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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Also Demoltion Man or D-Man, the homeless hero.
Issue 7 was both an illustration of how much fun a shared universe can be and how difficult it is to make sure it all gels. We see the results of Civil War being played out in our comic with Peter Parker right where he was just before One More Day. As Phillip says his anger at the Scarlet Spiders is anger at himself and at Tony.

Considering Slott was just about to take up the reins of BND Spider-man as cheif Brain of the Spider-man Brain trust, it's funny how this looks like a false start re making Peter Parker anonymous again. Maybe this was the idea he had before they settled on the deal with our friend Mephisto, and he just wanted to give it an airing, also as a smokescreen.


The Annual #1

It's all about context isn't it? Gauntlet as a hard-as-nails desert stormer would be fun to read. Shouting at children, not so much.

It's clear Slott isn't on the side of Registration at all. That is a total betrayal of Armory, by breaking the confidentiality of her shrink sessions, even while she stays loyal to those that continue to betray her.

Of course nothing happens in a vacuum. It's one thing to argue the merits of registration or not, but Gyrich himself has a lifetimes bitterness against superheroes that he is working off on these kids, and registration is just a long-sought opportunity to him. Its very personal to him to prove that when he is given a free hand and a bunch of superheroes that can't stand up to him, that he can turn them into something useful to the government. And like a lot of people working within election cycles and beurocratic timeframes, he has to show results as soon as possible, which is why he keeps jumping the gun doing things with the kids that aren't wise at this stage of their training.

There's something funny about Hardball being mistaken for a hero by Powerman who just happened to be flying overhead.

Those Liberteens certainly live up to their names. They do what they want, but know that they have to SEEM to be poster children for obedience. Another sly criticism from Slott of the notion of controlling all these kids. At the end of the day, trust and responsibility need to be involved in producing effective superheroes/young adults, but the Initiative just tries to instil military style unthinking obedience in them.

"Political thriller" is a good term for this series. Slott is actually commenting very cleverly on a lot of the politics of our world, but he's quite subtle about it. I love the way that the unthinkable is allowed because the whole camp somehow falls between the stools of SHIELD/International and Government/Federal.
Speaking of the Order, my comicshop has TPBs of the 2nd half of that series going cheap. Is it worth reading?

Given that Slott was about to move on, I liked that the annual was co-written by Gage. In hindsight, it shows they were breaking the new guy in gently and getting ready for a smooth handover. The fact that it doesn't say who wrote what makes it look like there was a close collaboration between the two writers and that there won't be a big change of gears when Slott departs. Hopefully this collaboration denotes that Gage was able to pick up Slott's strands and do something sensible with them.
The Order is completely worth reading, Figs. It was the best thing to come out of Civil War and it's a crime against humanity that the series didn't last longer.
Issues 7-12 are for $10, and considering I pay $6 or so for a single issue, thats gotta be good! Sounds like it would make a good comparison with the Initiative alright.
Some comments about the Annual:

Gauntlet's origin struck me as funny that he would put his arm in an alien machine with no idea of what it does or what it would do to him. Seems a "New Warriors" thing to do!!

Gauntlet also mocks HYDRA during the first arc but they're shown as very dangerous here!

Armory's story emphasizes the lack of caring the government has for the individual cadet. The most important quality valued is keeping the Initiative's secrets.

Hardball is a tale of corruption and temptation. His vow of vengeance superceded by his greed and selfishness. The Power Broker is a telling example of the peril of *giving* powers to anyone with the wrong intentions.

MVP's origin has a pulpish, Doc Savage feel to it. His clones awaken the paternal instinct in the old Nazi, Baron Von Blitzschlag, which seems genuine. Strange to see multiple Scarlet Spiders as dutiful sons, looking like our Spidey!

