For the past few years I have been one of the more vocal supporters of Avengers the Initiative. A series that came out of the Marvel Civil War. A few weeks ago the series that I love ended. I've decided to go back and read the series from the beginning to see if it how it's held up. I could do this in the Avengers group thread but since it doesn't get a lot of activity I'll just do it on the message board. I'll probably read anywhere from 1 to a few issues and night and hopefully post my thoughts and a brief synopsis fo the issue. Feel free to join in if you have read any of the issues or just want to throw your two cents in.

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I'm excited about re-reading this series and glad that several of you want to following a long.

I'm looking forward to it. I'm even tempted to fill in the gaps in my collection and read along.
I've read the first two issues. I'll wait to discuss unitll I've read the first six. But so far there's a lot to talk about.

Chris, you're right that people would have different reactions to certain circumstances. The first issue lays out those reactions, very well. I already have a complaint about a plot point. Finally, after reading the entire series as it was coming out, there were certain panels that struck me as throw away at the time but now they have a subtle way of hinting what's to come.
I've finished the first arc. I'll be posting tonight! I figure I we can discuss an arc for at least a week before moving to the next. I have all the issues so it's easy for me to keep moving. I know some of you will be getting the collections from the library so that's my reasoning for taking it a week at a time. But even if you're behind witht he discussion feel free to post your thoughts on what you've read.

I will say that I moved through the first issues pretty fast. They were all packed with a lot of story but were easy reads.
Ok, here we go.
Before we get started I have a few background items I'd like to mention. We all know the basic premise of the series and that it came out of Civil War. I remember interviews back when it was released that this would also be sort of a snapshot of the Marvel Universe. If it was a big event we'd be seeing the effects this series. Bigger named characters were also planned to make appearances in most issues as well. It was also an opportunity to showcase new and lesser known characters. With this in mind I re-read the series to see how close the creators came in accomplishing this.

I'm going to describe briefly describe what happens and then offer thoughts. I started play-by-plays for each issue but it was turning out to be far too long.

Avengers the Initiative #1-6
We start out with various characters getting recruited to the Initiative. Some are forces, some get home visits and others willingly volunteer. It’s apparent from a few shots of protesters that the training facility is not welcomed. As we see more recruits arriving at the base, we see that each has a different reaction to being there. The star recruit is MVP who is the great grandson of the creator of the Super Solider Serum. However he is killed in a training accident and the witnesses are forced to keep it silent. The story arc is also filled with the instructors disagreeing on methods to best instruct the recruits. The recruits at one point assist in defeating a Hydra attack. One recruit is assigned to take out Spider-man but fails. Another is persuaded to betray the initiative. A big thing that keeps coming up is the SPIN tech which strips one of their super abilities. The recruits also aide in World War Hulk. We are introduced to the Shadow Initiative, a covert ops group hidden on the base. Finally to end the arc the hard nosed drill instructor, Gauntlet, is found beaten and is comatose. SHIELD agents arrive to investigate. Gauntlet briefly wakes up to reveal that it was a super villain not anyone involved with the initiative as originally suspected. However, we see who the true culprit is, Slapstick.

Thoughts:
Well this still holds up. Overall I enjoyed this opening arc. I gave a brief description of the story but each issue was filled with a lot of detail. Just like three years ago, MVP’s death is still shocking. The kid was built up in sorts to be the star. He was a clean cut all American and he’s killed in a training incident not by a super villain! The rest of the new characters are interesting enough. We have the naïve Cloud 9, the jock Hardball, the emo kid Trauma, and the tough girl Komodo. Armory would have been in the last but she’s thrown out in issue one for killing MVP. Of all the recruits introduced she’s the one who really wanted to be there.

There was discussion of the recruiting method. We see how a few joined. Cloud 9 was forced; MVP got a visit from Justice. Armory signed herself up. I feel it’s probably an accurate assumption of what would happen if a superhuman draft were to be around. Even Gauntlet was recruited. He would have preferred to stay in Iraq but was told his country needed him back home. This explains, to me, why he’s portrayed the way he is. He’s a soldier, who just happens to have a special gift. But he’s a not a super hero, and doesn’t want to be one. His treatment of the recruits is how he would treat his troops. He also seems to have a slight distain for heroes anyways.

