Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Stefano Caselli, Steve Uy
Colours: Daniele Rudoni, Steve Uy
With the Civil War over, Captain America dead, and World War Hulk swept neatly under a large rug, Stark’s vision of a superheroe in every state is fully underway with Avengers: The Initiative, in which we join a group of new recruits as they train alongside Yellowback, Justice, War Machine, She-Hulk (initially) and the Louis Gossett Jr. drill instructor facsimile Gauntlet.
Like the excellent Runaways, this series is aimed at the younger end of the market, but it’s surprisingly well-written stuff. A sudden shock at the end of Issue #1 opens up endless storytelling opportunities, and will no doubt have great repercussions on the series. Dan Slott successfully integrates the obligatory World War Hulk crossover without slowing the book down, tying in several plots to the big guy’s arrival. The Initiative’s pace stalls not once.
The recruits themselves are the usual blend of newcomers and old faces. It’s nice to see ex-Avenger Rage and nineties embarrassment Slapstick reinserted back into the fold. One of The Initiative’s primary problems is an abundance of new characters, far too many to allow room for characterisation. Unlike the aforementioned Runaways, no new character has grabbed me so far, but this will hopefully change as the series finds its focus, and the less interesting recruits are pronounced K.I.A.
Given the current situation in Iraq, the moral implications of this book concern me somewhat. What could have been Full Metal Jacket with superheroes is surprisingly pro-war. That Slott tackles this story from the opposite perspective to the majority of Civil War tie-ins is entirely justifiable, but The Initiative the sense of irony that made Starship Troopers such a blast. It will be interesting to see how Slott tears this little establishment down, but still, given the West’s cynical view of Iraq, illustrating war as an adventure – none of our recruits resent being drafted in the slightest – is somewhat nauseating. Even George Bush Jr is depicted in a favourable (okay, competent) light, a far cry from J.M. Stratynzski’s riotous Squadron Supreme lampoon.
While it lacks the energy of New Avengers, The Initiative feels more aligned with the Marvel Universe. The blend of familiar mainstays and new talent lends it a fresh perspective to Marvel’s current climate.