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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Not to mention her own father started out as a cat burglar, and he was given a break by Hank Pym, a man she considers her uncle. That would more likely make her willing to forgive someone like Taskmaster than anything else. She grew up around the Avengers and the FF and has been a hero in her own right for years now. Cynicism and hatred would be extremely out of character for her for something like Tasky being an instructor. She would know about the nannites in his head after all.
And there's the fact that Taskmaster worked for the government before when he trained John (USAgent) Walker to be their Captain America.

Also her father STOLE the Ant-Man costume as welll though for far more altruistic reasons than Ant-Man III! In fact, it was to save her life.

I don't think forgiveness is the right term, either, more like reluctant tolerance.
John Dunbar said:
You know what's an interesting contrast? This series and The Order, which for those of you who don't know, was California's Initiative team. It debuted a few months after this series. Tony Stark took a personal interest in that team. The team leader, Anthem, is an old friend of Tony's, and Pepper Potts was involved heavily with the team as well. If only Tony had shown the same level of interest in the day-to-day of Camp Hammond ....

So I got my hands on the last 5 issues of The Order lately. It does indeed contrast strongly with the Initiative we are talking about here. However, what we see there does fit in perfectly with the patterns of behaviour in Slott's series. Particularly Tony's method of operating.

Yes, they are true heroes rather than the disgruntled refusiniks and lowlevel villains that they need to make up the numbers in Camp Hammond, but the reasons for putting the team together are similar. Its all about the politics of the situation. The Order is a team to take the media spotlight off what happens in the Initiative proper, and to point to as what the Initiative will be like once its running. The founding and funding of the Order is every bit as cynical as the poorly overseen operation Gyrich controls.

Tony's hands-on approach to the Order was a real contrast to his treatment of the Initiative. I was expecting the Iron Man who appeared at the hearing at the end of Killed in Action to be revealed as an empty shell. It would have been a good illustration of where these kids stand in his priorities. (Did you spot his nameplate there read "I.Man". Heh.)

I started The Order halfway through (issue 6), and noticed that some of the team had already got the boot for living it up in much the same way as the Liberteens were shown to do. The authorities don't want to look too closely at the Liberteens because they get good press when they go out on patrol and don't get much attention otherwise.

Right and wrong per se aren't the issue with how these teams are run. Its all about the optics with the media and the internal politicking.

The Order also made me realise that Tony is one of those great creative thinkers that are wonderful at starting things, but he's not a finisher. How many of his resolutions and great schemes have come to nothing?

In other news, I've just read X-men: Secret Invasion. Superheroes fighting an assymetric war against an occupying alien army that vastly outmatched them was a great direction to take Bendis' concept. Slott's 50's-style tale of suspicion and paranoia was also good, as I recall. Too bad Bendis himself saw fit to give us 7 issues of men in tights punching each other on the chins.

So we gonna read this thing, or what?
Sorry for the delay. I started a new job last week and have been kind of busy.

We need to discuss issue 13 and then we can get into the Secret Invasion. I'll start the discussion on #13 tonight.
Issue #13:
New recruits arrive at CH. The most eager among them is Boulder but everyone refers to him as Butterball. He is invulnerable. Though War Machine and Yellow Jacket have high hopes for him Taskmaster knows better. Butterball is unable to do much even though he is invulnrable. This has an effect on the other cadets and they grow to resent him. The cadets decide to break out of the camp for just a little while and use Butterball to help them. THey are attacked by a group of villains who are after Taskmaster. The instructors show up and fight the villains off with the help of butterball who was taken as a hostage but because of his powers gave the instructors the upper hand. War Machine and Yellow Jacket realize he's not cut out for the initiative and send him home. Before he leaves the Taskmaster and Constrictor pose for a photo with him where it looks as if he has defeated them. His mom asks how boot camp was and he replies it was the best time in his life.

This was, to me, was an excellent done-in-one issue. You really feel for Butterball. The kid really, really wanted to be a hero. Even with his fantastic power he really wasn't pyshically cut out for it.

This is the first issue written solely by Cristos Gage. Even though Dan Slott wrote several issues more of the series before Gage took over, you can see where he planned to take the series. Primarily with his portrayal of Taskmaster. In the previous arc Taskmaster was just a villain earning a few bucks working for the good guys. In this he seems to be going down a path of redeemption. He still isn't a great guy but his treatment of the kids, while not the best, is different and less cruel than Guantlet's teaching. It makes sense to me. The guy only cares about himself and if he ever has to use these kids he wants them in one piece. Now when it comes to Butterball he sees that the kid really wants to be there. That what makes the last panel so great. He gives the kid one thrill before he leaves. That is the moment that we see the Taskmaster really head toward redeemption. Of course we know as the series progresses he flip flops between what path he wants to take.

