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Avengers: The Initiative #17

Posted: Saturday, September 27, 2008
By: Steven M. Bari

Dan Slott, Cristos Gage
Harvey Tolibao
Marvel Comics
Plot: Jocasta, the former bride of Ultron and member of the New Mexico State Initiative, joins the Skrull Kill Krew with help of a certain Defender. At Camp Hammond, the Shadow Initiative takes on Skrull Command and Mutant Zero is unmasked.

Commentary: I’ve been enjoying this series since issue # 11, and argue that this Secret Invasion tie-in is more thrilling and touching than the main book. Yet, with only two months left in this Mighty Marvel Event, I am beginning to doubt that this series or any other can conclude on a conclusive and satisfactory note.
“Real” endings don’t exist in mainstream comics, yet the build up of narrative tension in this title needs to be relieved. Can Ant-Man actually turn his cowardice into heroism? Does Crusader have the courage to reveal to his friends and new home world that he is a Skrull? Will the Skrull Kill Krew save this country from a Fifty-State Invasion? My worry is that at the end of issue #19 or #20 (whenever Secret Invasion finishes up) that fans will be left with an unsatisfying segue into the next meta-narrative Dark Reign and not the conclusion they deserve.

The entire creative team of Slott, Gage, Caselli, Tolibao, and colorists Luca Malison and Jay David Ramos, has given this cast of new and fourth tier characters depth and value. As the Shadow Initiative is called into action, Bengal stays to make sure his wife and son, as well the other women and children on the base, escape to safety. Bengal kisses his wife goodbye, as the kids show the adults the “Secret Avengers” game. “Okay, kids, how do Secret Avengers move?” “Quietly!” the kids respond. The scene provides a warmer side to Bengal, as well as a concrete example of what these heroes are fighting to protect.

Another example of this value occurs when the Skrull Kill Krew arrives in Nevada. After Riot eviscerates the hidden Skrull, 3-D Man confirms former classmate Hardball as human. “Duh. I could have told you that,” the scaly, green Komodo retorts, as she nestles into Hardball’s arms. “I know who to trust.” The obvious play on the event’s tagline is typical of the sentimental and affecting power of this series, which takes the major Skrull invasion and localizes it to the character’s circumstance. The reader can invest their love and concern into the outcome of the story arc because its focus is the characters and their development.

I have no doubt that this writing team can pull off a satisfying ending. They have proven that all they need to earn my affection is three pages. Yet, given that this plot rests on the lukewarm, perfunctory Secret Invasion main book, I am quite worried that their wonderful character development will roll to the curb in way of the next meta-event.

As for Tolibao’s art, his dynamic perspective gets the best of him. As the Skrull Queen arrives at Camp Hammond, the panel’s viewpoint twists 45 degrees to the right. The result makes Spider-Woman look like she’s falling backwards and the kneeling Yellow Jacket appear as if he’s sniffing his boot. However, Tolibao’s love of getting a shot out of small crevices works well with Ant-Man, who skulks away from the battle beneath Spider-Woman’s “twin peaks.”

Avengers: The Initiative # 17 is dense with plot and character development. But the thrilling ride may be made melancholic. Considering the emphasis on Crusader’s personal journey in every issue, something heartbreaking is sure to occur. Yet, you can’t help but want to see this disaster waiting to happen.



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