By Tim Stevens
Change comes for AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE in issue #21 on January 28, and the program might not survive it.
The "Initiative: Disassembled" storyline kicks off with that issue and writer Christos Gage might just prove to be the most dangerous villain these fledging heroes have had to face yet. He will not be doing it by himself, though. He has the help of a certain cloned god to call on, too.
"We've seen as far back as the earliest issues of the book that Ragnarok, the Thor clone, has been stored in a stasis tube in the Camp Hammond labs and that's too good a toy not to take out of the box and play with," Gage confesses. "As we saw at the end of issue #20, the Skrull posing as Yellowjacket left a sort of a 'parting gift' in the form of a self-repair program that
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started Ragnarok's ruined body knitting itself back together. What other changes did Skrullowjacket make to him? Is he still crazy? We'll see in issue #21, but put it this way: he's not going to wake up and want to go to a tea party."
If the prospect of Ragnarok running rough shod on the Initiative camp makes fans nervous for their favorite cadets, well, it should.
"Since most of our characters aren't starring in their own books or movies or whatever, you never know what might happen to them," the writer points out. "No one is safe!"
The biggest promise of this freedom for Gage, however, has little to do with bloodshed. Rather, he prefers how it allows him to reflect the major events of the Marvel Universe. From the return of Ragnarok to the Skrull abductees' support group seen briefly in AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #20, the book has consistently put its own unique spin on the big goings-on in the world around the characters. The end of Secret Invasion and the beginning of Dark Reign will be no different.
"There will be tremendous effect," Gage explains. "Right away, you'll see that some characters don't like where things are going and are looking for ways out. Transferring to specific state teams, retiring, or possibly even going AWOL are all options.
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"Every new administration seems to like to put in new personnel who can mold government agencies in their image. Norman will be no exception. Tony Stark installed his best friend, War Machine, to run the camp. What would Norman do in that situation?"
Another thrill for the writer stems from the title's track record of highlighting many of Marvel's lesser known characters and getting readers interested in them again.
"Who would have thought a year ago that message boards would be abuzz over 3-D Man and the Crusader?" Gages asks. "[Outgoing co-writer] Dan [Slott] pointed out to me that in issue #20 we 'graduated' characters into four other major books—the new WAR MACHINE ongoing title, Ant-Man joining the THUNDERBOLTS, a SKRULL KILL KREW [limited series], and Hank Pym and Jocasta going to MIGHTY AVENGERS.
"I will definitely miss writing Ant-Man. He says and does the most awesomely inappropriate things! But I know what [THUNDERBOLTS writer] Andy Diggle has planned for him and it's very cool, so he's leaving with my wholehearted blessing. I love it when that happens—Marvel has so many great characters, it's very gratifying to see them get the attention they deserve, and I feel privileged to have a forum to do that!"
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In Gage's perfect world, an unlikely pair would be the next to get the INITIATIVE bump.
"Dan always jokes that I won't be happy until my cult-favorite characters Devil Dinosaur and Moon-Boy join the Initiative," he admits. "In the upcoming REPTIL SPECIAL, on sale in March, I might just have found a way to fit them in!"
With all of that happening, AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE would seem to have plenty on its plate in the months to come, but there remains more.
"Upheaval seems to be the order of the day," Gage teases. "The New Warriors are coming back! Justice, Slapstick and the rest. But are they here to save the Initiative or bury it? I hate to say 'keep reading,' but…keep reading."
On January 28, the disassembling begins with AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #21, by Gage and artist Humberto Ramos, hitting the stands. To read early issues of THE INITIATIVE, head over to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.
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