I'll leave it for now. What did you guys think of this issue? I know we want to get to the Secret Invasion tie-in. I've re-read it and will post about it after I feel we're ready to move on from this issue.
This was, to me, was an excellent done-in-one issue.

Agreed. Gage is a fine writer, judging by this. Has he written anything else I might like?

Even with his fantastic power he really wasn't physically cut out for it.

Not for the type of 'superheroing' The Initiative was set up to do. ie a hardline military attack force (that could be used in perhaps the Middle East). They even tell him that he would be great in search and rescue and exploration, but he's of no use to them. What, superheroes don't do disaster relief anymore? Or push the bounds of knowledge, Fantastic Four style? It's more subtle damning of the whole Initiative project.

In fact, look at the ending of the story. Butterball had a lot of heart, he was extremely respectful of what superheroes should be, and knowledgeable about them. His superpower was a considerable one, but needed imagination and application by everyone to find a role for him. So he gets thrown out on his ear, and as we can see from the great depiction of his posture, he is heartbroken. So much for this government institution set up to do so much good.

Look who saves the day. Two roughneck lowlife supervillains, who allowed a bit of compassion and empathy into the equation. In fact if there is a theme running through this series it's one of suspicion of all government 'initiatives' to 'do good'. Doing good isn't something that we can rely on a beaurocratic, overly administrated, politically sensitive government body to do. Look at how NATO, or the UN, for all their manpower and resources, flail about fruitlessly when they have to step up and save lives.

Doing good is something everybody has to take responsibility for themselves, not dosily think 'the government should do something'. Stark and co, for all their belief that they can control events, don't take into account how easily big projects like The Initiative can take on a life of their own, and steam forward in their own callous, unthinking direction once its up and running.

There must be a place in the Heroic Age for poor old Butterball, or else its not worth the name...

Best of luck in the new job Jason! Hope it goes well.
I don't have the issues infront of me so this will be a brief summary and there may be some holes.

Secret Invasion Tie-in issues 14-19
This starts towards the begining fo the Skrull Invasion. 3D Man arrives in Hawaii to meet his new team. With his new glasses from the original 3D man he sees that one of his team members is a Skrull. Figuring out that this is a plot he returns to Camp Hammond to warn the others. Fearing to be found out Crusarder (secrety a Skrull) uses his ring to make 3D Man think everyone is a Skrull except for Crusader. 3D Man leaves in fear to get the rest of the 50 State teams on his side. Crusader decides he wants to fight for earth but fears for being discovered.

The story arc goes between 3D Man rounding up the rest of the teams and weeding out each Skrull infiltrator on each team. It also follows Crusader and the rest of Camp Hammond joining the resistance against the Skrulls. There's also a few scenes at Camp Hammond with the Shadow Initiative.

The resistance is victorious (as seen in Secret Invasion) and 3D Man's group is victorious in their quest of destroying a Skrull Doomsday weapon. In the end 3D Man sees that Crusader is a Skrull and shoots him on the spot.

This is what the main event should have been. Instead the main Secret Invasion story was a talky, dull story. This story in Avengers the Initiative was fast paced and fun. While the artist changes with each issues was distracting it didn't take too much from the story. Also, surprisingly in capabale hands a story featuring mostly D-list characters was better than a story featuring A listers. I'm not sure how well Secret Invasion would have sold if it was headlined by 3D Man and Crusader.

I knew reading this the first time that the story wasn't going to end well for Crusader and I had my doubts about 3D Man. I was worried again this time even though I knew the ending.

So what are your thoughts on this tie-in? I think it's a good example of what Super Hero comics should be.
What was the original story about the Crusader? I'm iffy on it. Was he part of the Skrull Invasion? I felt that he wanted to distance himself from them.
Philip Portelli said:
What was the original story about the Crusader? I'm iffy on it. Was he part of the Skrull Invasion? I felt that he wanted to distance himself from them.

Here's his bio from the Marvel Wikia.

