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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Mark S. Ogilvie said:
The treatment of Armory was one of things I hated about the series. To have the government surgically remove a part of your body... that was just a bit too much. If the government can start grabbing body parts then freedom really was dead in the mu.

Mark

Didn't they surgically remove just the glove? True, she thought of it as a part of herself and her identity and the trauma would be almost the same as losing a limb, but they didn't hack off her arm!

My understanding of Hank was that he was a deep sleeper agent who believed himslef to be Hank most of the time. I foolishly bought all the Avengers tie-ins to Secret Invasion, and one of them showed that they kept having to replace Skrull Hank because the Hank Pym personality kept trying to kick in and foil the Skrull plans. Even if that isn't 'really' Hank, it does show that deep down the real Hank is a real hero.

I know I'm stating the obvious, but Ultimate Avengers Hank isn't this Hank at all. This Hank is paying the price for the fact that MU writers, stuck for ideas and with deadlines coming up, (and with no interest in coming up with new ideas they won't get rewarded for) will always bring back everything that happened before, sooner or later.

To get back to Gauntlet and the points raised by Jason for a bit:

We see Gauntlet 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 soldier at heart but we see he keeps it as his job. And from what his wife says later in the issue he was distrurbed by what happened to MVP, thinking it was his fault.

I'd say you're right about Gauntlet in terms of Slott's intent to be even-handed towards the military. Although setting him up as a cuddly family man just before he gets the beat-down he so richly deserves is a bit ham-fisted. Ultimately, we are looking at the same thing and seeing different things. I see someone who brutalises minors for a living. The excuse that he's only doing his duty as a soldier went out with Nuremburg . Even the premise that he has to prepare the kids for battle conditions doesn't add up. For one, the decision to deploy them overseas in the 'war on terror' has been taken without the consent of either the superkids themselves or the American people. As bad as it is sending troops there, at least they signed up willingly and people know vaguely by now the kinds of things the military get up to over there. Sending young superheroes into that quagmire is a complete leap in the dark, where the cost of any mistakes will, as usual, be borne by the peoples of whatever contested land they end up in.

Dodgy Bush-era interventions aside, its obvious that brutalised, obedient, combat-ready kids won't make the best superheroes. Of all the times Marvel superheroes have saved the world, the majority of them have been accomplished through creative, imaginative, individualistic methods, often going against the orders of those in authority and often involving compassionate and empathic approaches. The Marvel US of the Bush/Civil War era was a fantasy of all-seeing state control. Fair enough. But if so, then the PTB had giga-bytes of info on the best kind of superheroes to keep the world safe.

I’d say the training of future superheroes would need to be much more like the training of soccer or AFL players. I’m sure their training is tough, but there has to be respect and humanity in there too, or you’re going to lose some great players of the future. I’ve no doubt that soccer trainers and junior team managers are friends as well as instructors to their charges, and encouraging their self-worth is a big part of their job. Maybe being a superhero is more like being an American football player as both are a bit more like warfare. Maybe some of you Americans can tell me whether creative and imaginative team players are brought along using Gauntlet’s brutal methods.

The fact that they are being trained as soldiers rather than superheroes is another reason why it looks like conscripted superheroes are being trained to take up the slack from the over-stretched volunteers in occupied countries, rather than protect Americans directly. Insofar as superheroes are another potential Stamford waiting to happen, the problem is being exported off-shore. A common First World solution to lots of problems is to export them to Third World countries. Ask the citizens of Bhopal.

So in my view, Gauntlet is doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons twice over, so he's a fool as well as a bully and a thug. It’s great that he can make his little girl laugh at the breakfast table, but I'm reminded of Michael Palin's character in Brazil, who was a genial family man when not working as a state torturer.

Whether good people can do bad things and still be good people is the big moral and philosophical question that the world, the US and its soldiers will be wrestling with long after Bush has left the stage. It’s certainly the crux of the matter as far as Gauntlet is concerned.
Mark S. Ogilvie said:
The treatment of Armory was one of things I hated about the series. To have the government surgically remove a part of your body... that was just a bit too much. If the government can start grabbing body parts then freedom really was dead in the mu.

Mark
Except that is wasn't a body part, it was a weapon of alien origin, dubbed the "Tactigon". Yes, it had to be surgically removed, but it was definitely not a body part. Also it was a weapon she lost control of during a training exercise, and that loss of control resulted in the death of a fellow recruit. It didn't bother me at all that they removed it; no one has the freedom to carry around a weapon that they could at any time lose control over.
I'm going to have to slightly disagree with you, Figs. I think the Gauntlet was a jerk but I don't think he brutalized the kids. He worked them hard but he didn't beat and torture them. He was verbaly abusive but the way some of these kids were drafted they had to expect this, not that it makes it right but it seems in the context of the story the one's who took great offense to it were ex-New Warriors. He also could have been strong-armed into taking the job. I always thought that he didn't really want to be there and that was a reason why he was the way he was. Not to spoil anything but he does have a change of heart of sorts later down the road. I certainly wouldn't want to be in the guy's class but I don't think he's a bad person. Pretty much the same way I think of my PE coaches back in middle and high school.

