By Tim Stevens
The "Team of the 90's," the teen super hero group called the New Warriors ascended to marquee status in their heyday. However, to paraphrase a cliché, being at the top often means you just have longer to fall.
And fall the Warriors did.
At first, the only signs of trouble came from membership fluctuations with a revolving door of heroes shuffling in and out of the Warriors' "Crash Pad" HQ. Then the team dissolved when founding members Justice and Firestar departed for the Avengers while team leader Night Thrasher elected to focus more on running his multi-million dollar corporation.
Speedball attempted to fix things with the help of Namorita, Nova, Turbo, and new heroes Aegis and Bolt in a second incarnation of the team, but that that group found themselves wracked with cooperation issues and again quietly faded into obscurity.
The New Warriors
The next time we saw the Warriors, they had fallen on hard times. Choosing the celebrity machine of reality television to keep afloat in the hero business, the team accepted two new members, Microbe and Debrii, and fought crime with a camera always close by. This, of course, all ended in Stamford, Connecticut with a tragedy that saw more than 600 civilians killed and proved to be the catalyst to Civil War.
In the fallout of the Civil War most former New Warriors have been killed, forced to retire or forced to register with the Initiative. At Camp Hammond, the name New Warriors has become a curse, bandied about by trainer with casual cruelty while former members such as Rage and Justice can only wince. To make matters worse, the New Warriors name has been co-opted by a group that has made it their business to embarrass the Initiative by fighting crime on their own terms.
Yes, the New Warriors have fallen a long way, but some of them have decided to end the plummet.
As revealed at the end of AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #10, Justice, Rage, Slapstick, Ultragirl, and Debrii have grown tired of the insults, and with Camp Hammond in shambles following a cloning experiment gone very wrong, they have decided to mount a counteroffensive and return the name "New Warrior" to its rightful luster. AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #11 will chronicle this attempt at redemption.
With these once and future Warriors poised to make their assault on the Initiative, we take a look at how this heroic quintet got their start and where they're headed next.
Described by INITIATIVE co-writer Christos Gage as a hero with a "strong moral center" and "a natural leader who other characters respect," Justice—aka Vance Astrovik—might well have ended up an astronaut if it wasn't for a visit from an alternate future version of himself. This encounter led not only to the derailing of a NASA career, but the manifestation of young Astrovik's mutant power of telekinesis.
Sadly, that genetic gift proved a mixed blessing. Initially calling himself Marvel Boy, Astrovik achieved success as part of the New Warriors, making friends, finding a purpose, and falling in love with fellow team member Firestar. However, Vance's life behind his mask fell to shambles when he accidentally killed his father in self-defense as the elder Astrovik attempted to visit physical abuse on his on. Vance would be convicted and chose to serve his sentence in prison.
Upon his release, a more mature Vance took the name Justice and became leader of the New Warriors. His relationship with Firestar continued to grow and the two got engaged before joining the Avengers together, a lifelong dream for Vance.
But the good times did not last. Justice and Firestar drifted apart until she ended their relationship for good and retired from being a super hero during the Civil War. The ramifications of the split will, according to Gage, "be explored down the road a bit." Then, Stamford happened and motivated by his own innate sense of right and wrong, Justice signed up with the Initiative.
Now, however, Justice has, in the words of Gage, "seen the Initiative itself violate the law—as well as common decency" and decided that, law or not, the Initiative must be stopped.
"Vance is a complex character, but above all he's a man of principle and a true hero," adds Gage's writing cohort Dan Slott. "He's proud to be both a New Warrior and an Avenger. The man's got many facets. He joined the Initiative to be there for the young recruits, the way [Captain America] was there for him. But even Steve Rogers fought the system and became Nomad when he didn't agree with what was going on. Maybe it's time for Vance to take a chapter from that book. Maybe that's the kind of person the kids need looking after them?"
As far as what Justice's plan is in stopping the Initiative or where he plans to go from there, Gage will only say: "See AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #12."
Unlike Justice, Rage's experiences with super hero teams have not always been particularly fulfilling.
13-year-old Elvin Halliday began his superhero career by taking the
name Rage and confronting the Avengers on what he viewed as the inherent racism of their organization. Altered by expose to toxic waste and now appearing as a muscle bound adult, Rage was assumed to be of age by Earth's Mightiest Heroes and granted probationary Avengers status. However, when the truth about his age came out, Rage found himself expelled from the team—angry and embarrassed, he helped the New Warriors steal a Quinjet and hopped onboard that team.
