Editor's Note: Avengers: The Initiative Special arrives in stores tomorrow, November 5.
Plot: Young lovers Komodo and Hardball share intimate details about themselves. Will either of them live long enough to regret it? Plus, it's Trauma's birthday, and daddy's got a present for him. Bad news.
Commentary: So this is what this series was like before Secret Invasion! It's been so long since we had a heartwarming, character driven story sans big green aliens. But Avengers: The Initiative Special delivers an accessible and developing tale about love, honesty, and what they're worth in exchange for power.
When the Avenger teams of Arizona and Nevada are called in to stop escaped Hulk villain Zzzax, the heroes can't get their act together to save the day. That is, except the lovers Hardball and Komodo, who work together to take down the electromagnetic villain. While they recuperate back in Las Vegas, Hardball opens up about his brother who was once an ultimate fighter champion, but now a bed bound invalid. Upset over becoming so exposed, he leaves to collect his thoughts—or so Komodo thinks. He actually heads out to report his HYDRA superior.
Gage really sells the plot twist and writes genuinely vulnerable dialogue for these characters. When the hard as nails Komodo shares her origin story, she becomes self-conscious and guilty, falling into her beau's arms. "Can we not talk about this anymore?" adding, "I'll be okay. Just…just hold me, all right?" Gage allows their relationship to play out very smoothly, letting them move the narrative forward at their own pace. Rather than confront his curiosity for the formula that made her a super regenerative lizard outright, Komodo sends him on a wild goose chase in order to catch him red-handed. "Hey, this lab's empty! No formula, nothing! You lied to me!" Hardball exclaims. "Oh, that's terrible!" she mocks. "What kind of dirtbag lies to someone they're supposed to care about?" The level of emotion is high, but not too melodramatic to make you roll your eyes.
Similarly, Steve Uy's art keeps in tone with this genuine, but intense emotion. The aforementioned scene is quite subdued, save for Komodo grabbing her cheeks in mock distress. Uy's Hardball emits a deep melancholy and a heroic sense of stoicism, visually holding himself together while battling the guilt of being dishonest to his girlfriend and fear of what HYDRA may do to him and his family. The expression on his face remains fixed throughout the scene, only changing slightly here and there. Uy's art, which previously lacked energy in comparison to fellow series artists Caselli and Tolibao, works to create a measured mood, which, because of the nature of the story, builds more tension.
Final Word: The Avengers: The Initiative series is a very poignant drama that can juggle some twenty characters and still have time to give the reader an intimate relationship with all of them. This issue is a sample.
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