Sometimes, a comic book comes along that both wonderful and awful, fascinating and wrong-headed, fresh and different but driven by the dumbest massive crossover crapfest of them all. Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Avengers; The Initiative #1 awaits!
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colorist: Daniele Rudoni
Letterer: Virtual Calligraphy, Joe Caramagna
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00
Previously in Avengers; The Initiative: “After Stamford, Connecticut was destroyed during a televised fight between the New Warriors and a group of dangerous villains, a federal superhuman registration act was passed. All individuals possessing paranormal abilities must now register with the government. Disagreement over the act split the Superhuman community in two, with Tony Stark — Iron Man — as the figurehead for the pro-registration movement and Captain America leading the anti-registration resistance. Now, with Captain America’s surrender and assassination, the superhuman civil war is over. Tony Stark has been appointed Director of SHIELD, the international peacekeeping force. He has set into motion The Initiative, a plan for training and policing superheroes in this brave new world, intended to position a local superhero team in each of America’ fifty states…”
This issue opens with a changing of the guard, a passing of the proverbial torch. Henry Peter Gyrich, long the worst character in the entire Marvel Universe, travels to an active combat zone in Iraq to meet the new worst character in the entire Marvel Universe, the man called Gauntlet!
His offer? A job, taking Gauntlet back home to the United States to serve as a shallow caricature of a drill sergeant at the newly former Camp Hammond, the headquarters for The Initiative project a
killing field training ground for tomorrow’s new heroes. We then shift focus to the first of these new heroes, a shy, sensitive girl named Cloud 9, as she tests her new powers, enjoying the wonder of flying under her own power for the first time…
…which is met with a full display of military force and an attack by War Machine, James Rhodes. To his credit, Rhodey doesn’t hurt her, instead taking her into custody and seemingly forcing her into government service because of her powers. Another young
victim potential hero, Michael Van Patrick, gets a softer sell, as Vance Astrovik, the hero known as Justice, comes to his home to scout him personally as star super-duper. Unfortunately, Vance’s status as ex-New Warrior is somewhat suspect in the then-current political climate…
The grandson of Professor Erskine, who created the super-soldier serum, MVP is a shoo-in for the program, and we meet other would-be heroes (hyperconfident Armory, half-lizard Komodo, as well as known entities like Slapstick and Thor Girl), all of whom are shipped off to Camp Hammond where they meet the man in charge…
Henry Pym, Yellowjacket AKA Ant-Man AKA Giant-Man AKA Goliath, clearly doesn’t care for his new job or the entire idea behind The Initiative, which is the first real signal that something is seriously wrong. The second comes when Gauntlet introduces himself to the recruits with the worst ‘Full Metal Jacket’ riff ever seen, a really tone-deaf and obnoxious take given the tone of the post-Civil War Marvel universe…
And it gets worse…
Justice, War Machine and Yellowjacket confer about the recruits, and War Machine makes it clear that Gauntlet’s lunk-headed abuse is fine by him (including mocking the deaths of Vance’s close friends and family in the New Warriors, which I’m still made about) and indicates that everything should be perfectly fine.
The very first stint in the state of the art
Danger Room Ripoff training facility proves that no, everything is not fine…
Armory, thanks to her skill and power, is asked to help Trauma in a combat situation, but his powers trigger her worst phobias, causing her to freak out and start firing her power cannon (the brilliantly-named Tactigon) at random. Komodo loses an arm, but is able to regrow them, while MVP uses his speed to save Cloud 9. Is there a love connection in the works?
There is not. Instead, Tony Stark’s best plan gets a teenager murdered, with the collusion of another founding Avengers and the United States government. The worst part about this is that, historically, very few fatalities ever happened in the happy-go-lucky days pre-Registration Act, even dorks like Speedball never got hurt, making the shift very noticeable and making this book feel like a direct result of Iron Man’s hubris. Worst still, it’s followed by this scene, where Armory is mutilated in the name of the greater good…
It’s a very dark ending for a book that’s meant to be very dark indeed, making it seem as if Marvel intentionally set up Civil War to give us the most dystopian story possible, including as much death and corruption as humanly possible. In short, Civil War ended with the fascists winning, and this book picked up with what the fascists were going to do (the answer being “Kill kids”), leaving Avengers: The Initiative #1 with a very mixed 2.5 out of 5 stars overall. There’s a lot of fun to be had here, and some good character moments that prove Slott can be an excellent writer, but the issue is a big ol’ bummer and the introduction of Gauntlet would drag this book down until it’s cancellation less than 30 issues later…[taq_review]