Rage's stint with the Warriors became marred by personal tragedy when one of the group's enemies murdered his beloved grandmother and he killed the villain in retaliation. Night Thrasher became Elvin's legal guardian, but when the group voted Thrash out for frequent absences during missions, Rage left with him and turned down later offers to rejoin. In the aftermath of Civil War, he somewhat reluctantly signed up with the Initiative.
"For Elvin being a trainee in the Initiative was a bit of a slap," says Slott. "Here's someone who's had a long run in the Avengers, been trained by trained by Captain
America, and has helped save the world on more than one occasion. He probably, and rightly, felt he should have gotten a pass."
"Rage is young, much younger than he looks," reminds Gage. "He clearly [feels the New Warriors got] a raw deal from the public and the government. There's [also] some regret there. Maybe he feels things were left unsaid [between him and] those who passed away."
Slapstick might look like a living Looney Tune, a high school student named Steve Harmon resides under that exaggerated grin.
Harmon stumbled through an extra-dimensional portal and found himself with a body of made of "electroplasm." Now largely indestructible, Slapstick can do darn near anything, but mostly chooses to be an annoyance to those around him.
Bizarre seems a pretty fitting description for a hero who bested a villain called the Overkiller by kissing him and stopped the Neutron Bum by buying the man a cup of coffee. Slapstick eventually got involved in more "serious" super hero work, joining with the New Warriors to defeat Dr. Yesterday and later to repel an alien invasion.
Slapstick has proven, however, to have more going on than just the ongoing quest for the easy joke. In AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #6, Slapstick brutally beat Initiative drill sergeant Gauntlet into a coma for his anti-Warriors remarks, an act he has not been revealed as being responsible for thus far. Gage suggests that INITIATIVE #11 will reveal answers as to whether or not Slapstick's outburst suggests a larger change in attitude.
And when will Slapstick's teammates find out what he did?
"Slapstick redefines the term 'short attention span,'" reminds Gage. "[The revelation] could come at the moment we least expect."
"I think that Steve Harmon is starting to realize that being Slapstick is more than having toon-like powers," warns Slott ominously. "It might also mean having toon-like thoughts. And that's kinda dangerous. Would you want your friends acting like Bugs Bunny in real life?"
A prominent teen model, Suzy Sherman found herself losing contracts left and right when her muscles began developing at an abnormal rate. Her luck turned around, however, when she battled and destroyed a Sentinel in the aftermath of Onslaught's assault on New York City.
Dubbed Ultragirl by the press due to her repeated use of the code name, Sherman saw being a super hero as her chance to make money modeling, regardless of her physique. Cobbling together a costume from sportswear, Sherman ignored friends' advice and aided the New Warriors against Effex and the same alien invasion Slapstick helped stop. After a friend revealed that she and almost everyone else Suzy knew were in fact undercover agents of the alien Kree, Ultragirl disappeared for a time. It remains to be seen how, if at all, this revelation played into her life.
"I always saw her as one of Marvel's hidden gems," says Slott of his affection for Suzy Sherman. "A girl who's half mutant, half Kree, and has a crush on Vance Astro. There are a lot
of stories to tell with someone like that."
Currently Ultragirl serves as the leader of the Junior Guardsmen group within the Initiative, a recruitment group meant to combat the popularity of the rogue new New Warriors. Also, she's secretly dating Justice.
While this personal relationship and a desire to "see what Justice had found out" about the Initiative might have been Ultragirl's initial reason for joining the rebels, there's more to ir.
"We'll see in [AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #12] that Ultragirl has a lot more to her involvement with the Initiative than just her feelings for Justice," promises Gage.
Concerned with the fact that the New Warriors got along too well, reality TV producers felt they had to manufacture some conflict to keep things interesting. They found their catalyst in Deborah Fields, the telekinetic known as Debrii. She gave them exactly what they wanted, proving to be aggressive and sniping. When the show returned, she
chose not to participate, a choice that most likely saved her from dying in the Stamford incident.
Gage argues that Debrii proves interesting because "she became part of the New Warriors to get famous, not fight crime." However, now she has joined her fellow Warriors alums due to what the writer calls a "bond only they can really understand.
As for why the reluctant hero did not just retire completely and avoid this whole mess from the start, Gage replies with his standby: "See AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #12!"
"Killed In Action" wraps on April 16 in AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #11, followed two weeks later by issue #12 and answers galore! In the mean time, check out more NEW WARRIORS on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.