Seems he was invented by Robert Kirkman as part of his Freedom Ring multi-part story that ran through the last 6 issues of Marvel Team-Up vol 3. (#20-25) in 2006.

That's just about the extent of his appearances before this and he had a few cameos in other SI books. As usual, in retrospect Marvel Team-up vol 3 looks like a brave attempt to bring some fresh heroes into the MU that no-one probably bought. I can't say if it was any good.

Crusader seems to have been a standard Skrull sleeper character that found he didn't have an official mission when he arrived on Earth to spy on the Avengers, but they'd 'disassembled' by the point. As he first apeared a year before the Elektra reveal in New Avengers 32, he probably wasn't created with a view to being used in Secret Invasion. He was just one of several Skrulls that were loyal to Earth that were created in the last 5-6 years. (Runaways and Young Avengers had the two most notable examples.)

Slott works well with continuity, making it a lynchpin of his storytelling rather than something to be explained away or unsatisfactorily ignored. Thus Crusader is front and centre here, 3D Man's connections to 1950s Skrull hunters are also central, and my favourite, of course Millar and Morrison's gloriously demented alien-eating Skrull Kill Krew come out of the woodwork.

All of them are used well, but Crusader's story was very believable. There never is a good time to tell your comrades that you were sent to Earth as a fully trained born-and-bred Skrull spy! The hero he got closest to, Ring from those Team-up books, died in that story, so he was quite isolated. You had to feel for him, that he was all on his own.

Bendis' set-up for SI was almost offensively simplistic, as we had evil bad guys who were different to us, who try to take over the Earth for no real reason. "Those who are different are the enemy" is a terribly retrograde and unproductive philosophy. Slott and Gage homed in on one of the several Skrulls who didn't fit this simplistic model, and Crusader, a true unsung hero, pays the ultimate price for the "Us and Them" mindset. (Or he seems to, at any rate...)
More thoughts on Crusader.

The outworking of what he'd do if his people ever went to war with his new adopted homeworld was always going to be the only story worth telling about Crusader. I'm glad Slott and Gage grabbed the opportunity to use him here with both hands. If he hadn't been already extant, they would have had to create him, but again we're seeing how good Slott is at using existing continuity.

Rereading The Initiative this time, I've found that Slott can be quite subtle in his social and political commentary.

I don't think that its a coincidence that the two main heroes of this crudely set-up 'Us vs Them'/'Different therefore Bad' storyline happen to be African-American.

(Another advantage of using D-list heroes is that you aren't stuck with the blue-eyed white boys that Stan and Jack created in the 1960s. Adds texture, if nothing else...)
The sad part is that I have those issues somewhere but I can tell you more about the 70s "Marvel Team-Up" #20-25 than books less thn five years old.

There seem to be several examples of heroic Skrulls, none of course appeared in SI. Even the SuperSkrull gained some nobility.
The sad part is that I have those issues somewhere but I can tell you more about the 70s "Marvel Team-Up" #20-25 than books less thn five years old.

I know exactly what you are talking about. We make a bigger connection with the comics we read years ago for some reason. I really felt this looking at Chris Fluit's list of 100 heroes from the last 20 years. Some were in good enough stories, but I feel no attachment to almost any of them as characters.

That's one of the reasons I'm glad to do in depth looks at recent comics like this. It gives me an excuse to get into them and appreciate them a bit more. I think when we were young we reread the comics we have over and over again, but as with The Initiative , I just buy modern monthlies, read them once and tuck them away. There were a lot of good things in this series that you wouldn't get reading in segments over 6 months.

Crusader is used well here, with real pathos by the end, although I'm pretty sure he's a thin enough character with a thin backstory. Still, if I had those team-ups I'd love to go back and re-read them right now. I'm hoping to reread the Skrull Kill Krew before we move on from Secret Invasion.

There seem to be several examples of heroic Skrulls, none of course appeared in SI. Even the SuperSkrull gained some nobility.

Well, Xavin and Hulkling Marvel's young Skrulls met up and fought the Skrulls together in the Runaways/Young Avengers crossover SI miniseries.

The Super-Skrull fought She-Hulk in the tie-in to Secret Invasion in her mag. Jen's travelling companion in that was a decent Skrull too.

The Skrulls do have a long history of being noble in their way. Also they have reader sympathy for being brutalised by the Kree in their past, but Bendis ignored all that to give us very poorly motivated one-note villains. Depicting them as such made for a very poorly set-up one-note main series of Secret Invasion.

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