The Liberteens seem more like "The Real World" than the Avengers. The public image and the partying reality are an effective mix! Too bad we don't find out more about them and whatever link they have with the original Liberty Legion! The BIG REVEAL sets up the next crossover but did they grasp that at the time?
Issues 8-12, Killed in Action
This story starts with Hank being chased and thinking back on the events that lead to this moment. New recruits arrive at CH and are introduced to their new drill instructor, the Taskmaster. There's a fight between Ant-man, Stature and Yellow Jacket that Taskmaster ends. We see the previous recruits return to base with a captured Dragon Man. We see flashbacks of Hank brainstorming ideas for the Initiative. Later we see a new MVP clone getting fused with the Tactigon. This makes the clone relive his death and go insane. He refers to himself as K.I.A (Killed in Action). He goes on a killing spree. The Camp goes on lockdown. Many recruits are injured or killed. Baron Blitzschlag gives Cloud 9, Komodo and Hardball a device to use on the MVP clone in Tennessee to wipe out KIA's mind. As they enter tennessee they are intercepted by Justice and the recruits he had asked to go AWOL to assist him. KIA shows up and a battle ensues. Cloud 9 distracts KIA and kisses him and causes a cloud to go into his body. The MVP clone places the device on KIA which wipes out his mind. Oh yeah, the Avengers have shown up to assist in the battle prior to this. The story ends here with Slapstick alone, taking the device off of KIA's head and placing it in his infinite pocket.

The epilogue is a few days later with a hearing to determine why the incident occured. In the end Gyrich is forced to resign. We see the aftermath of KIA and Justice and a few recruits telling Tony they'll become a watchdog group for the Initiative to prevent this sort of thing from happening again. Cloud 9, Komodo, Hardball, Thor Girl, Trauma, Ultra Girl and Triathalon all graduate and are assigned to state teams. THe issue ends with Cloud 9 on her new team saving people from a burning building and being regarded a hero.

Thoughts
This was an intense story arc. Once again we see the recklessness of the Initiative cause a lot of problems. The main characters Komodo, Cloud 9 and Hardball all step up to save the day. Cloud 9 does use a bit of an underhanded technique to defeat KIA but it worked. We see her snap out of the phase she had been in sense MVPs death when she sees the new clone and has a connection with him.

I'm going to pace most of my comments through out the week. But I want to talk about one thing, Slapstick. At the end of the first arc he is revealed to be Guantlet's attacker. This arc he takes the mind device for use at a later time. In the epilogue issue it's revealed he's been in clown state since basic training and is unable to return to human form. It's almost as if Dan Slott had some big plans for him. Or he was just using him for comedy relief, dark comedy releif in this case. What do you guys think?
Slott mixes our real world with superheroes in interesting ways.

It's probably too obvious to mention, but KIA's weapon-toting rampage is reminiscent of tragedies like Columbine, and the fictional and the real comment on each other. KIA was alienated and felt that his peers and those in charge of him were due a reckoning.

The huge disparity between KIA's firepower and his victims', and the brutality of these issues gave us something beyond the usual here. It felt like real horror.

I've been thinking about Hydra in Iraq. Slott may have have been subtly commenting on why the US has an uphill struggle on its hands there. Of all Marvel's bad guy groups, Slott picked the one with that slogon. "Cut off a head and two more grow in its place" was a great Spy-story Steranko-ism in the 60s, but in the context of Iraq, that's exactly what happens every time US warplanes kill Iraqis - more people, grieving over the deaths of their loved ones, step up to fight against their perceived occupiers.

Actually, with its real-world politicking and news-headline plot elements, The Initiative seems a better fit for Slott than Spider-man. Especially the post BND Spider-man, who is largely in his own sealed off little world.

Taskmaster is a great character. So self-serving and unheroic. I loved the little exchange with Ant-Man about watching Chuck on his i-pod. The sensible thing to do during a rampage really.

I love this Ant-Man too. He's just always wrong. Punching a girl who's still sore about her Dad's death! He's not anyone's idea of a hero, but the MU is all the richer for having guys like him around. His 12 issue series from a few years ago is great fun too.

Slott's depiction of the institution of the Initiative is NOT subtle though. Just when we are getting used to the idea of a Nazi about the place, we meet Taskmaster, who has a horrorshow skull mask. Who the bad guys are here is being shoved in our faces.

