Comics : Avengers: The Initiative #10

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This story is part of an Arc: "Killed in Action"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

Justice and the rest of the former "New Warriors" at Camp Hammond have had a rough time of it, given how the camp's foundation stems from the criminal negligence of their teammates. But lately things have gotten worse: someone beat the principal New-Warriors-hater, the Gauntlet, into a coma. And now a rogue clone of MVP, who calls himself KIA, is killing everyone on base who participated in the original MVP's death... and anyone else who gets in his way.

In Detail...

"Confirmed Kills"
Avengers: The Initiative #10
Apr 2008 : SM Reference
Summary: Spider-Man reference, Scarlet Spiders (MVP)
Arc: Part 3 of "Killed in Action"
Editor:  Tom Brevoort
Writer:  Christos N. Gage, Dan Slott
Artist:  Steffano Caselli
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Justice has been trying to ferret out the details of the Initiative's cloning experiments on MVP. Three days before the KIA incident, he travels to the van Patrick home-in-exile in Tennessee, and sends a secret message to the other New Warriors back at Camp Hammond to go AWOL and join him there.

In consequence none of Rage, Ultragirl, Debris, and Slapstick are on hand to intervene in KIA's rampage. Thus, when Cloud 9 travels to the cadet barracks looking for backup, she's only able to find Komodo and Hardball, who are engaged in a little afternoon delight. None of the three is pleased that the secret relationship has been (ahem) exposed like this, but there's no time to indulge in recriminations. KIA has burst into Gyrich's situation room, ready to kill the camp's director for his part on MVP's death. Gyrich calls on the Shadow Initiative to defend him; the black-ops team is not pleased to be treated as a personal bodyguard, but they—Bengal, Constrictor, Mutant Zero, and the Scarlet Spiders—assemble to fight. (Ant-Man and the Taskmaster, recuperating in the wrecked combat simulator, also hear the call, but true to form prefer to stay where it's safe and watch TV on Ant-Man's iPod.)

By the time the Shadow Initiative arrives, KIA has murdered all of the civilians save Gyrich. It doesn't look like the Shadow Initiative will fare any better: thanks to the Tactigon's unearthly prowess, KIA is able to cut the arms off of Constrictor and the head off of one of the Scarlet Spiders. Mutant Zero makes a wise tactical decision to flee, and takes Gyrich with her. KIA doesn't like that, but he's distracted by a new target. Last issue the Gauntlet, still comatose, rose from his hospital bed. It seems the alien gauntlet he wears has an adversarial relationship to the Tactigon, and roused by its proximity, the gauntlet can manipulate its bearer like a puppet. The mind-controlled Gauntlet is ready to rumble, and KIA is happy to oblige.

Their combat results in all the usual property damage, including a blown hole in the wall. Pursuing his quarry into the yard, KIA finds a target-rich environment: Cloud 9 has rallied all the superhumans on base to take the murderous clone on. Upon recognizing their foe, the others freeze in shock, but Cloud 9, who's matured a great deal since joining the Initiative, takes point and fires a barrage of missiles.

KIA is unfazed.

The battle continues. The Gauntlet goes down when KIA uses the Tactigon to inject him with medicine, of all things, that rouses him from his coma and severs the control the gauntlet exercised over him. The Scarlet Spiders, desperate to avenge their fallen 'brother,' take up the fight but don't fare much better. In the midst of all this, Baron Blitzschlag—or rather, his astral form, or something, his powers have never been clearly explained—reveals to Cloud 9 that the only way to stop KIA is to rewrite his brain. Yes, really. I'm not sure why that should work when nothing else does, given the Tactigon should protect KIA from any threat, but let's get on with the show. The Baron has a helmet that can do the job, but it needs to have the original MVP's brain patterns downloaded to it. No backup of those patterns is available now that KIA has trashed the Baron's lab. Nor can they be taken from the Scarlet Spiders, as they have only partial versions. The Baron, feeling paternal, mixed his own DNA in with them, so that he might have 'sons' to call his own. I'm not sure what DNA has to do with brainscans, but again, on with the show.

Cloud 9, Komodo, and Hardball will have to travel to Tennessee and get the scans from the original MVP clone. This they agree to do, and thanks to the magic of comics, they make the transition in a single page, ambushing the MVP clone as he returns from a trip to town with the original MVP's father (who has no idea the boy he calls 'Michael' is not in fact his son, but a replica). As MVP exits the truck, the Initiative cadets jump him. They're not happy about what they're about to do—placing the helmet on MVP's head will probably erase his brain—but they're going to do it anyway: "it's for the greater good."

Fortunately for them, the New Warriors are on hand to keep them from doing something they'll regret. Justice and his crew ambush the ambushers and restrain them. MVP is safe, for the moment.

But KIA is on his way. And it doesn't seem that the cadets or the New Warriors will be able to stop him.

In General...

There isn't much to say about this one that wasn't said last time: there are a few displays of Dan Slott's sense of humour, but they're brief flashes in a very dark room. Constrictor and the Scarlet Spider suffer gruesome fates; less graphic but equally disturbing is the moral decay evinced by Gyrich, who's willing to let KIA kill all of his men if it means Gyrich gets out okay, or by Cloud 9 and her comrades, who are willing to kill innocent people (by erasing their brains) to save their own lives.

Overall Rating...

This issue is so tightly bound to the arc of which it is part that it can't be judged as a standalone effort. Sure, it's written for the trade paperback—no denying it—but the individual elements are so suspenseful that reading the story in issue-sized chunks still satisfies.

It's a judgement call, but I'll give it four webs.