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Review of Avengers: The Initiative 17 (4 stars) September 26, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Comic Book Reviews.
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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

First off, sorry for not having a review yesterday. First I had computer troubles, then I had troubles here at home, then I had distractions (accursed Facebook!), and then I had to go to work. Anyway, I STILL haven’t gotten any comics in the mail, so there wouldn’t have been a review today anyway. With that out of the way, let’s get on to the review.

Starting off at Camp Hammond, the Shadow Initiative (of which Trauma is now a member) is finally summoned to take down the on-base threat. They discover that Ant-Man is also remaining on base, and begin to plan how to take care of the Skrull threat. Like every team, they go through some paranoia about Skrull infiltrators, but they eventually figure out that everyone is (probably) who they say they are. However, along the way, we get some hints about Mutant Zero’s identity, and it’s looking more and more likely that she is Jean Grey. I won’t say I’m surprised, but it will be interesting to see what affect this has on the “X-books,” if any.

Meanwhile, the Kill Krew saves Hardball, and he and Komodo are reunited (if I actually cared about those two characters, I might have been happy; when are we gonna see Cloud 9 again?) as they then move on to Utah. After taking out the Skrull on that team, they are given a great asset to their mission: Devil Slayer has joined them. I’ve seen him in a grand total of one issue before this, but I’m eager to see him in action again. And hopefully, with the help of his teleporting cloak, the Krew will make it to Montana (the home of Cloud 9, for the forgetful ones out there) much sooner.

Lastly, the big battle between the Shadow Initiative and the Skrulls has its fair share of surprises (and some great art by Tolibao, I’m very happy that he has taken over art chores when Caselli can’t do it, instead of Uy), but, of course, ends with the Skrulls pwning and capturing our heroes (at least they aren’t dead)! This issue took a slight change in direction in that it was more about the story than the characters, but still managed to be thoroughly enjoyable, and I’m sure we’ll get more focus on the characters once Secret Invasion is over.

-LOTRKing

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Review of Avengers: The Initiative 16 (4.5 stars) August 29, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Comic Book Reviews.
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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I don’t know how Slott and Gage do it, but they’ve once again not only packed in a massive amount of story into a single issue, they’ve also continued to maintain their excellent story-telling standards. Somehow, they manage to touch base with everyone remaining at Camp Hammond (including providing a very interesting set up for the upcoming issue of Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., I may have to look into that one) and also with Crusader at the battle in NYC, and still provide what feels like a full length story with 3D-Man joining the Skrull Kill Krew. We even meet back up with Komodo by the end.

At Camp Hammond Trauma and Physique find War Machine and the Baron, who in turn all go look for Pym. Luckily, remnants of Stanetech have kept War Machine’s suit from complete failure, and eventually let him reboot. As this happens, he receives an embedded programmed message from Tony instructing him to stop whatever he is doing, and go to a certain location for instructions, and most importantly, to keep it secret. As Trauma, Physique, and the Baron go to the infirmary to help the injured, Pym has a meeting with other Skrulls on base, Ant-Man, who has remained hidden, sees this, and wishes he was elsewhere.

As 3D-Man meets the Kill Krew, they decide to take out the infiltrated Skrull from each Initiative team, with the first stop being Arizona. There, after defeating an undercover Skrull, Komodo plans to join with the next stop being Vegas to save Hardball! (And they better stop by Montana pretty soon, or there’s gonna be an angry fan if Cloud 9 turns up dead!)

So Slott and Gage prove once again that A:TI is one of the best books on the market. Add in the fact that Caselli has returned for art, and you have just another typical(ly great) issue from this series. If you aren’t reading this yet, take a moment now to ask yourself why.

-LOTRKing

Review of Avengers: The Initiative 15 (4 stars) July 31, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Comic Book Reviews.
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Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My review can be found here.

Quick spoilers: The Initiative is called into action to help fight the Skrulls in NYC. Crusader relates the story of how he came to Earth and chose humans over his own people. While in battle, Crusader instinctively kills one of his oldest Skrull friends. While he regrets his rash action, he now fully considers himself human.

-LOTRKing

Review of Avengers: The Initiative 14 (4.5 stars) June 27, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Comic Book Reviews.
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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

With issue 13 being mediocre at best, and the original cast graduating in issue 12 (c’mon, you know you miss Cloud 9 already), I was really worried about where this series was going to go. Such worries look to be in vain. This issue takes the awesomeness from the earlier WWH tie-ins, and then steps it up a notch. Much like recent issues of Mighty and New Avengers, the story opens by giving us full light on many of “Hank Pym’s” actions. We learn that he used Super-Skrull abilities to survive his two recent near death experiences, not his lame “I shrunk real small” excuse. It also seems that he was indeed opposed to the creation of the “MVPeople.”

From here, the story shifts to Camp Hammond’s other resident Skrull (at least, the only other one we know of), as Crusader makes a rather odd lunch choice. For those who haven’t been following this series, Crusader is a Skrull who has defected from his people and wants to live on Earth as a superhero. He does not know anything about the current Skrull invasion, he has not told anyone about his true nature, and uses his ultra-powerful “Freedom Ring” to keep from being detected. When he sees that “Hank” has made the same peculiar cuisine choice (pickles mixed with strawberries, apparently it is reminiscent of a favorite Skrull dish), he knows that Hank must also be a Skrull. But before we can see how he acts on this newfound knowledge, the story moves onward once again.

