I normally do everything I can to stay away from spoilers when I review books, but I’m having serious trouble doing so with Avengers: The Initiative. So there will be some spoilers for the series up to this point. I’ll try to keep them as mild as possible, but be warned.
HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
Shit gets serious in this issue. Sure, shit got pretty serious last issue too, but not to this extent. This book has been really interesting and strange. I mean, this is a dark fucking book, and you really wouldn’t expect that. From the powers of Trauma to the death of MVP to the mental breakdown of Armory, you’ve got some twisted stuff happening here. They manage to top all that creepiness in the second mini-arc with the final reveal of Slapstick taking out Gauntlet. There’s just something wrong about this overly cartoony clown character beating the fuck out of a big man with a cartoon hammer while screaming about the New Warriors. It’s powerful stuff, and it’s really not what I was expecting going into this series.
And now, with the current arc, we’ve got the introduction of Ant-Man (this being the Eric O’Grady Irredeemable Ant Man from Robert Kirkman’s crazy head) and Taskmaster, as well as further uncovering of the MVP mythos. The Initiative top brass (Gyrich, Hank Pym and Baron Blitzschlag) decide to give one of the many Michael Van Patrick clones the alien Tactigon weapon that was originally attached to the arm of Armory. The interfacing between the Tactigon and the clone’s mind allows this MVP to gain access to the original MVP’s memories, and thus learns of his own death and manipulation at the hands of the leaders of the Initiative. Suffice to say, this MVP clone completely loses his shit. The visual of MVP destroying the lab of Blitzschlag and screaming “Killed In Action!” over and over again. We see him carve the letters KIA in his chest.
I mean, this is slasher movie level stuff. You’ve got an enclosed space in Camp Hammond. You’ve got that combination of the young, naïve kids (your Cloud 9’s, your Komodos, your Hardballs) and the grizzled veterans (Taskmaster, Gauntlet, Hank Pym) being stalked by an unstoppable killing machine. KIA himself definitely looks the part. That deranged look in his eye and the almost zombie-like feel to his movements, and the haphazard way KIA is carved into his chest, it all adds up to a seriously creepy and dangerous appearance. The crazed alien energy weapon helps matters too. And this is really well staged. It kinda reminds me of the Nemesis character from Resident Evil 3 (we’re not talking the movie, here), in that there’s a constant feel that KIA could pop out of any panel at any time and just kill whoever he runs into. With the way Van (at least I assume it was Van. We’re talking about the middle Scarlet Spider) just gets offed in a very unceremonious way (very similar to a certain scene in Casanova #12), you know this guy is not fucking around.
And that’s what it comes down to. This issue is dark. Hell, the more I realize it, this series is dark. A hell of a lot darker than I expected it to be, especially with Slott on writing duties, as he can generally be a happy-go-lucky guy. And we see a little of that with a really nice back and forth between Taskmaster and Ant Man. And it hasn’t skipped a beat since Christos Gage joined co-writing duties. Stefano Caselli has been churning out more than capable art to compliment a really good story, and everything is truly coming up roses in this little section of the post Civil War universe. And now that The Order only has two issues left (Excuse me for a second here…..GODDAMNIT), it’s all I’ve really got to enjoy the Initiative, which is such a damned cool concept that I wish Marvel would do more with it. Because of this, I’m glad this book is good.