Avengers: The Initiative #17

 Posted: 2008


Delroy "3-D Man" Garrett has rendezvoused with Komodo and the Skrull Kill Krew. Together, they are on their way to Las Vegas, where they hope to find and kill the Skrull infiltrator on Nevada's super-team, the Heavy Hitters. Meanwhile, at Camp Hammond, the Skrull impersonating Hank Pym has abandoned subterfuge. The base is now the headquarters of the Skrull expeditionary force, and legions of Skrull warriors have arrived. There are still a fair number of humans on base—Ant-Man, the Shadow Initiative, and all of the non-combatants who live at Camp Hammond—and the arrival of the Skrulls puts them in a bad position indeed...

Story 'Home Field Advantage'

The residents of Camp Hammond's day-care centre hustle to a safe room below the base, while Bengal rallies the Shadow Initiative to the children's defense. The Shadow Initiative, you'll recall, consists of Constrictor, Mutant Zero, and Trauma: the Scarlet Spiders left in Avengers: the Initiative #12. These few defenders would welcome all the help they could get, but even though Baron von Blitzschlag and Physique (Camp Hammond's new doctor) have powers, these two are definitely non-combatants. Recent recruit Ant-Man would prefer to be a non-combatant too, but Bengal doesn't give him a choice. Ant-Man's unhappiness increases when he learns that the Shadow Initiative thinks the best defense is a good offense: the team intends to assassinate the Skrull Empress, who has recently arrived in the camp in her Spider-Woman guise.

Before they can do that, though, they need to answer the question "whom do you trust?" After trading some accusations and fear-mongering, they decide that Trauma's power to reveal a person's own worst fear is the only sure way to verify that none of them is a Skrull. It's a trying experience, but they all check out clean.

Heigh-ho, off they go. Ant-Man detonates a bomb inside the Skrull situation room, allowing the rest of the team to burst in. The confused and frightened Skrulls mount a counter-attack, but it's not enough to prevent Mutant Zero from shooting 'Spider-Woman' in the head. Oops! Turns out that that's not the Skrull Empress, it's another Skrull acting as a double, Padme-Amidala style. Deprived of the benefit of surprise, the Shadow Initiative is quickly taken out. With some well-placed words and her pheromone power, the real Empress turns Constrictor and Mutant Zero against Trauma, whom the others are manipulated into believing is a Skrull. Distracted, and deprived of Trauma, the rest of the strike force is quickly defeated. This, of course, was the Empress' plan all along, to lure the Shadow Initiative out of hiding and dispose of them on her terms. Fiendishly clever!

There are a few things she hasn't counted on, however. Ant-Man is still on the loose and none of the Skrulls even know he's on the premises. In Nick Fury's safehouse, the Skrull-Crusader has become even more firm in his commitment to defend the Earth against his fellow aliens. And in Nevada, the Skrull Kill Krew has taken out the infiltrator on the Heavy Hitters, and has added some of their members—Gravity and Hardball—to the team. The recruitment drive gets really underway when Jocasta, late of the Mavericks, arrives, courtesy of Devil-Slayer's teleportation cloak. With the ability to warp around the country instantaneously, the Kill Krew is poised to do some real damage to the Skrulls...

General Comments

A good show. The tension mounts from the first panel as Camp Hammond is overrun, and the 'cut-scenes' manage to provide the readers with relief while also setting up the next few issues, which will feature the Skrull Kill Krew Militia really cutting loose. Skrull Empress Veranke displays the same gift for strategy and tactics she's displayed in the Bendis-written pieces of the Secret Invasion story. And with all of this going on, there's still room for tidbits about the ongoing Avengers: the Initiative storyline.

Long-time readers know that former cadet Hardball is in thrall to some bad people. Hardball's given in to their blackmail before, most recently in Avengers: the Initiative #4, when he sabotaged the Initiative's efforts to bring World War Hulk to an end. Hardball doesn't know it, but ultimately the people pulling his strings are HYDRA. Given that HYDRA is currently led by Skrull infiltrators, his divided loyalties are going to pose a real problem soon, a fact foreshadowed when Komodo embraces him and tells him "I know who to trust."

Long-time readers have also been wondering since Initiative #4 just who Mutant Zero might be. This issue doesn't reveal her face, but it gives several big hints: she's a redheaded mutant woman with telekinetic powers whose afraid of her own dark side, a dark side that manifests itself like a doppelganger. Could this be Jean Grey, or one of the characters spun off from her over the decades? I haven't read any X-books since the 1980s, but I faintly remember a few evil Jean Grey clones running around back then. (Didn't one of them cause the Inferno event, or something?) Anyhoo, looks like this mystery will be resolved soon.

Overall Rating

A cut above the average issue. Three and a half webs; I'm docking half a web for the art, which is awfully busy.

 Posted: 2008