When I stopped by the comic book store the other day, I had a long conversation with the clerk about how Marvel continues to outsell DC because Marvel has made comics relevant and interesting but DC has not kept up, relying on nostalgia and their charactersí long histories. ďKids arenít going for that as much,Ē he said.
Which brings us to this issue of Avengers Initiative. Just when one thought there was nowhere to go but down following the incredibly good "K.I.A." arc, a new class of recruits and D-list heroes are being trained by taskmaster. In my opinion there should be two Initiative comics, the current comic where we see the new recruits undergo training and one where graduates have already received their orders and are deployed to their specific state of the Union and their respective registered superhero team.
This issue, two interesting new characters are spotlighted: Recruits Emery Schaub, who doesnít have a codename, but has potentially lethal powers, and Prodigy who is a reluctant member of the team.
Though Prodigy was said to be one of the most visible figures in the resistance movement, the CW series does not support that. Still, Gage brilliantly explores his back-story while concurrently managing to show how some Initiative recruits are coerced into joining the program just like some people in the real world are coerced into joining the military.
But it only gets better after that!
The recruits get a chance to bond in a scene where they break out from camp for a night of freedom, bonding and drinking on the beach. Skinny dipping and guzzling beer seems like an uneventful thing for super-powered beings to do when they are on a night out but the writer adroitly covers his bases: They are fugitives after all, and easily recognized so they have to keep a low profile.
This leads to awesome character work which explores the limitation and isolation which can accompany having super powers. Sure, these themes have been explored in the past in books like X-Men. Rogue for example, canít feel other peopleís skin because of her powers and thus, she is lonely and an outcast. The same goes for Sunstreak, she canít be intimate without burning up her desired object of intimacy and this leads to some great introspective moments with Emery.
Just when you think thatís all there is to this comic, the bad guys show up to try and ambush Taskmaster and the others who have left the base to track down the recalcitrant recruits and a battle royale ensues.
The comic ends in a poignant scene with its only logical conclusion. I wonít spoil the ending but it brings the entire story full circle in the most satisfying manner. The artwork is also exquisitely subdued, proving once more that you donít always need a top tier artist to deliver consistently good work.
Final word: When people try to craft a great comic story, this should be required reading. Itís Christos Gageís best issue to date made the more impressive by the fact heís had a long string of them on this series.
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