If there is one weakness with Dan Slott and Christos Gageís work on Avengers: The Initiative itís that the story arcs seem to wrap up with a sudden jolt--as if the creators are ready to move on to the next arc without properly giving the reader time to enjoy a satisfying finish after some great build ups and suspenseful cliffhangers. This criticism is minor, though, because Avengers: The Initiative has been one of the best post-Civil War series for Marvel--consistently providing great plots full of action and real character development on a monthly basis.
Take this issue for instance, itís resolving K.I.A.ís assault on the Initiativeís base of operations and, right away, the readerís pulse is quickened by the inclusion of War Machine into the fray. Rodneyís transformation into his armored alter-ego takes up more than half a page, but it is an imposing image and is nicely rendered by artist Stefano Caselli.
Even though we know we are going to be treated to a royal battle, and to some serious fight panels, there is also room for further development of the quirky relationships and character interactions between principal and minor characters--which has been one of the hallmarks of this series from its inception. One good demonstration of this character development can be seen early on when a moribund Baron Von Blitzchlag is seen talking to his ďchildren,Ē the Scarlet Spiders. Again, Slott and Gage show skill in shading this sequence, not only with subtle nuances but with some intriguing pathos.
Even though the comic could have degenerated into an action-heavy issue as K.I.A. mows down cadets and officers alike in the Initiative, it never feels like a mindless exercise or like a pointless slugfest because Slott and Gage allow the characters to show genuine feelings for their fallen comrades in between all the action.
A cameo appearance by the Mighty Avengers (or at least such key members as Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, and the Wasp), who are called in when things are seemingly out of control, never feels as though it will intrude into the conflict between the vengeful Tactigon-toting K.I.A. and the overwhelmed cadets because this is their war to win or lose.
In the end, it is Cloud 9 and M.V.P.ís original relationship that ends up framing the victory, and it is interesting to note that the writers donít resort to using a cheap gimmick or a deus ex machina in order to resolve the conflict. I just wish that the resolution felt more organic and less self contained but, again, thatís a minor nit pick in an otherwise finely crafted comic.
The line work is clean, and the colors continue to be vibrant and provide an appropriate mix of palettes and expressive style in order to get across a balanced sense of both action and characterization. The only thing that doesnít work and that comes across as forced is Slapstick. His demise and eventual return donít really pack any emotional involvement for the reader and, truth be told, I find him kind of annoying, so I was hoping that his death would keep (though I was fairly sure it would not).
Final Word: This comic continues to be a consistently good read, and its lack of A-list Marvel characters proves that good writing can achieve wonders if you happen to be working on one of the few teams that doesnít have Wolverine on its roster.
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