I liked how each issue spotlighted a certain character yet filled us in on what else was going on. I had stated earlier that I felt like each issue was a stand alone more than connecting to an arc. Well that was from reading one issue a month. I must have forgotten little details. Reading it all together I can see how this is a complete story.

Now is this a snapshot of the Marvel Universe? I’d say yes. The Civil War just ended and the Initiative is the biggest thing to come out of it. Remember the Initiative isn’t just the training program, it’s the 50 state teams as well. I think the series got off to a good start. We get to see at least one of the state teams, Texas. And there are plenty of big names that appear in this series as well in cameo appearances.

I think the strongest thing this series did was work a tie-in into its opening arc. World War Hulk was going on and this fit in perfectly telling a tale that made sense to both the event and the series itself. That always stuck with me. Most of the times when I read a tie-in issue it was to focus on whatever the event was and forgot what the series was trying to accomplish at the time.

I could go on and on but I’m kind of tired and already feel like I’m rambling. But I’ll mention the art. Stefano Caselli drew most of the arc. The first issue his style isn’t quite there. But by the second issue his characters look a lot better. I’ve always had a problem with the coloring on the book. It’s a bit muted and doesn’t complement Caselli’s style. But I like the art nonetheless. I’ll say that Caselli’s style is super heroic enough and at the same time a bit unconventional. Much like the initiative itself, heroic on the surface yet the way things are done, is a bit unconventional. Now my biggest pet peeve. The last part of the arc is by Steve Uy. I don’t care for his style at all. And it always bothers me when art styles change during an arc.

That’s it for now. I thought of a few more things but I’ll save it for tomorrow.
Just before we get to the actual series itself, I had a dig around for my Initiative comics and found a couple of related things. One is the Civil War - The Initiative one-shot, which sounded like it was a prelude (you'd think?) and the other was one of those little promotional books that previewed the post Civil War MU. Black Panther in the FF!! Horse-faced guy becomes Canadian super-hero!! Venom is Marvel's latest TV sensation!

Interestingly, Slott's The Initiative is advertised as a 6-part series. There are ads for 1 (of 6) and 2 (of 6).

Anyway, I just gave the one-shot Civil War: The Initiative a squiz to see if it was in any way a lead-in to Avengers: The Initiative.



It does define the context a little bit, but is actually a set-up for several comics series, none of which were actually called The Initiative, and only some of which seemed to be any good.

It begins at the end of Civil War and seemed to come out just at the time they published Captain America #25, judging by the preview of that issue at the end. (April 07)

It consists of three separate short sequences framed by Iron Man exulting in being king of the world, now that his views have been vindicated by the outcome of the Civil War. The first and last stories are written by Bendis, with the middle one by Ellis. All are drawn by Marc Silvestri, who may be a great guy and all, but is an atrocious artist who seems to hate women. In the first story, Sasquatch gets the guy who became ‘The Collective’ to join Omega Flight, the replacement team for Alpha Flight, who he had all but wiped out.

Considering that The Initiative of this comics title turned out to be a ‘50 state’ affair, I don’t see what a Canadian super-team is doing here at all. (Although the idea of Canadian super-teams, and non-US superteams generally has always been a good one).

The second story, by Warren Ellis, is the most relevant to our Avengers: The Initiative series. We see the nasty Thunderbolts take down a stand-up unregistered super-hero called Hurricane (II) with extreme prejudice, but they reluctantly use non-lethal methods – just! Although we don’t find out exactly where Hurricane is hauled off to, this is part of the context of the Initiative series about to start.

The final story has one of the many encounters between a registered and an unregistered hero. In this case Skrull Empress(!!) Spider-woman Jessica Drew and government thug Ms Marvel exchange the usual “I should arrest you, but I’ll let you go this time.”/ “What about CAP! And Freedom!” lines.

Both look like they are drawn by someone who had never stood in the same room as a real woman in his life. Moonstone’s portrayal in the previous story was a joke too.

