Christos N. Gage (Writer) and Steve Uy (Artist)

Available 5/21/08

After reading Avengers: The Initiative #13, the first feeling that came to mind was relief. As regular readers may know, I was not a fan of the previous issue and was left wondering whether one of the better books out there had finally lost its magic. Things felt underdeveloped and rushed while the artwork left me wondering what had happened to the Caselli and Rudoni pairing. As it turns out, issue #12 was really just a bump in the road and this series is, thankfully, back on track.

With the start of this new arc we are introduced to the next batch of Initiative recruits: Prodigy, Annex, Gorilla Girl, Batwing, Sunstreak, and Emery “Boulder/Butterball” Shaub. On the bus ride to Camp Hammond, we get a taste of each characters personality, a little bit of background, and lots of amusing dialogue. From there, we see the staff deal with the hilarious complications that stem from Emery Shaub’s unique power set before the recruits sneak out of camp for some down time. If you haven’t noticed from the description, this is the very definition of a light, amusing, and fun story. Everything here works extremely well and because of that, this series reclaims its spot near the top of my reading list.

It was surprising for me to see Christos N. Gage completely take over writing duties for this issue, but he does an excellent job bringing the fun back to Camp Hammond. The dialogue is solid across the board and Gage shows he has quite a knack for writing dry humor. Each character is given some time to shine – something this series has excelled at – and I hope this new group of recruits continues to get a equal amount of face time.

Another welcome surprise is Steve Uy’s artwork being considerably stronger than his previous effort. The panels flow really well and with the exception of some slightly cluttered action, I can’t really say anything negative about the his storytelling. If I have any complaints with this book, it’s regarding the character work and the use of colors. Everything has a very washed out look to it and the lack of distinction in character expressions is a bit distracting. The Taskmaster continues to look quite strange, and many of the costume designs could use more detail, as everything looks rather bland. As I said before, everything is a step up from the last issue, but I wish the colors were more vivid and the characters less drone-like.

I am fully back on board with the Camp Hammond training initiative. This issue brings back the pure fun that put this series on the map in the first place. The dialogue is sharp, the artwork (while it still could use some improvement), is something I’m adjusting to, and the newest batch of recruits show a lot of promise. All in all, a very nice start to the next chapter of The Initiative. (Grade B+)

– Kyle Posluszny

A Second Opinion

I won’t lie, I was severely disappointed with this issue. After last issue’s events, I knew we would see much less of the main characters that made the first act so enjoyable, but I assumed that they would be replaced by just as engaging characters. The “star” of this issue is a new recruit code-named “Boulder,” but Taskmaster quickly dubs him with the name of “Butterball.” I understand that he is supposed to be based off of the stereotypical comics nerd: he’s overweight, weak, a loser, and he probably has that annoying nasal voice, but that doesn’t make him a likable character. He’s actually annoying. Not wanting to ruin too much, I’ll just say that by the end of the issue Butterball has to leave the Initiative, and I’m assuming the things done for him in the end were supposed “heartwarming,” but I personally don’t really care.

The other cadets don’t hold too much promise either, and are perhaps the most disappointing part. In the first issue, we not only meet a dynamic cast, but there is a shocking event that not only draws the reader into the story, but sets up the events for the next eleven issues. None of the characters presented here are people that I really want to read about, and there weren’t any important events to speak of. If this is supposed to be an introduction issue, it is extremely weak. The only hope I have is that Gage is only writing one or two issues before Dan Slott returns to the team-up and we get more of the strength he brings to this book.

Perhaps the only thing I have enjoyed is Steve Uy’s art, and believe me, I’m surprised to be saying that. Up until now, I haven’t enjoyed anything he has done, but in this issue he has finally pulled away from his usual drab and presents us with several pieces of great work. I especially enjoyed the one (and only) fight scene toward the end. Just make no mistake: I still will be extremely glad when (and if) Caselli returns to the book. (Grade: C-)

-M. Staples