By Matt Powell
For the Marvel Universe, the children really might be the future.
Factoring in the mutant population decimation, the Civil War, the death of Captain America, and now the Secret Invasion of Skrulls on Earth, it seems the current era of the Marvel Universe as we know it might be drawing to a premature close.
Marvel's old guard has done its best to ensure the sun would rise over a free world with each battle won, however, with bigger and more dangerous threats lurking around every corner it would be unwise to believe these giants will walk among us forever. Just as champions like the Avengers and X-Men have chosen to fight the good fight in the name of heroes who have inspired them, a new generation stands at the edge of greatness.
Over five weeks, Marvel.com will take an in-depth look at the forerunners of this next wave of heroes to determine what the future holds for them and for the Marvel Universe. Today, we look at the recruits from AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE.
WHO THEY ARE:
The culmination of the Superhero Registration Act and the Civil War, the 50-State Initiative ensures one S.H.I.E.L.D.—sponsored super-team of registered heroes for every state in the United States.
Based in Camp Hammond in Stamford, Connecticut—the site of the incident that sparked the Civil War—a team of experienced instructors provide education and tactical training for registered super-powered individuals of all ages who seek to become government-sponsored heroes.
WHY THEY COULD BE THE FUTURE:
While many of Camp Hammond's Initiative recruits such as Hardball, Trauma, Cloud 9, and Komodo remain green to the super hero lifestyle, they're getting a first-hand lesson from the experiences of career heroes like founding Avenger Hank Pym, James Rhodes aka War Machine, and former New Warrior and Avenger Justice. Overseen by Tony Stark and S.H.I.E.L.D., the Initiative aims to produce well-rounded and superiorly-trained heroes who may one day become Avengers.
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Daily combat training in the use of their individual powers and military weapons have molded the Initiative recruits into quick-acting soldiers who have gained early victories against a HYDRA battalion and survived direct contact with the Hulk during World War Hulk.
Class-50 recruit Trauma has the ability to shape-shift his appearance to match his opponents' worst fears. With a power so strong it allowed him to go toe-to-toe with the Hulk and walk away, he would be an ideal addition to Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
"Trauma could be," agrees AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE co-writer Christos Gage. "But his interests might lie in a different direction."
For his second pick, Gage selects cloud-like gas manipulator, Cloud 9, who the writer admits, "is surprising a lot of people with her cool head and courage under fire."
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Rounding out the cast, series creator and co-writer Dan Slott offer the following endorsements: "Komodo's got the drive, Hardball's got the skills."
GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS TO DATE:
Few heroes have walked away from a battle with the Hulk, but the Camp Hammond recruits not only survived their encounter with the Green Goliath, but also came out ahead in a knuckle-splitting brawl with his gladiatorial backup brigade, the Warbound.
Balancing their limited training with quick reflexes, the Initiative team defeated a HYDRA squadron, and one former member, Armory, even bested frequent Iron Man foe, Ultimo, with one blast. These few battles make an impressive resume for an up-and-coming team of heroes.
BIGGEST LESSONS TO BE LEARNED:
Harboring a damaging secret ranks high in ways to quickly dissolve a group's solidarity. Every one of the Initiative recruits has a history that has yet to catch up with them, however, when it does, the consequences will no doubt be disastrous.
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For example, easy-going Hardball gained his abilities from the mysterious Power Broker, who sold the contract signed by the youth in exchange for his powers to a HYDRA agent. Since then, the HYDRA agent has manipulated Hardball to provide HYDRA with sensitive technology from S.H.I.E.L.D.
The emotional states and personal choices of each recruit can hardly be called stable.
"Cloud 9's a prime candidate for a Section 8," notes Slott. "Trauma, who really should be the team's biggest weapon—their Thor—has gone all touchy-feely and is training to be a therapist."
BEST TRAITS TO HOLD ON TO:
In the military, the linear requisite for success is to follow orders without fail, but for Slott, he hopes the recruits will retain their youthful sense of wonder as they mature into full heroes.
"Super heroes have to deal with the incredible and unbelievable," explains the writer. "By the time a lot of us are adults, that's been crushed out of us."
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There may be some lessons you can't learn until you're in the heat of battle, however, with a challenging curriculum, demanding instructors, and the fate of the world at stake everyday, the Initiative recruits could easily project themselves to the forefront of tomorrow's heroes.
"The Future Is Now" continues next week with a look at the New Warriors. AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #9 ships next Wednesday, January 30. In the mean time, check out Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited for the comic that started it all for the Initiative, CIVIL WAR #1.