Then Iron Man has a heart to heart with Skrull butler Jarvis, who puts the idea in his head of restarting the Avengers. Presumably so that the Skrulls would have someone to fight when they showed up in Times Square and told everyone that tonight, Pinky they were going to TAKE OVER THE WORLD!!

Jarvis gets to put the icing on Silvestri’s misogynistic cake by telling Iron Man that he can pick anyone but “If you let that Tigra %*&$£ back in you’ll have to find someone else to do your laundry.” The B-word no doubt, given the esteem Bendis holds Tigra in.

All in all, just one of those fillers between events that Marvel has been putting out for a few years now, that address, but don’t scratch the itch the fans have to see the new status quo laid out. The use of Skrull “Jarvis” and “Jessica” makes no sense in terms of the Secret Invasion direction that Bendis had embarked on by this point.

Not as relevant to the series under discussion as I thought it might be, and not the best comic ever produced either. Warren Ellis’s bit was good, simple as it was.

Bring on Dan Slott.

Oops, sorry Jason - terrible timing on my part!
Great commentary Jason. I'd agree with just about all of it. You pick out some good points, like Armory being the only one that really wanted to be there full-heartedly. I'd say the work of most ambitious writers of comics these days is better read in collected form rather than month to month. 6 issues gives the reader about the same amount of action as a movie, and comics are structured very like movies.

For me the most notable thing about issue 1 was the Iraq War setting of the opening scene. I'd love it if more superhero comics reflected what goes on in the world of today instead of being set in some timeless neverwhen. I don't think its a coincidence that most of the really popular comics since Captain America #1 have reflected the world the readers were living in. Still I can see why something like the Iraq War is impossible to use regularly because of how divisive it is.

Luckily, the Hydra goons in the beat-up truck with the Improvised Explosive Device (boy have they come down in the world! What happened to their Kirby-tech Lazer guns?) helpfully shout their inane slogans while driving their truck around the streets of Baghdad. Otherwise we the readers wouldn't know if they were terrorists or just some hard-working Iraqi plasterer who took a wrong turn on his way home from work.

It's hard to work out exactly what the US is training the heroes to do or be from reading Marvel comics of this era. Gyrich says to Gauntlet at the end of the opener "We have an army of superheroes. And with your training they could be a superhero army.

Fair enough. Fully trained and licensed; don't repeat Stamford and all that.

However the real intent goes beyond this which Gyrich makes clear straight after this:

"How would you rather fight this war? With more boots on the ground... Or more capes in the air?"

A superhero army to protect American citizens may be a great idea, but the likes of Gyrich have decided that superheroes can best protect Americans by being used as a hammer against peoples of other nations who disagree with US foreign policy.

Given how brutal, narrow-minded and thuggish Gauntlet's training methods are, I'm guessing they're aiming for brutal, narrow-minded and thuggish hammers at that.

More later.
First off, thanks for posting about the one-shot, Figs. I agree with your assessment of that. I'd say the Thunderbolts story was the best. I'm glad you thought about posting about it, even though it has little to do with Avengers the Initiative it's still a good lead in.

I agree with your take on Gauntlet. I left out the opening bit in my initial discussion. I liked it, I forgot that was the way the series started. But it was a well done start. We see the Iraq war and though it's a contriversal war Gauntlet would prefer to be there because he sees himself as a solider. Also seeing him in action helps the reader see the guy is the real deal. I think without that I'd be hard to buy a character we've never seen training a super hero army. I still think he doesn't care for super heroes at this point, it may be that the Civil War has given most of the public at this time a bad image of the super hero community. But I agree when Gyrich stated that in a way that he was wanting an army of super heroes that even the Gauntlet realized that would be better than more soildiers.

Finally, this opening gave Gauntlet a bit of depth for the first issue. After that I had forgotten about it and he was just a thug drill instrctor to me. Then issue 6 came around. We see Gauntel is a family man. He's a man who respects and loves his wife and is gentle with his kids, even silly. He's a solider at heart but we see he keeps it as his job. And from what his wife says later in the issue he was distrubred by what happened to MVP, thinking it was his fault. However Gauntlet remains comatose for many issues after this. We see sort of a new side to him but it won't be until after the Secret Invasion, I think.

