Comics : Avengers: The Initiative #20

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This review was first published on: 2009.

Background...

In the aftermath of the Skrull invasion, Camp Hammond is burnt out, literally and figuratively. As the base camp of the Skrull ground troops, its buildings are damaged and its administrative systems compromised. As the home of the Fifty-State Initiative, now revealed to be a Skrull plot, its credibility is exhausted and many of its staff and graduates have been exposed as Skrull infiltrators. Some of those replaced have now returned, including the nominal Director, Hank "Yellowjacket" Pym, who came back to discover his reputation in tatters – the Skrull infiltrator who took his likeness was a propaganda mouthpiece for the invaders – and that his ex-wife, Janet "the Wasp" van Dyne, is dead, murdered by the same infiltrator.

All of which is to say, Camp Hammond isn't a jolly place right now.

In Detail...

"Acceptable Losses"
Avengers: The Initiative #20
Feb 2009 : SM Cameo
Summary: Spider-Man cameo
Editor:  Tom Brevoort
Writer:  Christos N. Gage, Dan Slott
Pencils:  Steve Kurth
Colorist:  Matt Milla
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Who's unhappy? Roll call!

  • The Gauntlet is unhappy that one of his protegés, Hardball, has gone rogue and joined HYDRA.
  • Komodo is unhappy for the same reason, but she's going to feel better after she leads the Shadow Initiative to Madripoor to capture him.
  • Mutant Zero is angry that Taskmaster has ferreted out her real identity, which is—wait for it—Typhoid Mary.
  • Dum Dum Dugan is upset he was kidnapped and replaced, and that he is being forced to undergo group therapy to confront the psychological trauma those incidents have inflicted upon him.
  • Tigra is upset that she's pregnant with the Skrull "Yellowjacket"'s child. Can't say I blame her.
  • 3-D Man is unhappy that even though he and the Kill Krew saved the day, everyone hates his guts for shooting the Crusader, who was popular even if he was secretly a Skrull.
  • Ryder is grieving for the rest of the original Kill Krew, including Riot, who lasts long enough to bury her old comrades before passing away herself, for some reason I'm not clear on. Ryder plans to take out his anger on any leftover Skrulls he can find.

Surely the most unhappy is Hank Pym. He's closeted in "his" quarters at Camp Hammond, talking to someone who really, really looks like Janet van Dyne. The pair of them know it's a façade, but Hank seems to finds it soothing. The fake-Wasp fills Hank in on everything "he" was up to recently, including inventing the G.I.-Ant Man armour, making a clone of Thor to use as a weapon (later used to kill Bill Foster, Hank's friend) and schtupping Tigra. The fake-Wasp is intrigued by how out-of-touch Hank seems to be: just how far back was he kidnapped? Was it before Avengers #213, when he famously struck his own wife? Could it be that Hank Pym was innocent of that crime?

"I'm sorry," says Hank, after a pause. "That was me. It's all on me."

With that, fake-Wasp reverts to her true form: Jocasta. As an android, like the Vision, she shares Janet van Dyne's brain-patterns, and as a "friend and fellow Avenger," she's happy to help Hank work through his problems. Apparently disguising herself as the Wasp and play-acting was something Hank felt he needed.

That's very creepy. Thankfully we're supposed to interpret it as such.

The book ends with Hank departing Camp Hammond for greener pastures. The Gauntlet would like him to stay, but Hank isn't tempted. "Sgt. Green, I don't know you. I've never met your cadets. I've never set foot in that lab or in those quarters. I was never here."

As Hank leaves, so does writer Dan Slott, who's been writer or co-writer of this book from its inception. Christos Gage, now taking the book on entirely, leaves us with a cliffhanger: the Skrull "Pym" left behind a failsafe, a parting shot against Earth's heroes. Somewhere in the bowels of Camp Hammond, the Thor-clone begins to regenerate.

I anticipate another KIA-style rampage through the camp, coming soon to this title.

In General...

This is an issue to tie up the last of Dan Slott's plot threads – Mutant Zero, mostly – and segue many of the characters to other books. Ant-Man is off to Thunderbolts; Ryder to Skrull Kill Krew (and maybe 3-D Man, too); Pym and Jocasta to Mighty Avengers. Dan Slott will be joining them on the latter, so expect to see the creepy Pym-and-Jocasta-and-Janet van Dyne menage à trois continue there.

There's not a lot to say about this issue – it's an epilogue that lets us catch our breath after the Secret Invasion, which is appreciated, but it's all about housecleaning, which is hard to get excited about. The reveal on Mutant Zero is nice and unexpected: I recently remarked to other SpiderFan staffers that Typhoid Mary was an underutilized character who deserved more attention. I'm glad to see folks at Marvel felt the same way.

That move of Dan Slott's is one thing to admire in this issue. The other is his deft touch with the continuity. I happen to own a copy of Avengers #213, but I had forgotten that Tigra was on hand for Pym's descent into recklessness, selfishness, and wife-beating. And that Tigra thought Pym was totally unworthy of Janet van Dyne. Given that history, the fact that Tigra and Pym became lovers in Bendis' Mighty Avengers is highly unlikely, but I'd completely missed that fact. Not Dan Slott, though, who manages to address the problem without even acknowledging that it was one. It's little bits of business like that which make him one of the best, or so I believe. I'm glad he's on Mighty Avengers, but we'll miss him here.

Overall Rating...

It's housecleaning, but done in an engaging fashion. No highs, no lows, just a satisfying middle. Three webs.

Footnote...

With the departure of Dan Slott and the Scarlet Spiders from this title, there's really no more reason to carry on reviewing it for SpiderFan.org. So with a tip of the cap, your obedient servant is departing also. I'll keep reading Avengers: the Initiative, but not reviewing it any more, unless something specifically Spider-related comes up.