Avengers: The Initiative #16

 Posted: 2008


Initiative soldier Delroy "3-D Man" Garrett had just become aware of the Skrull infiltration of Earth thanks to his goggles. Those goggles, a gift from the original 3-D Man, Chuck Chandler, allow the wearer to see Skrulls for what they are, no matter how well they are disguised. Unsure whom to trust, Delroy flew a Quinjet to New Mexico in the hopes of getting Chandler's help. Unfortunately for Delroy, while in flight the Skrulls released a computer virus that disabled all Starktech worldwide, disabling the Quinjet in mid-air, forcing him to crash in the New Mexico desert...

Story 'Skrull-&%#@ers!'

Unknown, hidden parties observe Sharon "She-Thing" Ventura as she approaches Delroy's crashed jet. Delroy is unhurt but trapped in the 'jet's wreckage, but given Ventura's super-strength releasing him is no trouble. Ventura claims she sought out Delroy as part of her duties as a member of New Mexico's Fifty State Initiative superteam, the Mavericks, but Delroy knows better: he can see she's a Skrull infiltrator. The Skrull-Ventura is about to murder Delroy to protect her identity, but doesn't get the chance: the hidden observers announce their presence by blowing up her midsection. Who are these newcomers who so enjoy killing Skrulls? Why, the Skrull Kill Krew, of course!

These days, the Krew consists of Ryder, who still looks human, and Riot, who doesn't (more like one of the creatures from Alien.) Delroy isn't impressed with their deportment, but beggars can't be choosers, so he joins up with them and continues his trip to Los Alamos, where the Chandlers live. There, over a backyard barbecue, the old 3-D Man, the new 3-D Man, and the Krew rehearse their respective origins. Briefly: the old 3-D Man fought Skrulls back in the 1950s, using Tri-Force energy appropriated from the Skrulls, while the new 3-D Man is the modern-day bearer of that energy. The Krew consists of regular people who had the misfortune to eat fast-food hamburgers made from the flesh of Skrulls whom Reed Richards once forced into assuming the shape of cows. As a result, those people gained a fatal disease. That disease kills slowly, but in the interim gives its victims limited shape-changing powers, as well as an involuntary hatred of Skrulls. Most of the Krew are now dead: Ryder and Riot are the only survivors. Their commitment to the cause is as fervent as ever, though. Their sickness gives them the power to see the new super-Skrull infiltrators for what they are, but only if they eat the dead flesh of those infiltrators. For the Krew, that's not a bug, it's a feature.

Elsewhere, a groggy Jim "War Machine" Rhodes reports for duty, his armour sustained by an old Stanetech backup system. He receives a pre-recorded message from Tony Stark, and flies away from Camp Hammond on a secret mission. None of his colleagues know what's going on, but we readers do: he's getting his own monthly title, so we won't be seeing him in this book anymore. His unexpected deployment angers the Skrull-Pym, who wishes he'd dealt with Rhodes earlier. Skrull-Pym is unwary enough to vocalize these sentiments, which allows a lurking Ant-Man to hear them. Ant-Man now knows he's in a nest of Skrulls, but is unsure what to do about it.

Also elsewhere, we check in with the Crusader, who follows through with his newfound loyalty to Earth by joining up with Nick Fury's Secret Warriors. I hope he's not still with them during the events of Secret Invasion #6, or it won't go so well for him...

Back to the main story! Delroy and the Krew have gone to Phoenix, Arizona, to track down the Skrull infiltrator in Arizona's Fifty-State team, the Desert Stars. To Delroy's relief, the infiltrator is not Komodo, last seen in Avengers: the Initiative #12, but is rather her colleague Blacksmith. The Skrull-Blacksmith, having been exposed, takes on the powers of Captain America and Beta Ray Bill. A short and bloody fight ensues, in which the Skrull is gruesomely killed by the Krew, but not before the entire Desert Star team receives serious injuries. Komodo, a fast healer, is ready to join the Krew, and insists their first order of business be to head to Las Vegas. Readers will recall that Komodo's boyfriend Hardball, also last seen in Avengers: the Initiative #12, is stationed there, and Komodo is determined to find the Skrull on his team and kill it before the infiltrator can threaten her man.

General Comments

Let me declare my bias at the outset: I don't like brutal violence, and I especially don't like it when it's presented as 'cool': that is, acceptable or even admirable behaviour, typically performed by emotionally disengaged people. The Punisher is usually portrayed this way, and often Wolverine is too. I don't care for those characters much. And nor do I care for the Skrull Kill Krew.

But let's look past my bias. There's ample precedent in comics for this sort of shallow Cult of the Badass, and there's an audience for it too. So leave aside the nature of this issue's goals: how well does it achieve them?

It achieves them pretty well. The relevant facts about the origin of the Krew, and of the 3-D Men, are introduced, but organically. There's a lot of action, but it doesn't prevent the plot from advancing. And while the Krew fill out the ranks of the book's protagonists, they are so over the top in their grisly zeal for killing Skrulls—a zeal which contrasts subtly with Delroy's simple desire to get on with the superhero's job to keep people safe—the book subtly suggests that readers may need to choose a side between the Krew and Delroy. The ethical lines this book is drawing are, at second glance, not as solid as they first appear to be.

And Stefano Caselli's artwork is particularly good this time out. I think it's safe to say it now: Caselli, you rock. Don't ever change.

Overall Rating

Competent by the standards of this title. I'd give it a four, but there's not quite enough here to merit that grade. Very little happens in this issue in terms of story, unfortunately, because too much time is spent setting up the existence, numbers, and outlook of the Krew. (Huh. We get all that information, but nothing much on why the Krew was hanging out in the desert looking for Skrulls.) So I'll drop one web, giving it a grade of competent, and add half a web for Caselli's pencils, bringing it up to a 3.5.

 Posted: 2008