I do agree with the rest of you thoughts about the training of the kids to act as super solider overseas, though.

Mark, they surgically removed her gun or whatever it was from her. After all she did lose control of herself and kill another cadet. It was a bit excessive what happened to her but Gyrich was behind it. Who I don't think has ever been protrayed as a "good" guy. So most scenes involving him don't bother me because I know the guy's scum.
Thanks for the thoughtful reply Jason. I know we're in sensitve territory here. In truth I kind of agree with you about Gauntlet. The thing I didn't mention because it doesn't strengthen my argument was that the kids in camp Hammond are also overseen by Vance and Hank, so it wasn't all bad. Gauntlet took the role of 'Bad Cop'. He thinks he's doing it for their own good, but I wouldn't underplay how brutalising that kind of demanding "act-don't-think" training and verbal bullying can be. To brutalise someone is to make a brute out of them. Someone who acts without thinking, which is what Gyrich and Gauntlet both want.

I got the impression from issue 6 that his wife is an 'Army Brat' - (terrible label!) - who very much encouraged Gauntlet in his approach. Her egging him on was part of his rationalising to himself of the rightness of what he was doing.

Perhaps Slott is showing how institutions like the military depend on their values being passed on at mothers knee as well as being roared from a drill instructors face.
Figserello said:
To get back to Gauntlet and the points raised by Jason for a bit: We see Gauntlet 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 soldier at heart but we see he keeps it as his job. And from what his wife says later in the issue he was distrurbed by what happened to MVP, thinking it was his fault.
I'd say you're right about Gauntlet in terms of Slott's intent to be even-handed towards the military. Although setting him up as a cuddly family man just before he gets the beat-down he so richly deserves is a bit ham-fisted. Ultimately, we are looking at the same thing and seeing different things. I see someone who brutalises minors for a living. The excuse that he's only doing his duty as a soldier went out with Nuremburg .

Nuremburg? Ay-yi-yi-yi. There's no comparison. Nazis who tried to excuse their atrocities used the line "I was just a loyal soldier, just following orders" versus what Gauntlet did? Yeah, he was the drill instructor from hell, no doubt, but that's what drill instructors do. Not at all nice, true, but they are a proven method of military training. I don't think it was the methods that lead to Slapstick's beatdown of Gauntlet; I think it was Gauntlet repeatedly using the term "New Warrior" so derisively; unsurprisingly, former New Warriors are going to take offense at that kind of an insult.

As for sports teams, there's also a "proud" tradition of hazing and initiation of rookies in these organizations as well, which can often get pretty abusive. It isn't condoned - officially - by team owners and the front office, but they look the other way 99% of the time. You can say that isn't right either but those who go through it accept it as part of the life.

Other than Gyrich wishing it to be so, was there a plan to make the Initiative recruits part of the "war on terror"? I didn't see that. I saw a plan to train minors with superpowers so as to prevent another Stamford disaster. I don't think the plan was ever there to create some type of para-military unit of super-powered individuals.
But if all heroes that were registered became on-call government agents, then they WERE being trained to be part of a para-miliatary *reserve*!

Also the fact that Slapstick was the attacker, not Rage or Justice (two heroes with tempers) still is a shocking moment. I always put him with Darkhawk and Sleepwalker as attempts by Marvel to attempt to duplicate Spider-Man's teen drama and soap opera style. See also Nova and Speedball!
I knew I was risking Godwin's Law there, John, but I feel for the poor kids! Gyrich and Gauntlet aren't Nazis* but MVPs death and the trauma of 6 kids was a direct result of their methods. They were all being very irresponsible here. It obviously wasn't a wise exercise so early in their training.

You can say that isn't right either but those who go through it accept it as part of the life.

ie they are brutalised.

Other than Gyrich wishing it to be so, was there a plan to make the Initiative recruits part of the "war on terror"? I didn't see that. I saw a plan to train minors with superpowers so as to prevent another Stamford disaster. I don't think the plan was ever there to create some type of para-military unit of super-powered individuals.

This is a central problem with this era of Marvel. We aren't told what exactly the government is up to, and we have to piece it together as best we can. (Usually, as in the real world, when we have a shortage of facts we use the few facts we have to make the scenario fit our worldview.) Given that though, Gyrich's statement to Gauntlet is one of the few times in this era of Marvel where we get any kind of parsable statement as to what they are trying to do, so I'd give it standing for that.

Gauntlet, a realist, who knows more than most what's happening in the Gulf, seems to believe Gyrich. Further, the wishful thinking of people like Gyrich tends to become the reality that the rest of us have to live in. Within the context of this story, sending superheroes to fight the war on terror isn't all that far-fetched. Supervillains like Hydra are already involved.