Got to go to work. I'll post more later, I've still got a lot to discuss on this first arc. Next up: Skrulls in human clothing!
I thought it was shocking that A) it was Slapstick who beat up Gauntlet and B) there were no repercussions from it! But one can only hear "New Warriors" as an insult for so long! No wonder Justice rebelled!
Dan Slott is one of my favorite writers and these six issues are a good reason why. He takes recent events (Civil War) as well as MU history (both major events and minute details) and weaves them together seamlessly; even the World War Hulk stuff works smoothly without seeming like an intrusion or leaving the reader hopelessly lost. I didn't buy WWH but knew the gist of it, and even if I hadn't, Slott gives you everything you need. Slott makes good use of sub-plots to give a richer reading experience too. Kudos, too, for taking a cast of LSH-sized proportions, and giving so many a chance to shine.

Slott also threw this reader some much appreciated curveballs: issue 1's shocking death of MVP and the subsequent de-powering and discharge of Armory, the only one who really wanted to be there; Yellowjacket surviving his Dr Strangelove moment in issue 2, for a second I thought Slott killed him off ("Pymmy", I love it); the person who greets Justice and Cloud 9 at the door when they go to give condolences to MVP's family in issue 4; and Slapstick revealed as Gauntlet's attacker in issue 6.

I really like Caselli's art. I didn't remembering disliking Uy's work at the time, but felt it jarring during this re-reading. Also, I loved the covers for these first six issues.

One last point: I loved the work Slott did on Hank Pym. After Trauma shows him his greatest fear - which is either the sight of Janet Van Dyne beaten to a pulp at Hank's hands, or (much more disturbing) the thought that the beating of Janet and his expulsion from the Avengers is all that he'll be remembered for - Hank races for his room and his anxiety meds, and then calls Jan but immediately hangs up. To me, Slott was writing Pym, not a Skrull posing as Pym - your mileage may vary, but the call to Jan clinches it for me. I don't know when Slott found out Hank was a Skrull (I never bought into the hype that Secret Invasion was"seven years in the making" and I'm doubtful that Slott even knew in 2007 about the Hank as a Skrull reveal which took place in 2008). I do see that between this series and Mighty Avengers that Slott is one of the few writers to try and do right by Hank in the past few decades. Roger Stern and Kurt Busiek may be the only others. The Ultimates did a lot of damage to one of my favorite characters.
Your last paragraph was was my next post was going to be about, John. I loved the portrayal of Hank in this series up until he's revealed to be a Skrull. I know later on it's explained how the imposter survived a few close encounters. But everything else doesn't make sense. It was dispointing to see this character was a Skrull and it sort of ruined the previous issues for me, but not totally.

Another character that is revealed to be a Skrull is Thor Girl. She doesn't have a big role in the series. But in issue 5 when Trauma turns into Thor to fight Hulk's warbound, she is smitten. Hard to believe that that would be a skrull. I forget if they will explain any of that away when her idenity is revealed. I guess I'll find out soon enough!
I don't want to sidetrack this discussion - at least, not too much - but yeah, it's in the back of your head, "didn't so-and-so turn out to be a Skrull?" When you read the hype that Secret Invasion was "seven years in the making", you have to remember what hype is. None of it makes me angry, I just roll my eyes and move along. But if there was any indication that Hank Pym or Thor girl were Skrulls, I didn't see it, even on re-reading. There's not any "now that makes sense because they were a Skrull all along" scenes, imo.

I did find something that gives Marvel an out, though ... this review of Mighty Avengers #17. If you go to the bottom and read the preview pages, you get a sense from the Bendis written dialogue that the Skrull posing as Pym acts and thinks exactly like the real Hank Pym. What I got from this was that some of the Skrulls were sleeper agents who at times forgot they were playing a role and even fooled themselves into thinking they were the real deal. Here's a link:

http://www.comicsbulletin.com/reviews/121976669498801.htm
Thanks for that. I guess I can buy that they were sleeper agents and forgot who they were at times. But it kind of ruins a story where you think genuine character development is happening.

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