by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer
Avengers: The Initiative
Written by Dan Slott, Art by Stefano Caselli
Published: October 2007
Last time in Avengers: The Initiative, some members of the group broke ranks to charge into Manhattan and take on the Hulk. It didn’t go well, as we find out here.
Avengers: The Initiative #5 begins with Henry Gyrich, now the government’s Secretary of the Superhuman Armed Forces, assembling a “Shadow Initiative” to sneak into New York and rescue the kids that got trounced by the Hulk and his Warbound. Considering that the Hulk’s arrival last issue was the big cliffhanger that was supposed to bring us back next time, it’s pretty anticlimactic to see the entire fight relegated to two pages of exposition as Gyrich explains to his team that the kids got beaten. However, this issue does happen to be a better story than last time, even though it has many of the same problems as its predecessor.
If you’re not well-versed in Marvel lore, good luck trying to decipher the entirety of this issue. Like last time, where we were given a group of obscure characters with little information about them, this time we’ve got a whole new cast of characters which new readers have likely never seen before. At least this time, though, the book seems intent on setting up mysteries and future character development. For example, we get Mutant Zero, whose identity is a mystery, and Trauma, who has the power to transform into somebody’s deepest fears but hopes to be more than just the weapon that Gyrich wants him to be.
The actual mission is a bit refreshing, changing a little from the formula used in a typical World War Hulk tie-in in which some heroes try to stop the Hulk only to get their butts kicked. This time it’s an infiltration mission, as Gyrich wants the members of the Initiative recovered while the Hulk is distracted with his fight against the military over in World War Hulk #3. The Hulk doesn’t stay out of things entirely, showing up in the end as the group retreats and going toe-to-toe against Trauma, who shifts through a couple of the Hulk’s villains before taking the shape of Bruce Banner’s abusive father and finally Banner himself. None of these tricks work, though, as it seems that the Hulk has no fears left. Trauma winds up in the, uh…trauma ward.
(As a fan retcon, I’m going to pretend that Trauma’s powers weren’t working properly, since Planet Hulk and World War Hulk have indicated that the Hulk does have one big fear: himself.)
To a newcomer, Avengers: The Initiative #5 is going to be confusing. There are just too many characters to keep track of. Happily, this issue does give us a couple of characters to latch onto, specifically Trauma, who goes through a bit of a character arc as he shows that he is not the ultimate weapon Gyrich wants him to be. Instead, by the end of the issue, he shows that he can use his powers to help people face and overcome his fears, in a nice little scene with Cloud Nine who nearly killed one of the Hulk’s Warbound in retaliation for her imprisonment.
To a Marvel veteran who can handle complex continuity well, this issue is a pretty decent one-shot that plants some seeds that may come to fruition later in the series. It’s not flawless, but Avengers: The Initiative #5 is worth a read to those readers who know the Marvel Universe but who are looking for something aside from the typical group of iconic characters to follow.