pinned by rubble, but luckily the local heroes come out to save him.  Well, at least one…  And she was a member of the Fantastic Four, after all.  The She-Thing (of New Mexico’s “Mavericks”) rips open the ship, and is immediately pegged as a Skrull by 3-D Man.  She freaks out at being discovered, but is quickly ripped in two by a blast from a mystery-man’s enormous gun.  The man identifies himself as Ryder, and welcomes the 3-D Man to the Skrull Kill Crew.  Ryder’s partner, a monstrous thing called Riot noisily dismembers the corpse, while Ryder plans their next move.  Back at Camp Hammond, Trauma and new character Physique race through the halls, trying to figure out what has happened, only to find War Machine and Baron Von Blitzschlag surrounded by an energy field.  Trauma misreads the situation, and the former Nazi once again laments that nobody trusts him.  War Machine suddenly boots back online, claiming that some obsolete Stanetech in this armor is acting as a backup system.  Rhodey is distracted as a hologram of Iron Man appears, telling him that he’s the rebel alliance’s last hope blah blah blah fishcakes.  Rhodey blasts off, flying into his crossover with Iron Man, Director of SHIELD, while Yellowjacket tries to regroup, not realizing that the new Ant-Man is dogging his every step, trying to figure out why the founding Avenger has stayed behind at camp…

Some time later, in Los Angeles, the 3-D Man and the Kill Krew meet with Chuck and Hal Chandler, the brothers who originally merged to form the 3-D Man back in the 1950′s, and work up some sort of strategy.  Ryder explains the Kill Krew’s gross origins (when Reed Richards hip-mo-tized the four Skrull invaders into cows back in Fantastic Four #2, somebody killed ‘em, sold ‘em, and fed them to people in fast food burgers, giving some people Skrully powers of their own) and throws the head of the She-Thing on the grill.  The Chandlers and their namesake are disgusted, but Ryder merely shrugs and says, “Guess what?  That’s war.”  In Times Square, the action finally catches up to two issues ago in Secret Invasion, as Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos show up, and pull Crusader in.  “On your feet, soldier,” barks Nick to the former Skrull commando.  “We can use a man like you!”  Hearing that Captain America told Nick Fury about his heroic exploits, Crusader makes his decision, and re-enters combat.  In Phoenix, again after a time jump, the local heroes (led by the Two-Gun Kid) try to clean up after an accident, only to find themselves on the receiving end of Kill Krew justice.  Their infiltrator quickly reveals himself, and most of the team is taken out, save for former Initiative recruit Komodo, who joins up with the Krew and heads for Vegas.  Back at Hammond, Ant-Man watches as Yellowjacket brings in a full-fledged Skrull invasion force.  “Somebody send me to the front… where it’s safe!” he thinks.

Hmm.  This issue has a ton of things going on, and it never quite gels into something coherent.  Delroy’s new importance to the world is undermined by the fact that he keeps having to be pulled out of danger by the Kill Krew, whereas the events at Hammond and in New York are just little behind-the-scenes bits that, once again, tread water with the main plot until Bendis breaks the internet in half again.  Dan Slott and Christos Gage give us some interesting dialogue, but the time switches really don’t do the story any favors, and the whole “This has been a commercial for War Machine: Director of SHIELD” sequence did little more than irk me.  The issue was all over the place, and I’m waiting for Secret Invasion to catch up with itself and GO someplace, already, and the loss of momentum here really hurts this book.  The artwork, by Stefano Caselli and Luca Malisan, is actually quite good, especially their technology, and they’ve finally managed to give 3-D Man a mask that doesn’t make him look like a circus clown, but even it’s prettiness can’t save the plot from flying off the rails.  It’s usually one of my favorites, but Avengers: The Initiative #16 ranks only 2 out of 5 stars, even with the renewed focus on a favorite character of mine.  I suppose it’s a good point to make though, especially at Marvel: you can’t carry a book on a familiar cast of characters alone…  They have to DO something interesting, not just mark time during major crossover events.

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