Ever since the end of the Civil War, the Initiative has been training the next generation of superheroes at Camp Hammond. In the early days of that training (i.e. issue #1), a promising recruit named MVP was killed in a training exercise. Yellowjacket and Baron von Blitzschlag conspired to cover the death up. It seems that that conspiracy may be coming back to haunt them.
Hank 'Yellowjacket' Pym is running through the sub-basement of Camp Hammond, running for his life. Someone is in pursuit of him, someone who's already murdered a number of other camp personnel. Yellowjacket, shrunk to insect size, is wading through their blood.
As he runs, Yellowjacket flashes back on the chain of events that brought him to this sorry state. He reminisces about the founding of the Initiative, how he and Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic took charge in the wake of the Stamford disaster and planned the Fifty State Initiative and Camp Hammond. At this point the story decouples from Hank's point of view and resumes an Olympian view, and begins picking up a variety of threads: * Stature wonders if her dad, Scott 'Ant-Man' Lang, survived the explosion that killed him way back in Avengers Disassembled by shrinking, but Hank assures her that he never found any trace of Pym particles at the site. * Hank deplores the hiring of the Taskmaster, a barely-reformed villain, as the Gauntlet's replacement, the Gauntlet still being comatose from Slapstick's assault on him back in issue #6. * The Irredeemable Ant-Man, who has succeeded Pym and Lang in the role and has joined the Initiative as a new recruit, begins dissing his predecessor. This incites Stature, outraged on her father's behalf, to attack the obnoxious little twerp. A giant-size brawl between Stature, Yellowjacket, and Ant-Man ensues, the latter just having discovered that he has the power to grow as well as shrink.
That's a lot of plot and we're only halfway through. Motoring along:
* Gyrich bawls out the senior recruits for bollixing-up a recent mission, and Hardball bawls him out right back, alluding to Gyrich's cover-up of MVP's death in an effort to get him to back off. * Hardball and Komodo get hot-'n-heavy in a supply closet, continuing a romance recently begun, albeit between issues (we readers are just learning about it now). Hardball reveals knowledge that until now has been a secret from us readers, that the reason Komodo stole Dr. Connor's Lizard-formula is because in her human form she is paraplegic, but as a lizard she can walk. Her condition explains why she generally refuses to transform back to her human shape, but Hardball persuades her to do so, because he loves her no matter what form she takes.
And finally, the key event. Gyrich and Baron von Blitzschlag, depressed at the low quality of the Initiative recruits, note that the only success the camp has shown so far is generating clones of MVP to serve as the new Scarlet Spiders. Under pressure from them, Hank agrees to generate another clone of MVP.
Cut to the present, where Yellowjacket cowers before that clone. It is half-naked and blood-soaked. Carved into its chest are the letters KIA, and fused to its arm is the Tactigon, the superweapon which killed the original MVP. The clone has it pointed square at Yellowjacket. The clone hisses "You're on my list..."
I like these sprawling, plot-heavy, ensemble-cast stories. We get lots of delicious character moments, from the comic—Taskmaster grilling his new batch of recruits—to the touching—the reveal of Komodo's backstory—to the exciting: Hardball giving Gyrich a taste of his own medicine. Slott knows his genre, and works in the obligatory fight scene, but does so organically, combining a heartfelt scene between Stature and Yellowjacket with a geek moment: a three-way giant fight!
There are elements of the comic, the pathetic, and the stirring. But the framing story for all of these is pure horror. Things look bad for Yellowjacket, and we can't say he doesn't deserve it.
I'm excited to see how he gets out this, or indeed if he does.
A solid issue, which would be worth 3 webs. It gets a bonus half web for all of the nice little touches: Komodo's love affair, Stature and Hank, giant fight, Komodo's backstory, the horrible menace of KIA.
Given all of the reveals in this issue and in the last issue, i.e. the Annual, there seems to be little backstory or mystery left for Slott to reveal. I hope I'm wrong, but it feels to me like Slott is drawing his story to a close so that he can hand the reins on this title off to another writer.
Come on, Marvel: we gave up Slott on She-Hulk in exchange for gaining him on Amazing Spider-Man, but let's not lose him on Avengers: the Initiative too!