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 gave Avengers Academy a two issue try. I didn't care for it. To me the idea of these troubled kids felt forced. We get the idea that they were tortured by Osborn but they came off more entitled and bratty than in need of help. It felt too angsty like an after-school special to me.  I thought I might have been to harsh but I read the issues of Amazing Spider-man featuring the Avengers Academy class and I didn't particularly care for those either. Of all the Avengers Titles that were launched last year I was expecting to like this one a lot.

 

I'm glad that there seems to be a strong following for the book. It's good to see that a title featuring new characters is doing well. It's just not for me.

 

I'm behind on this reading project. One last story arc to go!

Kirk G said:

How do you feel about the "replacement book" for the

Avengers the Initiative

title that is going great guns right now:  Avengers Academy?

Frankly, I love it, and didn't think that I was going to.  It's thoughtful, well-plotted, and seems to be building to lead somewhere.

I like that there are repercussions to decisions and actions, although the cliff-hanger with them getting suspended/expelled was a bit of a ploy in hindsight.

Still, since the first two or three issues, and the "blackmail of Quicksilver", I've loved it.   Frankly, I thought it might run 4 or 5 issues as a mini series and that the lip-reading "They must never know..." was going to pay off much earlier and faster.

But it's one of my guilty pleasures that I look forward to every month.  In some ways, it is the old school concept of the X-men dusted off and updated nicely.

Thank you, Marvel!

Cavaliere (moderator) said:

"Thanks to guns, everyone in America has the potential super-power of ending anyone's life in an instant..."

 

Says the Irish guy living in Australia. ;-)

 

I'm not saying you're exactly wrong but that's a world-wide issue, not just America.


I believe its a problem in Mogadishu and Helmand Province too. Anyway, I mentioned the US because that is where the Hood and most of his violent fictional cronies live.

Unfortunately, you're exactly right. None of us (almost none, anyway) have the right to throw stones at anyone else...or should I say, in this case, shoot anyone else?

 

I think I may skip on this title for awhile. Not that it doesn't sound entertaining, but it sounds pretty overwhelming. I have plenty other stuff to overwhelm me at this point!

Avengers Academy continues to surprise and delight me.

I'm not sure that I cared for a few of the twists/adventures (Kovac should never have returned) and I don't care for the infinite mansion concept, but there's a bizarre time-travel body exchange storyline that's going down right now that looks intriguing.
We first saw this opportunity to "change places" with a younger version of oneself in the original Days of Future Past with Kity Pryde, except in that story, she freely admitted doing it. In this version, the exchange is a covert mission to influence the future, and the maincharacter is sneaking around, doing it, plus holding his past/younger self in a cell, to accomplish it.


Could be an interesting thread to unravel and follow...  Can he influence the time stream, and what if he prevents his future from happening... how does reality change to meddling kids?

Issues 31-35

I haven't actually reread these. They are at my parents house filed away and I keep forgetting to dig them out. I have a pretty good memory though. We have a pre-siege issue with the Taskmaster moving up in the world. He's now part of Norman Osborn's inner circle. However, it doesn't go so well for him. Dr. Doom fries him. However, Taskmaster survives and is given word that Osborn plans to invade Asgard. What makes this issues good is it is narrated by Taskmaster in a letter to Constrictor. Constrictor seems to be the one person Taskmaster actually likes and respects.

 

What follows is a bit of a blur. There are two arcs running here. The Initiative's strike on Asgard is one and the underground Avenger's strike agains the Hood's crew back on the main land. The underground Avengers get the better of the Hood and Tigra gets her revenge. Hardball gets busted out and helps the cause. Komodo gets her powers back. In Asgard, Osborn loses and Taskmaster Escapes. Constrictor sees Diamondback with Captain America and assumes she's back with him. So he leaves with Taskmaster.

 

The story ends with the heroes victory and the party on top of Avengers mansion. We see what happens to most of the recruits.

 

I will go back and read this but I wanted to wrap this up so I could work on shorter reading projects.

 

Final thoughts:

The Siege tie-ins were pretty good. Not as good as the Secret Invasion stuff. It still held it's on in regards to progessing its own story and that of Siege. The pre-siege issue with Taskmaster was probably the best of the arc.

 

All in all I'd say the series had a satisfying ending. Everyone gets an end to this chapter in their life but it's still open for them to return. Most of the endings are happy. One thing that was perplexing was Tigra. We meet her infant son. However, when did she have him? I'm assuming this happened somewhere other than A:I because there was no birth sequence. That bothered me, since the reveal of the pregnancy occured in A:I. Oh well. At least Butterball had an ending. Of course he and Batwing would attempt to carry on the superhero tradition.

