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Avengers: The Initiative # 5
Writer: Dan Slott
Penciler: Stefano Caselli
Color Art: Danielle Rudoni
Editor: Tom Brevoort

To employ a culinary metaphor, if Sandman was a fine dining menu, Avengers: The Initiative is a bag of cheese curls. Not necessarily a bad thing, that yellow dust can really hit the spot when you're in the right frame of mind, but too much and you'll be sorry. Good thing it ships only once a month.

Issue 5 is a tie-in to World War Hulk and follows up on last month's story, in which the young recruits of Tony Stark's 50 state initiative decided to disobey orders and take on the Hulk and his Warbound in personal combat. A covert ops team is formed and sent to Manhattan to extricate the team from their plight in order to save face for the whole Initiative scheme.

This is done in a very clever way, touching on the fact that what the government is doing with The Initiative may not be an improvement on the situation it is supposed to rememdy as personified by the fate of the New Warriors, which, you may recall, started this whole Civil War kerfuffle.

From everything that's been established in the book up to this point the members of The Initiative are soldiers for the American military and, from what I recall of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, disobeying an order is not exactly the equivalent of jaywalking, so it will be interesting to see what, if any, consequences there are for their actions. So far the book has played fair with the reader in suiting consequences to actions in the book, but with the established feature characters nearly all rebelling, I wonder how writer Dan Slott will handle this.

A subplot concerning one of the recruits, Terrance "Trauma" Ward, is nicely tied in to the action and Slott gives us an interesting twist on the use of his powers and his fate. As a bonus, the subplot involves Danielle Moonstar, and I always did like the New Mutants. This was my favorite part of the issue, not least because without it the book is nearly fifty percent exposition, even if it is in the form of dialog.

The art is competent, with some awkward layouts and crowded panels that aren't helped by the generally dark cast of the colors. Still, it didn't detract from the story. Caselli does something interesting with panel 3 of page 14, showing a closeup of one character's action overlayed above his comrades reaction from a distant overhead angle to convey clearly and succinctly what is happening. It very nearly works.

As for the cover, I have been pretty much saturated with images that feature an enraged Hulk in gladiator mufti weilding a real big sword at this point. I get it, the Hulk is selling real well for Mighty Marvel. How about taking this opportunity to get people hooked on something else while their eyes are still glazed? It's like a Union soldier said after a months of fighting, and eating, in the Deep South, "I used to like eating rice once in a while, but goddamn the stuff now."

David Akhond

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