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Avengers: The Initiative #20: Review

Dec 2008
Dan Slott, Steve Kurth

Story Name:

Acceptable losses

Review & Comments

4 stars

Avengers: The Initiative #20 Review by (February 8, 2017)
After the Secret Invasion issues #14-19 this issue is preceded by 2 1-shots:- The Av:I Special and Av:I Featuring Reptil.

The Special has 2 stories. In the main tale 2 Initiative teams Arizona's Desert Stars (Two-Gun Kid leader, Johnny Cool, Komodo and Supermax) and Nevada's Heavy Hitters (Gravity leader, Hardball, Nonstop and Telemetry) team-up to fight Zzzax (who has escaped from SHIELD custody). After the teams get in each others way, lovers Hardball and Komodo combine to defeat the villain.
Later the duo exchange details of their origin stories. But Hardball is working for Senator Woodman and Hydra who have promised to cure his brother, crippled by the Power Broker enhancement process, and they want him to get Doc Connors' Lizard formula which gave Komodo her powers.
Komodo gets HB to admit the truth and gives him some of her blood containing the formula. But she's setting a trap for Hydra in order to free him from them. The 2 Initiative teams attack. Woodman uses the blood and becomes a giant reptile. HB uses his power to kill Woodman. But only to take over command of his Hydra troop - as is the way of advancement in Hydra. (But also so Komodo doesn't get dragged down with him.)
This story must be post-SI because it ends HB's Initiative career, and it's before the current issue because his defection is mentioned here.

In the 2nd tale Initiative counsellor Trauma uses medic Physique as *his* counsellor because Doc Samson's busy (with the returnees from Skrull captivity). We learn how his power to show people their fears manifested in High School, and how it drove his family away. Now his 'girlfriend' Thor Girl turned out to be a Skrull in SI. We get a hint that his real father is Nightmare, to be confirmed in #25.

In the Reptil 1-shot an Initiative squad led by Tigra (Batwing, Cloud 9, Komodo, Prodigy and Sunstreak) recruit a superteen who calls himself Reptil because he can give himself dinosaur powers. They train him up quickly so he can help them against dinosaurs led by Stegron who are attacking SHIELD bases. It turns out they're looking for SHIELD captive Moon Boy. Tigra's team help MB escape, and hand him over to Ka-Zar to go back to the Savage Land where Devil Dinosaur has been pining for him. Reptil goes with KZ who promises to help look for his long-missing parents.
An editorial note places this story between #19 and #20 of the main title. And I believe it follows the Special because Komodo's attitude suggests she's angry about Hardball, and SHIELD mentions an earlier problem with Zzzax.

In Doc Samson's replacees session we see Frog-Man, Razorback, Revolutionary, She-Thing and Thor Girl (whose Skrulls were all Initiative members) plus Dum Dum Dugan, Edwin Jarvis and Mockingbird among others less easily identified.

Henry Pym seems surprised about his imposter's fling with Tigra. But he shouldn't be *that* surprised since *he* and Tigra were an item in the early issues of West Coast Avengers.

Trauma exposed Mutant Zero's identity to the Shadow Initiative in #17, but we weren't let in on the secret.
Typhoid Mary has multiple personalities, only the bad ones can use her powers, including martial arts and pyrokinesis. She was originally a Daredevil character, usually working for Kingpin. As Mutant Zero in the Initiative it appears she's been used as little as possible to keep her mental instability in check.
Taskmaster indicates he's met Typhoid before, but I know of no recorded meeting.

Ragnarok is a cyborg clone of Thor created by Tony Stark, Reed Richards and Skrull-Henry Pym for use in Civil War. He killed Goliath in CW#4, and was wrecked by Hercules in CW#7.

Jocasta accompanies Pym into SI: Requiem where he decides to become the new Wasp. Then the duo join the Mighty Avengers in MAv#21-23.
Ant-Man will still be around in #24 before joining the Thunderbolts in their #128.
Ryder will continue hunting Skrulls in a tale in Dark Reign: New Nation and the 2nd Skrull Kill Krew mini-series. The 4 dead members will return to join him from #2, and 3-D Man will hang out in #2-3. That's the end for the SKK, but later 3-D Man will hook up with the Agents of Atlas in the 2010 Atlas mini-series.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers: The Initiative #20 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
The Skrull Secret Invasion has amped up the protests about the Initiative HQ and training base Camp Hammond being placed at Stamford (the site of the disaster that sparked off Civil War). Gauntlet has to bull his way through the protesters to get in.

In the cafeteria Doc Samson is hosting a meeting of people who were abducted by the Skrulls and replaced. Alicia Masters is here to help as someone who was also once abducted by Skrulls and replaced. They're going to manage the returnees return to society. Dum Dum Dugan isn't happy about having to go through this - he just wants to get back to running SHIELD.

In the War Room Gauntlet holds a conference about Hardball who defected to Hydra in the Initiative Special - attendees Baron Von Blitzschlag, Gargoyle, Hellcat, Physique, Taskmaster and Tigra. Hardball has been traced to a foreign Hydra base. They can't overtly invade there so they need to send the Shadow Initiative. Gauntlet wants to know who can authorise the mission.

