Editor's Note: Avengers: The Initiative #15 arrives in stores tomorrow, July 23.
In an explosive continuation of last issue's cliffhanger, Slott and Gage make an unsuspected return to Secret Invasion #3 and pump out another great comic with new artist Harvey Tolibao. The new 3-D Man has returned to Camp Hammond to find all his friends are Skrulls! Or so the Crusader, possessor of the reality-altering Freedom Ring, would like him to think. Keeping his true Skrull identity a secret, Crusader gains the trust of 3-D Man who believes he is the only human left on the base, and the two set out on a life-changing course to save the world.
While 3-D Man took center stage last issue, Crusader comes into his own here with amazing resonance. Essentially good intentioned, the former Skrull spy finds himself head first into battle with his own people and begins to put his life in perspective. Expertly paced over thirteen pages, Crusader's life flashes before his eyes as he begins to see whose side he's really on. I knew little about the character, but I was carried through his experience and his eventual reckoning without feeling rushed or even out of touch. Slott and Gage make the Crusader an appealing hero who has so far stymied every major opportunity to be truthful to himself but finally can do so no longer. As he stares down at the raging battle below him in Time Square, he beseeches, "May both this world and my homeworld forgive me!"
The issue also shows the other side of Secret Invasion #3, where the Initiative gets called into action and Stark Tech Hardware shuts down. Following the same dialogue from SI #3, we see from Crusader's vantage point the worries and concerns of the cadets as Yellow Jacket calls them into action. Crusader suspected from last issue that Pym was a Skrull and has his suspicion confirmed, though he no less understands the implications before it's too late. Meanwhile, the reader gets another example why Ant-Man is irredeemable. In a previous issue, he left his friends to cope with the crazed killer clone of MVP while he and the Task Master watched TV on his iPod. He again does so but can even the smallest character (in both physicality and integrity) escape the invasion?
Unlike Steve Uy's art, Tolibao is reminiscent of Caselli's design and dynamism. There is both strength and pathos in the lines that form these characters, like when 3-D Man whispers to the Crusader he's the only one he can trust. 3-D Man and Crusader are shown in profile, as the former's eyes and forehead has obscured by Crusader's face, whose eyes bug out in shock. The panel not only shows a bizarrely intimate moment between the characters but also visually relays how 3-D Man cannot see what is really going on because of the Crusader.
Also, Tolibao takes a chance on unique perspectives, including from inside a shelf to beneath two people lying in bed. He carries Caselli's sensibilities of scope and energy, while being distinctly detailed and stylistically different.
Month after month, Avengers: The Initiative has emotion, action, and humor with both accessibility and high quality. Fall in!
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