The Initiative program aims to train the next generation of superheroes, equipping them to join the Fifty State Initiative, a program to establish a superhero team in every U.S. state. The Initiative is based at Camp Hammond, a military base established in at Stamford, Connecticut, within the blast zone of the explosion that precipitated the superhero Civil War.
The world remains ignorant of the fact that months ago the Illuminati (Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Mr. Fantastic, and Black Bolt) kidnapped the Hulk and sent him into exile on another world. After suffering great tragedy, the Hulk-- whose boundless rage at the injustices he has suffered has made him the mightiest he has ever been-- is returning to Earth to seek revenge.
And he doesn't care who gets in his way...
Our story opens with Hardball, disguised in Initiative Guardsman armour, burglarizing the Initiative labs. He's after a SPIN-tech dart, which he turns over to the mysterious stranger who buttonholed him last issue. Hardball's motives for this theft are unclear: while's he's clearly desperate-- which suggests blackmail-- he's also informed that his cooperation has erased his family's financial troubles, which suggests collusion. Whatever his reasons, Hardball swears he's no longer interested in betraying the Initiative. We readers wonder whether to believe him.
Meanwhile, Justice and Cloud 9 visit the Van Patrick home, to pay their respects to MVP's parents. Justice, as junior member of the Initiative, isn't privy to the circumstances of MVP's death, or the fact that Hank Pym and Dr. von Blitzschlag are secretly dissecting the corpse. It isn't clear, by the way, why Pym is doing this, but a passing remark from Blitzschlag suggests they're making clones out of MVP's organs. Creepy! Blissfully unaware of all this, Justice rings the Van Patrick doorbell and is shocked when MVP himself answers the door.
At that very moment the Hulk's ship arrives in New York, forcing Justice and Cloud 9 to return to base without investigating this matter. Which is lucky for them, given the dark looks that 'MVP' gives them as they leave.
Back at Camp Hammond, the Initiative staff listen in horror as the Hulk broadcasts to the world the details of the crimes committed against him. As America's superheroes prepare for battle, the Initiative recruits begin to do their part, providing support for the evacuation of New York City. The recruits, who include former practicing Avenger Rage, chafe at this limited role, and embrace the opportunity to beat up a bunch of looters unlucky enough to catch the team's notice. Meanwhile, Iron Man has engaged the Hulk, and as the team watches on a storefront TV, he fires a SPIN-tech dart at the Hulk... to no effect. Hardball realizes that, thanks to his theft, Iron Man has lost the opportunity to end World War Hulk, and that as a result he, Hardball, shares the responsibility for all the deaths that will hereafter ensue. Said deaths include Iron Man's, it seems, as the Hulk punches him so hard that his armour pierces Avengers Tower like a missile. Avengers Tower proceeds to collapse on top of Iron Man, which certainly makes matters worse.
Rage has had enough. With a yell of "Avengers Assemble!" he rallies the recruits to take on the Hulk all by themselves. Fed up with crowd control, the recruits fall in, all save straight-arrows Triathlon and Komodo. These two call in to report that their colleagues have gone rogue, which prompts Henry Peter Gyrich to send his black ops team in to rescue the kids... but this help will almost certainly come too late. The Initiative recruits round a corner to confront the Hulk and his Warbound, who have just finished taking out the Mighty Avengers, the She-Hulk, and the New Avengers, including Spider-Woman and Spider-Man. The Hulk wants someone else to smash, and the Initiative kids seem to have just volunteered themselves...
It's a decent issue. The art is good, and we make some headway on the subplots: clearly something nefarious is afoot with MVP's body, and just as clearly someone in a position of power is setting up Ton Stark to take a fall, with Hardball's unwitting aid. But the main plot can be summed up in one sentence: the Initiative kids foolishly decide to engage the Hulk on their own. I hope next issue pays off enough to justify all of this setup.
Gets the job done without fireworks. I hope next issue's fight against the Hulk is sufficiently epic to make this issue seem worthwhile.
Stinger: Iron Man has just announced that he sees World War Hulk, for which he, Tony Stark, is responsible, as an opportunity to encourage all of the anti-registration heroes to come in from the cold and accept his leadership. War Machine's response:
"Damn. They ought to change your name to Brass Man. How can you even walk with those?"