Taskmaster says Henry Gyrich used to be in charge of them until Iron Man sacked him (#12). Physique says War Machine could do it but he resigned (sort-of in #16) and they don't know where he is (see his latest series). Tigra reminds them that the Henry Pym who was in overall charge was a Skrull. Blitzschlag offers to take control but Gauntlet turns the ex-Nazi down. Tigra points out that just leaves him. Gauntlet protests that he's just a drill sergeant and asks about the real Henry Pym. But Tigra doesn't think they'll get much luck there ...

... Hank is having a meal in his room with Wasp, who he fully accepts is dead (as of Secret Invasion #8 - but of course she's alive really). The Skrull Yellowjacket has been living his life for a long time (since before New Avengers #1). He asks the delicate question - did his ex-wife Jan ever sleep with the imposter. She answers no, but tells him that Tigra and the Skrull had a thing.

Jan tells him about other things his Skrull did:-  He invented the GI Ant-Man suit for SHIELD (which is what current Ant-Man Eric O''Grady is wearing in the Initiative). He formed the 50-State Initiative, but as a Skrull weapon. He helped create Thor-clone/cyborg Ragnarok, who killed Bill Foster/Goliath during Civil War.

Hellcat finds Tigra in the cafeteria eating strawberries and pickles. Patsy correctly guesses that Greer is pregnant. And we can guess Skrull-Hank's the father.

Gauntlet has assembled the Shadow Initiative (Ant-Man, Bengal, Constrictor and Mutant Zero) in their briefing room along with Komodo and Taskmaster. They are feeling down after failing to assassinate the Skrull Queen Veranke (#17), but Gauntlet points out they enabled Ant-Man to escape with info about the Skrulls' backup plan (to move the US into the Negative Zone). And he lets O''Grady know that this has won him a promotion and a move to the Thunderbolts.

As AM leaves to pack Mutant Zero makes to leave also, saying that Gyrich excused her from briefings. But Gauntlet makes her stay while he introduces Taskmaster as their new field leader. And Komodo is here because of her knowledge of their target Hardball.

Hardball was blackmailed into working for Hydra by Senator Woodman (#3). He was exposed in Special #1, but killed Woodman and elected to stay with Hydra taking Woodman's place of power in the criminal organisation. Gauntlet says he's running a Hydra training base in Madripoor, and this team is going to bring him back. They won't get any help from the Madripoor government because they are allies of Tony Stark who don't like it that he's been replaced by Norman Osborn.

Komodo is here to tell them about Hardball's powers and personality. But she insists on going on the mission too. Gauntlet dismisses the group and takes her aside for a 'chat'.

Taskmaster believes he's figured out who Mutant Zero is, and intends to find out if he's right.

Back in Hank Pym's quarters Jan is bringing him up-to-date on other stuff that's happened while he was away. But when he doesn't understand some of her references she asks just how long has he been missing.

But they are interrupted by a knock at the door. It's Trauma looking for Tigra. He heard a woman's voice and assumed it was her. Pym gets rid of him, but we don't stay to hear his answer to Jan's question.

In the stockade 3-D Man is freed after an inquest into his killing of Crusader who was exposed as a Skrull last issue. Other trainees Annex, Batwing, Geiger, Prodigy and Red 9 aren't happy because they were friends with Crusader, and they believe (correctly) that he was on the side of humans.

Ryder, leader of the Skrull Kill Krew, doesn't have any sympathy because his team kill Skrulls on sight. He and Delroy Garrett join the other surviving SKK member Riot in burying the preserved heads of the other 3 SKKers Catwalk, Dice and Moonstomp who finally died in the battle last issue. Ryder tells Riot she can revert from her monster guise to human now that the Skrulls are all gone. Riot gratefully does so and dies of the Skrull disease that infected them all. Ryder admits to Delroy that there are still Skrulls out there, and they leave the base to go find them and kill them.

Taskmaster confronts Mutant Zero and goads her into a fight. He was pretty sure he recognised her from her normal body movements, but now her fighting moves support his theory - it's part of his photographic reflexes 'superpower'. When she angrily bursts into flame that clinches the deal, and he smashes her facemask to reveal Typhoid Mary.

Tigra discusses her pregnancy with counsellor Trauma, and his superpower shows her her worst fear - giving birth to a litter of Skrulls. She says she's going to have an abortion because the father was definitely the Skrull, not the real Henry Pym. It's actually a relief because she wouldn't have been ready to be the mother of Hank's child.

Meanwhile Jan is hoping that Henry was replaced many years ago, before he hit her and they divorced. But he has to admit that that was really him. And Jan turns to leave.

At this point they stop the charade. 'Jan' is really Jocasta, the robot Ultron created with Janet Pym's brain pattern. This enabled her to play the scene as Jan would have.

Jocasta accompanies Pym as he leaves the base. Gauntlet, Hellcat and Stingray try to persuade him to stay. But Hank reminds them that he was never here in the 1st place.

Finally we see Blitzschlag dozing in his hi-tech wheelchair in his lab. A video of Skrull-Yellowjacket starts to play. It says that because it's been 15 days since he last entered the relevant code a backup plan will automatically go into action. And the damaged Ragnarok cyborg comes back to life.

Steve Kurth
Drew Hennessy
Matt Milla
Mark Brooks (Cover Penciler)
Mark Brooks (Cover Inker)
Mark Brooks (Cover Colorist)

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