Avengers: The Initiative #27

Written by Christos Gage

Art by Rafa Sandoval and Roger Bonet

Colors by Edgar Delgado

Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Released August 26, 2009

Review by David Pepose

Who would have thought the ballad of Johnny Guitar would make for such a moving story? Christos Gage, that's who, by taking Avengers: The Initiative back to basics by exploring little known characters and giving them a shot at the big time.

Thematically, Gage has smartly tied together rock 'n roll dreams with hopes of superpowered fame and fortune, as Johnny Guitar and Dr. Sax work their way up Norman Osborn's Initiative. They may be Z-listers, but Gage gives them a chance to shine, opening up with the high point of their careers: "We fought Dazzler. Back when she looked good," Johnny recalls. "She beat us like pinatas. Best day of my life." Yet the story takes a twist that makes the whole thing suddenly sad, a sobering done-in-one story that explores friendship and love... all in 13 pages.

Seriously. Christos Gage has written an issue that is so good, you're sold on the 13 page "chapter one." Don't get me wrong, the second chapter is fine -- it ties in with earlier issues of the series, and you probably won't understand much of it if you're new to the series -- but that A-story is so compelling, you really won't care.

Rafa Sandoval, meanwhile, is a trooper with his art, as he tirelessly packs on the five and six-panel pages at Gage's cackling behest. With a hint of Stuart Immonen to his work, Sandoval gives the characters a great sense of energy and movement -- and in the A-story, the emotions really come through nicely. In the B-story, certain characters, such as Hardball, come off as a little nondescript, but he still manages to keep the action from becoming overwhelming -- which as you'll see, is certainly a danger in the latter half of Gage's script.

I think a lot of people -- perhaps rightly, perhaps wrongly -- have seen Avengers: The Initiative as having lost its way, sacrificing its gold mine of characterization for linewide crossovers such as or . But reading this issue does remind me of the smooth storytelling of the first two arcs, as a no-name wannabe truly transcends his hokey origins and reminds you how good Avengers: The Initiative can be.

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