By Tim Stevens
On June 24, the Initiative will be dead and buried. Prepare to all hail the Initiative, all thanks to Norman Osborn.
In AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #25, by Christos Gage and Humberto Ramos, the HAMMER Director adds yet another organization to his top-to-bottom revision of super-powered policy in the United States: the 50-State Initiative. And, as with each of his previous alterations, fans should expect a dark mirror reflection of the program's original intentions. America at large, however, will not have a clue.
"As it's portrayed to the public, the goal is the same as always: to put a team of super heroes in every state in the Union to better protect America," Gage says. "From [Norman's] point of view, however, the true goal is to put a team of super-powered
operatives in every state who answer to him, and will carry out his agenda without question."
In order to ensure that the people remain in the dark, Osborn has to make some changes to how the program presents itself. First amongst these concerns will be where the Initiative will call home—or, in this case, homes.
"The new incarnation is going to be more secretive, all under the guise of 'security,'" reveals the writer. "Initiative training camps and headquarters will operate away from public places, under a veil of secrecy."
Fans can expect the first of these camps to be revealed in issue #26 in a Western state.
Before Osborn can begin his own version of the Initiative, there remain the already existing teams to deal with. How does one eliminate 50 groups of super heroes without raising suspicions? As Gage suggests, you do not eliminate them, you tweak them a touch.
"[The teams are] still officially part of the Initiative, but personnel may be added, shuffled around or replaced according to Norman's wishes and how troublesome he thinks they'll be," he explains. "We see this in issue #25, when the Heavy Hitters undergo some roster changes. And very soon we'll see what happens to those who openly challenge Norman's way of doing business."
Of course, with all of the balls Osborn has going in the air, he has little time to oversee the operations of the Initiative directly. Enter his hand-picked operatives, the Taskmaster and the Hood.
"Taskmaster has made a career out of training criminals, and that's what Norman needs: someone who can train contrary, personality-disordered super villains and make them able to pass for heroes," the writer says of Osborn's first choice for Initiative leader. "The fact that Taskmaster can instinctively mimic any moves he sees also gives him an edge in cases where Norman is trying to pass off villains as actual heroes, such as with the Dark Avengers. Taskmaster could teach, say, Shockwave to somewhat convincingly pass himself off as Iron Fist if necessary."
Seemingly a perfect fit; still, recent events in THUNDERBOLTS and DEADPOOL could throw a potential wrench into their relationship.
"Obviously, Norman isn't aware that the Taskmaster recently helped Deadpool try to kill him and Taskmaster isn't about to tell him," Gage notes. "It would be interesting if he found out though, wouldn't it?"
The second half of the duo, the Hood, assumes the role of recruiter. He will funnel prospective Initiative members from his super villain union into the training camps. The relationship between he and Norman therefore becomes one of mutual gain with Osborn getting his foot soldiers and the Hood and his constituents gaining more power.
"For the Hood and his gang, the goal is to gain a veneer of respectability, to become 'legit' on the surface, while continuing to enrich themselves at the expense of those they are supposedly watching over and gaining immunity from the law because they are the law," Gage divulges. "In essence, every state in the union will now have its very own corrupt sheriffs, except those sheriffs will wield a wrecking ball or melting ray instead of six-shooters."
The corruption of the Initiative begins in AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #25, written by Christos Gage, drawn by Humberto Ramos, and bullying onto shelves on June 24. To read more INITIATIVE, head to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!
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