Reviews still to come this week: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight” 16-19 and 20, the eight issue “Secret Invasion” main event, and “Final Crisis: Secret Files.”

General Information

Title: Avengers: The Initiative #14-19

Author(s): Dan Slott and Christos N. Gage

Illustrator(s):

Issue Pencils Inks Colours
14 Stefano Caselli Stefano Caselli Daniele Rudoni
15 Harvey Tolibao Harvey Tolibao Jay David Ramos
16 Stefano Caselli Stefano Caselli Luca Malisan
17 Harvey Tolibao Harvey Tolibao Jay David Ramos
18 Steve Kurth Drew Hennessey Matt Milla
19 Harvey Tolibao and Bong Dazo Harvey Tolibao and Bong Dazo Jay David Ramos and Chris Sotomayor

Cover Date: August, 2008 – January, 2009

Cover Price: $2.99 US each

Buy the collected edition from Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.

Premise

At the end of the Civil War, Reed Richards, Tony Stark and Hank Pym collaborated on a list of 100 ideas that would make the world a better place. One of Hank Pym’s suggestions was the 50 State Initiative, which put a team of superheroes in every one of America’s 50 states. Now, the Skrulls are invading, and Hank Pym stands revealed as a Skrull. It’s up to the untrained and inexperienced Initiative recruits to save the world. Among their number are the 3-D Man, who has the ability to spot Skrulls in any form, and Crusader, a Skrull who has forsaken his heritage to remain on Earth, drawing additional powers from a ring formed of part of a cosmic cube. Can these two spearhead the attacks across the country? Can the irredeemable Ant-Man turn his cowardly attempt to hide into an advantage?

Background

There are a lot of high quality, low selling titles that Marvel has put on the market in the past few years. This title, dating right back to issue #1, does a great job of mining them for content, while including all the necessary background information to get the uninitiated up to speed. A quick primer for those who missed them:

  • 3-D Man (Chandler brothers): First appeared in “Marvel Premiere #35-37,” published in 1977.
  • 3-D Man (Delroy Garrett Jr.): First appeared in Kurt Busiek’s “Avengers” run following “Heroes Return” and “Onslaught” back in 1998.
  • Ant-Man (Eric O’Grady): First appeared in the “Civil War: Choosing Sides” one shot before running in his own series for 12 issues.
  • Crusader (Aubrey Thompson / Z’Reg): First appeared in “Marvel Team-Up (Vol. 3) #23-25,” from late 2006.
  • Skrull Kill Krew: First appeared in their own miniseries cowritten by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, as part of the “Marvel Edge” line from 1995.

High Point

This is the “richest” of the crossovers. In most crossovers, I find the writers try to either serve the main event (making it hard to follow if you just read that title), serve their own title (making it a fairly pointless crossover), or fail to do both and just come out in the middle of the road. This successfully covers it all. It takes the character and story arcs established in previous issues and neatly combines them with the major event. New readers can pick it up and follow what’s going on, old readers can enjoy it without reading the main event, and the story contained within is whole and complete in and of itself.

Low Point

The rotating art teams can be a bit disorienting when read continuously. The styles are similar enough that it’s subtle when read a month apart, but read in a sitting it’s a bit distracting.

The Scores

This is one of the more original crossovers, telling its own story while providing important elements of the main event (primarily, the details of what’s happening in the rest of the U.S.) This one actually does feel like war, too, with more lost lives than the other crossovers combined. Somehow, it’s both the funniest (particularly Ant-Man’s moments) and most tragic (the final body count) of all of the crossovers. I give it 6 out of 6.

The artwork on each individual issue is good. Unfortunately, the differences in styles between issues can be a bit jarring. This would have worked better had any one of the multiple art teams done the job from start to finish. I give it 4 out of 6.

The story is very well plotted and told. Slott and Gage have done a great job of mining continuity, and the first issue here shows what they had planned and set in motion long before the first issue of the main event hit shelves. This has been the most enjoyable Avengers title on the stands since its launch. I give it 5 out of 6.

The characterization is excellent. There’s a huge cast here, and they all have moments to shine. Between Delroy’s “old school” tendencies, Ant-Man lecherous tendencies, and Crusader’s self-doubt, everyone’s got a moment in the sun. Even the minor players, like Komodo, Hardball, the entire Great Lakes Initiative (who appear in a grand total of one panel!) have clear moments. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response is excellent. This delivers on everything it promises, including humour, tragedy, and action. I give it 6 out of 6.

The flow is remarkably strong considering the scene and location jumping that happens when a team fights a war on this many fronts. The only detrimental element was the rotating art team. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, this is probably the strongest of all of the crossovers. Later this week, I’ll do a column reviewing the main event as a set and another column evaluating each of the crossovers, but I expect this one to come out on top. Whether you’re reading the main event or not, pick this title up. I give it 6 out of 6.

In total, Avengers: The Initiative #14-19 receive 38 out of 42.

Secret Invasion Review Checklists

Background reviews:

Infiltration reviews:

Main Event reviews (including date the last issue should be available):

Dark Reign reviews:

  • Agents of Atlas #1-2+
  • Avengers: The Iniative #20-22+
  • Black Panther #1-2+
  • Dark Avengers #1-3+
  • Dark Reign: Elektra #1-5
  • Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #1-
  • Dark Reign: New Nation: This is a sampler with a few pages from each of four or five other Dark Reign titles. It won’t be individually reviewed, and the samplers aren’t complete enough for our system. The finished products will be reviewed as they come out.
  • Deadpool #6-8+ (crosses over with Thunderbolts)
  • Incredible Hercules #127+
  • Invincible Iron Man #8-11+
  • Mighty Avengers #20-23+
  • Ms. Marvel #34-37+
  • New Avengers #48-51+
  • New Avengers: The Reunion #1-4
  • Punisher #1-3+
  • Secret Invasion: Dark Reign
  • Secret Invasion: Requiem #1
  • Secret Warriors #1-2+
  • Thunderbolts #126-130+ (crosses over with Deadpool)
  • Uncanny X-Men Annual #2: January 21
  • War Machine #1-4+
  • Wolverine Origins #33-34+