 

Avengers the Initiative was a decent series for that particular time period in Marvel. Will it go down as one of the greatest runs ever? Probably not. It lost steam after Slott left. Cristos Gage did an admirable job carrying it on though and didn't diminish what Slott started. I'd say that Gage's strong points were in the done-in-one issues. He did the Butterball issue, the Guitar man issue and the Taskmaster issue. All were some of the best in the series. For some reason he couldn't sustain longer arcs. The last negative thing I will say is that the Underground Avenger or the resistance or Justice's team whatever you want to call them, were dull. I get the idea of having a renegade band to uphold some since of justice (pun intended) but they were probably the most uninteresting characters. The series did much better when it focused on happenings at the camp or with the 50 state initiative teams.

 

So I hope you all enjoyed this. I had fun with it. I apologize that there was some delay. I hope to return and fill in some holes that may have been overlooked. 

Well, as this post attests, I always meant to come back here and discuss the final 5 issues of the series, but I never got around to that.  Never mind.  I think my posts above make clear how disappointed I am with Marvel's cack-handed stewardship of what was an exciting and fresh series that engaged with the politics of its day and set out to cover some of the ramifications of the ending of Civil War.

  

Just for some 'closure' from my end, the following are a series of posts on issues 31-35 from my Siege thread.

 

Avengers The Initiative #31

 

 

In this one, Gage expands on Taskmaster's way-out-of-his-depth appearance in Siege The Cabal.  It moves threads of the ongoing Initiative series forward while tying them in to events in Bendis' larger narrative. There's more to say on this comic, but I'll save it for when we reach it on the Initiative thread.

 

 

Avengers The Initiative #32

 

The focus remains on the Taskmaster in the lead up to Norman's attack on Asgard.  There are a lot of groups extant in the MU at this point at different points in the sliding scales between villainy and heroism.  If villainy/heroism is one axis, government/rebel is another. In this issue we see Osborn's officially sanctioned Dark Avengers attack Asgard, backed up by the newer members of the Initiative that Osborn has decided are sympathetic to his evil cause. 

 

The rest of the Intiative (the good guys) have to stay in Camp Hammer in lockdown in case they get up to something noble.  The defending Asgardians are blameless but have been labeled enemies of the state by one arm of the US government.  Later they will be joined by renegade New Avengers, who've been enemies of the state since Civil War. 

 

The Hood and his cronies are both officially criminals and also trusted by Osborn to back up his atttack.  Then there is the Avengers Resistance, who are renegade Initiative members who've gone rogue in order to be good guys opposed to Osborn.

 

That's quite a few permutations of good/bad, state sanctioned/renegade.  Clearly Bendis is showing that who's good and who's bad is a complex issue, and their position in regards to the actual state isn't really a guide. 

 

This is further complicated in Avengers: The Initiative by the presence of traitors in some of the factions.  Diamondback is amongst Osborn's Initiative goons, but is secretly working for the New Avengers, whilst Night Thrasher is a member of the Avengers Resistance who has agreed to be the Hood's mole in the team.

 

(I can't believe I'm reading a comic with a character called Night Thrasher in it!)

 

Further little twists are that Taskmaster is tempted to not fight on behalf of Osborn (for purely practical reasons) and Constrictor's love for Diamondback means he looks the other way when he finds out she's a spy.

 

That's quite a bit of complexity to be going on with. 

 

This issue features one of my favourite lines in the series.  One of the Initiative superladies claims that fighting Thor wasn't a big deal last time she did it.

 

"I heard you ran like cheap mascara," says one of her female colleagues.

Avengers Initiative #33

 

This is a true tie-in of the old-school, in that none of it would make any sense unless you were reading the main series.  The scenes here mostly take place between the panels of Bendis’ Siege #2.   Considering that Siege #2 is a huge hero vs villain free-for-all, Gage does good work pushing forward each character’s story while they are involved in a pitched battle.

 

Although it’s common for us pseudo-intellectuals to tut at Big Event Tie-ins, Gage does a respectable job here.  It’s worth pointing out too, that Avengers Initiative sales went up during its Siege tie-in issues, (see the sales figures I posted here), so they were giving the fans what they wanted.  It does expand on some of the events in Siege and shows us more of what went on in the thick of the fighting, but there is nothng here that needed to be read to understand anything in Siege.

 

As the Hood has a habit of saying, hoping to sound like Robert DeNiro instead of the pathetic zero we all know him to be; “It is what it is.”

  

Gage also presents us with his own subplot regarding the former New Warriors, now styling themselves the Avengers Resistance, using the opportunity to break into Osborn’s mainly deserted HAMMER base to steal his secrets.

 

There we get a confrontation between Tigra and aforementioned pathetic zero, the Hood.  Like many (all?) of the plot beats in Siege, their meeting here is payoff for events that happened YEARS ago, when the Hood gave Tigra a nasty, and totally uncalled for, beating in the pages of New Avengers.

