Updated with a five page exclusive preview of Avengers: The Initiative #20
Avengers: The Initiative #20While the multiple Avengers teams, not to mention Iron Man, have had their worlds rocked by Norman Osborn’s ascent to power that came at the end of Secret Invasion, there’s an even larger problem – the Fifty State Initiative, as seen in Avengers: The Initiative.
Established after Civil War, the idea behind The Initiative (brainchild of Hank Pym, now revealed to have been a Skrull during all of the formation and planning) was to gather inexperienced heroes and train them. From there, they would be stationed on teams in each state throughout America. Yeah, it was basically the superhero equivalent of boot camp – some made it, some didn’t, and some even died.
Now, with the dissolution of SHIELD and Osborn in charge of its replacement, HAMMER, Norman Osborn – the Green Goblin when he puts his bad guy clothes on – is in charge of The Initiative.
“Uh-oh” just begins to cover it.
To find out what’s going to be coming up in the series during this period Marvel is calling “Dark Reign,” we spoke with former Initiative co-writer, and soon to be full-time writer, Christos Gage.
Newsarama: Christos, as Avengers: The Initiative fully enters the Marvel Universe of Dark Reign, you'll finally be on your own writing The Initiative, but first, you and Dan have a swan song together. Issue #20 somewhat sets the stage for all that is to come, correct?
Avengers: The Initiative #20, page 1Christos Gage: Yep. It deals with the repercussions of Secret Invasion and sets up what's coming next. Mutant Zero's identity will finally be revealed! For the first time, the real Hank Pym will be seen in the pages of The Initiative! And wait a second…is that the Wasp on the cover? Isn't she dead?
NRAMA: Nice tease. Speaking of Hank, this issue also reveals what happened to Hank while he was being held by Skrulls. Whenabouts was he taken by those guys, anyway? Pre Civil War, even?
CG: A very good question…one that will be asked in issue #20. Did the real Hank have anything at all to do with the Fifty State Initiative? Or has he been gone longer than that? And if so, how long…could it have been the Skrull impostor who hit Janet years ago? We'll have a solid answer by the time the issue's over.
NRAMA: Speaking of the tone of The Initiative post Secret Invasion #8 - what would you say it is? Obviously, the arc title, “The Initiative Disassembled” gives some strong hints, but does "demoralized" even begin to cover it?
CG: The entire Initiative is pretty much shaken to its core. The Fifty State Initiative stands revealed as a Skrull doomsday plot. One of its architects, Hank Pym, was an alien infiltrator. Another, Tony Stark, has been discredited and fired. Can the public ever trust the Initiative again? Does the organization itself have any support left in Washington? Not to mention that every single state team is struggling with the revelation that one of its members was a Skrull…and the real versions of those members are returning after weeks, months or years away. And numerous heroes are dead, wounded or psychologically traumatized. This would be a really bad time for, oh, an insane clone of a Thunder God to go on a rampage, wouldn't it?
Avengers: The Initiative #20, page 2NRAMA: I thought we were asking the questions... Who's left in the team after the revelation that it was part of a Skrull plan, and the tatters of it are now under the control of Norman Osborn?
CG: I don't want to spoil issue #20, but some of the answers are already implied from Marvel's solicits. If you don't read solicits, SPOILER ALERT! Skip to the next question. Okay, so…we already have a pretty good idea that Jocasta and Hank Pym are joining the Mighty Avengers, and Ant-Man is going to the Thunderbolts. There's a Skrull Kill Krew miniseries coming up, so 3-D Man isn't sticking around. Some members will leave in issues #20 and 21 because they see the writing on the wall in terms of Norman Osborn being in charge, and they don't think they'll want to be a part of what he has planned. So we're looking at some turnover.
NRAMA: That said, why would anyone want to stay? Is the law still the law in regards to the Registration Act, and the Initiative still has a Federally-mandated responsibility?
