In the wake of the Secret Invasion, SHIELD is disbanded. In its place is HAMMER, led by the sinister Norman Osborn. Norman has plans for the Initiative, and he's given an opportunity to implement them when Ragnarok – a.k.a. "Clor" – runs amok at Camp Hammond. Now the whole cast – the camp's instructors, its graduates, and its erstwhile opponents, the New Warriors – will have to decide what their responses will be...
First up, we have the New Warriors. You remember them, right? Ex-cadets and instructors who couldn't stomach the cover-up of Michael van Patrick's death. They've been hiding out at the van Patrick cabin, but now that they've finally revealed the circumstances of Michael's death to his dad, they're not welcome there anymore. The New Warriors have to go, and so does Patrick, the sole surviving Scarlet Spider: the Blitzschlag DNA in his genes is a deal-breaker. So he, and the rest of the New Warriors, including Night Thrasher (last scene in the New Warriors title) are on their own.
Speaking of former New Warriors, let's check in with Penance, formerly Speedball. He used to be a Thunderbolt, but ever since the final battle against the Skrulls, he's been recuperating in a padded cell. But no more, because Osborn needs heroic figureheads for his new Initiative. Penance is still wracked with guilt, partially amnesiac, and hopped up on meds... but he's also the Initiative's newest instructor.
The Taskmaster, recently appointed the Initiative's ranking officer, is dismayed. "Yeah," he mutters. "This is gonna work out just great."
Of course, the Initiative already has some instructors, but maybe not for long. Tigra and the Gauntlet sit in Norman's outer office, glumly waiting for the axe to fall. In Tigra's case, it's a metaphorical axe: Norman wants to take custody of the Skrull baby she's carrying, either when it comes to term, or before. In the Gauntlet's case, it's a literal axe: Norman wants Sgt. Green's alien glove, and since it won't come off on its own, Norman plans to amputate.
Neither instructor is prepared to accept Norman's demands but Norman, and his enforcers Ares and Karla "Ms. Marvel" Sofen, insist. So Gauntlet tosses Ares out of the penthouse window, and Tigra shreds Ms. Marvel's uniform. Ares hits the pavement, and Ms. Marvel has a wardrobe malfunction – in front of a crowd of paparazzi – and as a result, neither much feels like fighting any more. So Norman calls in the Hood's band of supervillains to capture the runaway instructors. Luckily, the New Warriors intervene to rescue their erstwhile instructors. The Gauntlet isn't pleased by this, given how he used to abuse cadets by calling them "New Warriors." Rage and Slapstick aren't pleased either, for the same reason. But they can all agree that Norman has to be stopped. Exit the New Warriors; enter the Avengers Resistance.
Norman doesn't know about this, as he's too busy recruiting new instructors. Diamondback is in: maybe she used to be Captain America's girlfriend, but she also used to be in the Serpent Society, and she knows which way the wind is blowing, as Norman puts it. Prodigy is in, because Norman gives him command of the Nevada Initiative team, the Heavy Hitters. (Gravity, the former commander, gets bumped to Wisconsin and the Great Lakes Avengers.) And Trauma is in, because the Hood promises to use his infernal connections to fix the damage that Nightmare did to Trauma's mom. Trauma is perturbed – he had no idea that Nightmare was his dad – but he'll do anything to have his mother back, even if that means abusing his gifts to keep Norman's collections of sociopaths and killers in line.
So, Trauma is the link between the old Initiative and the New. SHIELD and Camp Hammond are dead. Long live Camp HAMMER.
This is a bridge issue between the old Dan Slott status quo and the new Christos Gage status quo. We've got a mostly new faculty; new leadership; new recruits; and a new base. We've got a new artist coming up: this issue is Humberto Ramos' last, and next issue will be Rafa Sandoval's first. We've got new story arcs, too, or so it would seem: the Avengers Resistance versus the Initiative, Nightmare versus Trauma and the Hood, and a good deal of intra-faculty and intra-Resistance conflict.
And it's all good. Frankly, I had expected to drop the title with this issue, given how dull and derivative the Clor arc was. I mean, it hadn't been a year since we read about one of the Initiative's dirty secrets cutting loose and tear up the base, with deadly results. But I guess it was dull and derivative because Gage was simply clearing away Slott's leftovers. Now that he's got a chance to tell his own stories, the book has regained its old energy. And as a result, this book is going to remain on my pull list.
It's better than the last few issues, and it looks like a promising beginning to a new set of stories. A good read, even if there isn't much Scarlet Spider action in it.