 

But the Hood is SUCH a loser!  Can anyone see what is wrong with the closing page of this issue:

 

 

(You know those guns you keep waving around in an attempt to compensate for your many inadequacies?  Well, they discharge bullets when you pull the trigger, ... fool.)

The Initiative #34

 

This should have been placed a bit earlier in our readthrough.  It starts just before the Hood's men are called to Asgard from their fight with the Avengers Resistance in Camp Hammer and ends with the fall of Asgard at the end of Siege #3.

 

It should really come just before the run of Thor-related comics that I begin above with Thor #608, because those comics extend past the fall of Asgard and took us up to just before the events of Siege #4.

 

It's very nerdy of me, I know to be concerned about the placing of these comics in reading order, but I am interested to see how they all fit together into one large story. 

 

Some of the scenes of Taskmaster and co fighting against the Asgardians and New Avengers are lifted verbatim from Bendis' Siege #3, so this was written to connect quite tightly with the main series.  We just get the same scenes, but expanded and from the point of view of the Initiative members that we have been following in that series. 

 

Bendis' New Avengers #63, covering the same timeframe as this one, altered the tempo of the issue with flashbacks to the night before.  Gage however, manages to centre all the action on the two scenes of superhero battle and still push forward the arcs of Taskmaster, Diamondback, and Constrictor.  Gage deserves credit for this even though Bendis' is probably the more artistic choice.

 

Of course when Asgard collapses we get our apparently doomed conflicted serpant-themed couple shouting out to each other.

 

"Frank!!"

"Rachel!!"


(I would have liked to end my review of Thor #608 with "Volstagg!!", but no-one in the comic is there to express consternation at his fate when Asgard falls on top of him.)

The Initiative #35



 

This is the final issue of Avengers: The Initiative.  Big crossovers like Siege are usually used to can low-selling series while giving their readership figures a boost on their way out.  It's another way that big events and marketing trump storytelling.  Here, however, there is a strong internal logic to the series ending here.  The Initiative was set up as a result of the Registration Act coming into force, and as of the end of Siege that law has now been revoked. 



 

Further, the Initiative, as the government's army of registered superheroes, was completely subverted and corrupted by Osborn, so it's now tainted and has to go, to be replaced by something similar, but with a different name.  That's politics!

 

Avengers: The Initiative has been a very important book in this final phase of Marvel's sweeping saga of 2004-09. Superhero comics largely have to be about colourful characters hitting each other, but the training camp/administrative centre setting of this comic meant that lots of nuts and bolts issues of the post-Civil War MU were part of everyday life in the comic. Here we came closest to seeing how the new dispensation affected the ordinary 3rd tier superheroes of the Marvel Universe.



 

So this is where the series gets wrapped up.  Various plotlines get some kind of resolution, but hopefully we can talk about them when we get to the end of the Initiative thread.
Once again, Gage interleaves his scenes with the scenes in Siege #4 and even New Avengers Finale, and does it well. He's a good company man, is Gage.  If we're prepared to accept that these company-wide events are produced for fans prepared to buy most of the central books, then Gage does a good job. His scripts do make clear what is happening, even if you hadn't read the main books.  It would be clear to any reader, however, that they were reading about scenes and characters marginal to the important stuff, which is a strange place to be.  Maybe it's a bit like reading Astro City...



 

The scene below is possibly the one that Alan M. was thinking of when he said that the HAMMER thugs were probably quickly reassimilated into the reformed SHIELD.  "...nothing to worry about" probably means their jobs and pension plans won't be affected!

 

 

I placed Avengers: The Initiative #35 at this point on my reading list, as a scene between Tigra and the Hood occurs after the New Avengers bring him in.  The scene illustrates one of the problems with setting stories in a shared universe.  The Hood's rather creepy and questionably depicted attack on Tigra back in the pages of New Avengers was issue of the week a few years ago, causing an internet furore, so Tigra’s payback of him would have to be part of her story.  Unfortunately, Tigra moved on from the pages of New Avengers, where the confrontation with the Hood was central.  Thus her face-off with her nemesis comes in the form of leavings from Bendis’ table.  The Hood was his character, and he used the final confrontation between the New Avengers and the Hood as the big send-off for his series.

 

In fact, the New Warriors  Avengers Resistance attack on Camp Hammer shown in the pages of Avengers: The Initiative is also a sideshow, as by the time they take control of the base from the Hood’s henchmen and HAMMER troops, there is no point in getting Osborn’s secret files, as he’s already outed himself as a psychopathic nutjob, live on national television!

 

The series ends with the Initiative members amongst the Avengers old and new we saw celebrating on the roof of Avengers Tower at the close of Siege #4.  It's a pretty conclusive, upbeat ending and even has the closing montage of what-they-did-next frames for various members of the group, like a cheesy 1980's highschool movie (but in a good way).

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