The new 3-D Man, introduced as a graduate in issue 12, arrives in Hawaii to lead that state’s chapter of the Initiative: the Point Men. But before he left, he was bequeathed a gift from the original 3-D Man: the original 3-D Man suit, which includes goggles that can see Skrulls in their true form. Swapping these goggles for his own, he meets the rest of the Point Men, only to discover that member “Magnitude” is nothing but a Skrull spy. Upon revealing this, a battle results which injures two members of the Point Men, before Devil-Slayer enters and together, he and 3-D Man are able to “slay” the Skrull. (Okay, bad pun, sorry.) (By the way, anyone else become an instant fan of Devil-Slayer in this scene?) Devil-Slayer elects to remain behind and look after the injured teammates, but 3-D Man insists on travelling to Camp Hammond to sound the alarm on the invasion. Devil-Slayer uses his cloak to open an interdimensional portal to send him there.

Meanwhile, back in Stamford, Crusader continues to struggle with what to do about Hank. He is unaware of how to expose Hank’s true nature without revealing his own. As 3-D Man appears, his first warning is “We’ve been invaded!” With the knowledge that the original 3-D Man had Skrull detecting goggles, Crusader is terrified of being discovered, and in a hasty decision, decides he must use the Freedom Ring to interfere with the goggles. In a flash of light, 3-D Man is knocked down, and as he looks up, he sees that he is surrounded by Initiative cadets and staff … all Skrulls. This moment made me jump back in my seat. It’s like when you’re watching a movie, and the hero makes a really stupid choice, and you wanna yell at the screen even though he can’t hear you. I realize that Crusader wanted to protect himself, but if he’s just interfered with the only way of detecting the invading Skrulls, he may have just unintentionally doomed Earth.

This issue has been my favorite Secret Invasion tie-in so far, and has once again proved that A:TI is one of the three best books that Marvel puts out monthly (the other two being Fantastic Four and Thor, of course!) It could be real easy for a book so full of obscure and new characters to be confusing, but Slott and Gage juggle them around and make them likable as easily as if they were tying their shoes. Not mention that Caselli gives each one of them a very distinct look. I could go on for an entire post about how awesome this series is. If there is anyone not reading this, this is the perfect jumping on point, take it! And I’d highly advise getting 1-12 in TPB, ‘cause those stories were also purely awesome. Seriously, get in on this series (and write a letter to Marvel, asking them to allow subscriptions to this already!)

-LOTRKing

Review of Avengers: The Initiative 13 (3 stars) June 6, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Comic Book Reviews.
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Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Unfortunately, this issue sees a rather noticeable drop in quality (perhaps due to Dan Slott taking some time off of with issue). Seeing as how our main group of recruits (except Trauma, who we don’t even see this time) left Camp Hammond last time, we are introduced to a new set of characters. Unfortunately, none of these characters are anywhere near as interesting as the last group. In fact, there wasn’t even a significant event to launch the new storyline, like MVP’s death last time. The “main character” of this issue does end up getting “washed out” of the Initiative, but it certainly seems nothing significant and the character was rather annoying anyway, so while I feel sorry for him, I sure won’t miss him.

This character’s name is Emery Schaub (sounds like a mix between an emery board and a cotton swab if you ask me) aka Boulder, though Taskmaster quickly gives him the name Butterball due to his rather pudgy appearance. We come to learn that he is completely invulnerable, but the downside of this is that he is permanently locked in his current state, which is weak, slow, clumsy, and chubby. I realize they are trying to represent the stereotypical comic book nerd, which has been done before, but at the same time is understandable. If Emery had a fun supporting cast, this would probably be an enjoyable issue, but he doesn’t. But as mentioned earlier, none of them really seem to have a good “team dynamic.” That isn’t to say they need to get along, they just need have personalities that make for an entertaining match up, and with the exception of Gorilla Girl (who has lame powers), they all seem to be loners, and a group of loners is never fun.

Still, this issue has some redeeming qualities. We get to see development in Taskmaster’s character as it seems he is actually starting to care about his job. There is an interesting scene between Yellowjacket and new recruit Prodigy in which is sounds like Yellowjacket is trying to convince Prodigy to leave the Initiative (in a subtle and sly way mind you), or if not, he says several things that opponents of the SHRA will be able to quote and use to prove their point (I even winced a bit, being a fan of the SHRA, and thought “boy I wish he wouldn’t have said that.”) Though you have to remember, he is a Skrull. What is his motivation, if any, for trying to get Prodigy to leave? Does he pose some kind of unknown threat? (At least we get the comfort of knowing that if someone tries to quote him, we can say they were quoting a Skrull, and it is therefore a moot point.)

There is also the obligatory (yet still entertaining) fight scene this issue as the new recruits help to stop some villains from taking out their hit on Taskmaster. Perhaps the surprising compliment from this issue has to go to Steve Uy who has really improved his artwork. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be celebrating the day that Caselli returns to art, but until them Uy has finally learned to draw (somewhat) realistic faces and how to make action scenes dynamic. So as I said, this issue is far from the best that Avengers: The Initiative has to offer, but since Slott and Caselli are returning for the Secret Invasion issues, I’m sure there is still a lot to look forward in the coming months. Pick this one up if you’ve been reading since the beginning, but if you’re looking to jump on one of Marvel’s best ongoing series, wait until the Secret Invasion issues start up.

-LOTRKing