As for avoiding another Stamford, I don't see the kids being trained to control their powers in these 6 comics as much as use them in extreme battlefield situations, which again tells me: soldiers not superheroes.

*to be fair, Blitzschlag was, though!
As for avoiding another Stamford, I don't see the kids being trained to control their powers in these 6 comics as much as use them in extreme battlefield situations, which again tells me: soldiers not superheroes.

True, except for Trauma. He was assigned a special instructor to control his power. However it was so Gyrich could have an Omega level threat he could use. When Trauma was able to control his powers he used them more as a therap tool. Naturally, Gyrich didn't like that and threw him into the Shadow Initiative to toughen Trauma up and keep the hope alive that he would still have his Omega level weapon. As we know that didn't work out. So in this case he was trained to control his powers, but still with the intent to use them in extreme battlefield situations.

So far this discussion is going great. I appreciate that everyone is being respectful to each other. We are getting into some sensitive areas but I think we are handling it very well. I'd say that as the series went on it retained some of the political tones we saw in the first arc but not as apparent. Having not reread past issue 6 my opinion may change but I recall the series slowly becoming more of a superhero tale and a look at the general goings on of the Marvel Universe and less of a social commentary on the happenings of our society and the society of the Marvel Universe.
I keep seeing things pointed out in the posts above that I noticed when I was reading, but didn't really notice, if you know what I mean. There's a lot of very focused reading going on of what's there on the page. A very good thing.

Slott is a fine writer, who's interested in a bit more than just reheating what's been done before, so it's worth pulling at these comics to see what comes out.

Even Slott's silences are eloquent.

As when Pym is asked on the bus what happens to kids who fail basic training. (I think that's the question.) Pym just stares dolefully out of the page at the reader. That's all the stuff Marvel is refusing to tell us about this new status quo right there.

Are they shipped off to 42 for a lifetime of solitary confinement? Traumatically divested of their powers? Gently coached by the likes of Moonstar into being productive non-paramilitary members of society? This lack of clarity is the foundation of a lot of Civil War and beyond fanboy arguments. For various reasons, to do with allowing their writers freedom depending on the story they were telling and not enraging the blues or the reds too much, Marvel's silence was as complete as Pym's.

Slott just twists the knife by having Marvel's poster-boy for failure be the one who has to field the question.
I'm sure we're not done with the Guantlet discussion. Initially I thought of him as a cardboard cutout of a drill instructor. And to some extent he is. But he is a polarizing figure and as you can tell worthy of discussion. However I'm going to move on from him, for now. I think I'll save any more of my input on him when he reapears again later on in the series. If I remember correctly we'll see him in the Annual in a story of how he received his weapon.

I want to talk about another character that struck me wrong in this series. That would be War Machine. We all know Jim Rhodes is a military man, through and through. He seemed more like the Gauntlet and Gyrich than the Rhodey we all know and love. He just cold and distant. I haven't read a lot of War Machine but he's a character I've always liked. I know he butts heads with his buddy Tony Stark a lot. It makes sense he'd be supportive of the initiative but I always figured he had more of a compassionate side that was is being portaryed here. I feel that he's out of character here. John and/or Figs, do you have any input on Rhodey's involvement thus far in the series?

Another character that is a big part throughout the series is Justice. He's a character that I was unfamiliar with. While he's the moral conscious of the Initiative, I feel he's too much of a bleeding heart for my tastes at this point. He eventually grows on me as the series. While he seems to object to what's going on in the camp he is the one who lead the kids in a session where they get pummeled by the Thing.
I keep seeing things pointed out in the posts above that I noticed when I was reading, but didn't really notice, if you know what I mean. There's a lot of very focused reading going on of what's there on the page. A very good thing.
I'm experiencing the same dilema, it's a welcomed dilema. These first 6 issues were really jammed packed with all sorts of things that warrant at least a second reading.

Even Slott's silences are eloquent.
Right, you are! There's a lot of silence in these issues that really convey the message. I say that Caselli gets credit to, you can just tell what the character is thinking by the expression on his/her face. There's one scene in particular. In issue 2 when the cadets are headed to Texas via the Negative Zone, War Machine explains that the prison is a place that if you enter, you're not getting out. We see a small panel that's a close-up on Hardball's face. It's a look of concern. At this point we know nothing of Hardball except he's a bit of a jerk. He hasn't turned traitor yet, We don't know his back story, yet. All this panel looks like to us is a scared kid. He's just seen a fellow cadet killed, he's seen another get their powers stripped away, he's verbally abused by a drill instructor and now he's sent off to an epic battle. For all we know this is just a scared kid. And this early that's probably all he is. But I think this is Slott's subtle way of telling us that this character in particular is in for one heck of a roller coaster ride.
These first 6 issues were really jammed packed with all sorts of things that warrant at least a second reading.

Did you say you were going to do a week on each collection? That sounds about right. There's a lot of stuff here. There's still more stuff in issue one that I'd like to mention.

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