Avengers: The Initiative #20, page 3CG: Yes, and that's an excellent point - if you just up and leave, you're AWOL. You can put in requests for transfer or retirement, and we know there are superheroes like Jackpot who, while sanctioned, operate alone, so there are options…but think of it from a military perspective. You may not like your new superior officer, but you still have to follow his orders. And some people still feel that they can do a lot of good as part of the Initiative, with its reach and resources. After all, Norman still answers to the President, right? He can't take things totally off the rails, right? Uh...right…?
NRAMA: So who's in charge of the overall program? Who's the new "Hank Pym," for lack of a better term?
CG: That's a question that is going to be explored in issues #20 and #21. There are several candidates who don't want the job…and others who do want it, but have, shall we say, skeletons in their closet…like being an ex-Nazi. By #21, we'll have a new leader, but circumstances may make it a short tenure…
Avengers: The Initiative #20, page 4NRAMA: Larger picture, is the program still nationwide? It seems that, without a strong central leader with an uncorrupted purpose, state teams could splinter off and go at it on their own...
CG: That's a very interesting point. How do, say, the Texas Rangers feel about answering to Norman Osborn? If they don't like it, would they try to become autonomous? And if so, what would Norman do about it? I think one thing you'll see in the course of Dark Reign is that the old battle lines of pro-registration vs. anti-registration don't necessarily apply…at least, not in the same way.
NRAMA: How is this book fitting in with the other Avengers books now that we're heading into Dark Reign - obviously, there will be interplay, but for those titles coming out of Dark Reign that involve Initiative cast members...you're letting War Machine go, correct?
CG: Correct. Again, SPOLER ALERT…War Machine and the Skrull Kill Krew are going into their own titles, Ant-Man is joining the Thunderbolts, and Jocasta and Hank Pym will be part of the Mighty Avengers. Not to say none of them will ever be seen in the pages of The Initiative again, but there's no guarantee it'll be a friendly meeting. As far as fitting in with the other Avengers titles, you won't have to read any other books to follow the Initiative, but it'll certainly be part of the larger framework being set up in those books…and the effects of Dark Reign will be felt powerfully in all of them.
Avengers: The Initiative #20, page 5NRAMA: Even though you're not working with him any more on the same book, will you be coordinating with Dan on stories?
Avengers: The Initiative #21CG: Absolutely. We're still touching base as far as what we have planned. Characters may go from one book to the other. We've already consulted about laying some groundwork for a certain long-planned storyline Dan's had in the works for some time.
NRAMA: The two of you said you had the future pretty well planned and plotted out for The Initiative - are you still going to be working off of those original plans into the Dark Reign days, or are you all on your own?
CG: We had the broad strokes pretty well figured out up to #25, and a rough idea of what was coming after that. I'll be sticking with the story spine we had planned for “Disassembled”, as well as throwing in my own bits. Dan was kind enough to tell me I should feel free to toss it all out and do my own thing, but frankly, I liked what we'd come up with, and I'm sticking with it! After #25, we'll see a drastic shift in status quo, and I'll mostly be blazing new trails from that point on.
NRAMA: The covers we've seen for #21 and #22 - that would be Clor, the clone Thor, right? Wasn't he Initiative property after the end of Civil War?
CG: He was. And he doesn't look too happy about it, does he?
Avengers: The Initiative #22NRAMA: Clearly not. And Counter Force is in #22...and he's new to the series, so what kind of turnover are we looking at for the cast from pre-Secret Invasion days?
CG: Counter Force is the name the surviving original New Warriors-Justice, Rage, Slapstick and the rest-took when they left the Initiative to strike out on their own. They'll be back in #22…and since the New Warriors title is concluding around the same time, they may have a familiar black-masked face with them, and be going by a familiar name…
As for cast turnover, some folks will be leaving. Others will be staying, but in surprisingly different roles.
NRAMA: Finally, give us five words to describe The Initiative in the coming year...
CG: Up is down. Black is white. Wait, that's six. How about…
Buckle your #%$@ing seat belt.Related: Marvel's Dark Reign
- Brian Bendis: Wrapping it All Up, and Starting Dark Reign
- Making them Mighty: Dan Slott on The Mighty Avengers
- Reunited: Jim McCann on Hawkeye and Mockingbird