Avengers: The Initiative #15

 Posted: 2008


Thanks to his Skrull-detecting goggles, Delroy "3-D Man" Garrett has realized that Skrull agents have infiltrated the ranks of Earth's heroes. In search of aid, he has teleported back to Camp Hammond. Unfortunately for him, upon his arrival, the Crusader, desperately afraid that Delroy would reveal his secret, used his powers to alter the goggles to reveal Skrulls as humans and vice-versa. As a result, poor Delroy is now convinced that everyone at Camp Hammond is a Skrull, except for the Crusader...

Story 'The Only Good Skrull'

With admirable presence of mind, Delroy pretends that all is well and that he's just participating in a training exercise. With Crusader's help, Delroy commandeers a Quinjet and takes off for New Mexico, where he hopes to enlist the help of Chuck Chandler, the original 3-D Man, who gave Delroy the goggles as a graduation present. Chandler fought Skrulls like nobody's business back in the day, and Delroy hopes to draw upon that experience now. Unfortunately for him, he's in midair over the New Mexico desert when the Skrull Starktech virus takes effect, crippling all Stark tech worldwide... including the Quinjet, which crashes into the sand.

Other members of the Initiative are also discommoded. Jim "War Machine" Rhodes, who relies on his armour to keep him alive, is trapped in his life-support bay. Without help, he'll die, but the only help at hand is Baron von Blitzschlag. Rhodes doesn't want to take any help from a Nazi, but there's no one else at hand. The Baron is pleased that he can be helpful in these circumstances; what Rhodes thinks about it isn't clear.

Elsewhere, the Gauntlet is rallying the Initiative recruits to make some sort of defense, though he isn't sure against what. Thankfully, "Pym" arrives to give them some direction, explaining that aliens of some kind have invaded Manhattan and that the Initiative must fend them off. The Crusader goes along with this plan, though he's certain the Skrull-Pym is up to something. As the cadets muster for battle, the Crusader flashes back on the events that brought him to this place: his military training back in the Skrull Empire; his rivalry with fellow cadet K'rtem; his assignment to spy on the Avengers; his arrival shortly after the Avengers disassembled; his integration into New York life; his assumption of the role of mentor to Freedom Ring, a novice superhero who died shortly thereafter; and his feelings of guilt at this outcome, which prompted him to enlist in the Initiative.

Crusader's reverie is promptly cut short by the eruption of battle in Time's Square. As the Initiative cadets engage the Skrulls with gusto, Crusader holds back, his divided loyalties restraining him from fighting the Skrulls. He tries simply to hang back and simply remove civilians from the battlefield, but his efforts to remain aloof come to naught when his old comrade K'rtem appears. Again confronted by someone who could reveal his true identity, Crusader panics for a second time and, in a moment of terror, fatally stabs K'rtem. As K'rtem expires, he curses fate that made Crusader a better warrior but a worse friend, for it seems the two Skrulls, for all of their rivalry, were close. Crusader is ashamed of himself but at least his loyalty has been clarified: he can no longer return to the Empire, having slain its soldiers. So he enters the fray with alacrity. The only visible sign of his new commitment is his face, now unmarred. Formerly he bore a scar over his right eye, a scar K'rtem gave to him that the Crusader wore as a badge of honour. Now, having no honour, he shapeshifts his face to make it whole.

General Comments

There are really two stories here: one is Delroy's, the other is Crusader's. Delroy's ends inconclusively, with him crashed somewhere in New Mexico; Crusader's is more definitive. We now know everything we need to about Crusader, I think... who he is, where he came from, why he did what he did, and where his loyalties lie. It was a good story, but Crusader doesn't come off too well. This is twice in two issues he's betrayed a friend and comrade to save his own skin, at least once with lethal results. I don't know if we'll see much more of him, but I hope not; he's not an admirable fellow, and now that we know his backstory he's not an interesting one either. In the future I hope we pay more attention to other members of the Initiative.

Overall Rating

Like last time, this is a setup issue, measuring out Delroy's odyssey to form the new Skrull Kill Krew (about which more next issue). At least the Crusader's backstory provides a better diversion that most. Still, like last time, the best adjective one can describe this issue with is 'competent.' Three webs.

 Posted: 2008