So Slott would have to know by now that Yellowjacket is a Skrull? His 'shrinking out of danger' excuse is the same one he uses in issue one though, which makes me think maybe Slott knew from the start?

I have no experience of Slapstick from other comics, so can only judge him on what we've seen so far. With so many standard-looking superheroes running around, he adds variety, visually, and its great that his cartoon surface hides something darker. The Loony Tunes cartoons he's based on were dark and violent too, don't forget, as well as hilarious. (See Animal Man #5 for a commentary on that). It sounds like wherever Slott was going with Slapstick got dropped when they switched writers.

We don't think about it much, but obviously there would be nothing in it for a writer to hand over all the ideas he didn't get around to yet when he moves on to a new project. Dropped storylines do detract from our enjoyment of something like this.

I only collected Avengers the Initiative up to the end of Secret Invasion. I dropped all Marvel titles in disgust after that shameful fiasco! I was enjoying Initiative and (not to jump ahead) its take on Secret Invasion was miles ahead of Bendis'. Slott's leaving made the decision for me to drop this comic then, but I'm looking forward to comparing Slott with Gage later on. I just got Initiative: Dissassembled out of the library. It looks like I'm not going to be able to get my hands on the final 10 issues of the series though...
From what I've seen and read, none of the Initiative graduates show up in the Heroic Age books, except for Justice in "Avengers Academy". We'll have to wait if the potential of these characters are tapped or will they be glossed over and forgotten.

Re: Ant-Man III- no way the government or Pym allows him to keep that armor. They would give it to someone they can control and who would be loyal.
No doubt it has complex pscho-cybernetic circuitry that becomes specialised to work with only one wearer.

You raise a good point. Ant-Man III is not only a poor superhero, but he STOLE the suit in the first place. I guess it's one of those things that if I see it on-panel, then have to accept that there's some off-panel reason for it.
From what I've seen and read, none of the Initiative graduates show up in the Heroic Age books, except for Justice in "Avengers Academy". We'll have to wait if the potential of these characters are tapped or will they be glossed over and forgotten.

Tigra who appeared more prominently in the later part of the series is in Avengers Academy as well and Penance Speedball who also made more appearances in A:I toward the end. Ant-man III is in Secret Avengers. Reptyl who starred in his own A:I special is in Avengers Academy. I think more of the recruits and instructors will be in the Heoric Age mini series currently out.

I have no experience of Slapstick from other comics, so can only judge him on what we've seen so far. With so many standard-looking superheroes running around, he adds variety, visually, and its great that his cartoon surface hides something darker. The Loony Tunes cartoons he's based on were dark and violent too, don't forget, as well as hilarious. (See Animal Man #5 for a commentary on that). It sounds like wherever Slott was going with Slapstick got dropped when they switched writers.
I wonder if Slapstick will be a character Slott returns to. The few things he did with the character were interesting and I believe would make for an epic mini-series to wrap it all up.

I only collected Avengers the Initiative up to the end of Secret Invasion. I dropped all Marvel titles in disgust after that shameful fiasco! I was enjoying Initiative and (not to jump ahead) its take on Secret Invasion was miles ahead of Bendis'. Slott's leaving made the decision for me to drop this comic then, but I'm looking forward to comparing Slott with Gage later on. I just got Initiative: Dissassembled out of the library. It looks like I'm not going to be able to get my hands on the final 10 issues of the series though...
I'm looking forward to discussing the Secret Invasion arc as well. I'll save my thoughts on comparing Gage and Slott. Early on though, Gage was a co-writer on the series so I wonder how much input he had. A lot of the early ideas could have been his. Or it could have been a collabrative effort. After we finish with Killed in Action we'll discuss issue 13 which was Gage's first solo issue on the series. For now I'll just say, it's a good one.
That's not a puzzle at all, Mark. Look at all the positive heroic role models she's had in her life. Superheroes like her father and the Fantastic Four gave her far better examples of what she should be like and those are the lessons that stuck.

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