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Avengers: The Initiative #31: Review

Dec 2009
Christos N. Gage, Rafa Sandoval

Story Name:

Poisoned chalice

Review & Comments

Rating:
4 stars

Avengers: The Initiative #31 Review by (January 31, 2018)
The cover calls this a Siege tie-in, which is true for the last 6 pages.

This issue is split into 3 parts, with some side-panels inserted in the last part.
Page 1-16 are placed straight after last issue.
p17-18 occur within Siege: Cabal where Taskmaster gets severely injured by Dr Doom.
p19-22 happen between Siege: Cabal and Siege #1 where Norman Osborn menaces Taskmaster in his hospital bed. The side-panels within this showing what other characters are doing don't actually occur at this point.

The teens Osborn says he's recruiting will show up in Avengers Academy. He's been seen finding them recently in flashbacks from several of that title's issues.

The partying and parading Initiative villains are:- Badd Axe, Black Mamba, a Brother Grimm (presumably Barton Grimes - his brother Percy still injured by Tigra), Cutthroat, Griffin, Man-Killer, Ringer, Scorcher and Skein.
This is Man-Killer's 1st app in the Initiative but she'll stay for the closing issues. She started as a villain but recently as Amazon she was in a couple of lineups of the Thunderbolts ending in New Thunderbolts #18.

Some of these villains also go elsewhere before returning to this series during Siege.
Skein is off to Siege #1 and then doesn't come back.
Black Mamba's itinerary is X-Force: Sex & Violence #2-3, Siege #1 then our #32.
1 or both Brothers Grimm are in New Avengers #55-60, Iron Man #20, NAv#64fb, NAv#61, our #33.
Griffin does NAv#55-60, X-Men: To Serve & Protect #4/4, NAV#64fb and NAv#61-62 before making it back also to #33.
Cutthroat makes it to NAv#55-57, Dark Wolverine #78-80 and NAv#64fb before our #34.





 

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers: The Initiative #31 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Norman Osborn rings up Taskmaster at Camp HAMMER to say he's thinking of promoting him. But 1st he wants to come for a snap inspection of the Camp early next morning. Tony Masters agrees of course, but then has to get his partying people sobered up and get them to tidy the place. Black Mamba has a thing for men in power, but TM warns her off Osborn - she might end up thrown off a bridge. (A reference to the classic Amazing Spider-Man #121 where as Green Goblin NO killed Gwen Stacy - and much later in ASM#509-514 it was revealed they'd had an affair.) Anyone who messes tomorrow up will find a grave next to Johnny Guitar (who died in action in #27).

Hood left the Initiative to Taskmaster last issue, but he isn't happy that Osborn is actually going to ask TM to join them in the Cabal (which apart from them has now shrunk to Dr Doom and Loki - Emma Frost and Sub-Mariner burnt their bridges in the Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia crossover). Norman butters him up by saying that TM will be a *minor* partner.

Masters drops in on Penance who is now mellow (since he was given his old supercat Niels in #29 and got his memory back last issue), and seems to have removed the spikes from inside his costume. TM tells Robbie Baldwin to get rid of the cat before Osborn sees it. Penance says effectively "Touch the cat and I'll destroy the whole Camp". TM backs down and just pleads with him not to speak to NO like that.

Last issue Constrictor discovered that his lover Diamondback was a mole for the Avengers Resistance. Frank Schlichting now tells Rachel Leighton he suspects that she is only with him to get information. Rachel tries to protest but Taskmaster pops in to tell them about the inspection. He wants to see Constrictor in his office. When he's gone Rachel asks Frank why he didn't turn her in then. Frank says TM would kill her. Rachel says he'll kill Frank if he finds out. Frank says it's worth it.

Meanwhile the Resistance have had to relocate from Taylor Foundation premises now that Osborn & co know that Night Thrasher is Donyell Taylor (they rescued DT from Camp HAMMER last issue). They are now in a small safe house owned by the Cat People who gave Tigra her powers. The others introduce Donyell to Komodo, who was reduced to her legless depowered state when she quit the Initiative (#28).

Komodo has been looking for ammo against Osborn on the Internet but now the more techperienced Night Thrasher can take over. She's found that a Trojan Horse he set up in the Bank of America HQ in Charlotte has detected suspicious activity by North Carolina's Initiative team the U-Foes. But they're not *stealing* money they're banking suspiciously large amounts which come from Osborn dummy corporations. Taylor starts to find out more.

Ultragirl talks to Tigra in private. She takes her to task for going after Hood's men for private revenge for what they did to her in New Avengers #35 - they're heroes and they're supposed to be better than that. Tigra says she's out to bring Osborn and Hood down, and if she gets revenge along the way she's happy about that. She suggests Ultragirl tell their leader Justice about it. He's an ex-Avenger like Tigra and if *he* throws her off the team then she'll accept it.

Suzi Sherman does go to see her ex-boyfriend Vance Astrovik but he's got something else on his mind. They met up again in #26 but in #28 he told her he didn't want to renew their relationship in the current crazy situation. But now he's realised that this is just the time when they should grab what happiness they can. And he kisses her.

Back in Camp HAMMER Constrictor goes to see Taskmaster. Tony tells Frank he thinks Osborn will offer him a promotion, but he doesn't know whether to accept. His interests lie in making money and living it up - he's not into running the world. He *has* dreamed of getting more but on the other hand he doesn't want to reach too high because that leads to a big fall. Frank basically says he has to make his *own* decision. But he restates the choice as between regretting a lost opportunity or possibly risking his life for someone else's cause he doesn't believe in. Masters decides they should have a drink.

Next morning Norman Osborn sees a tight ship, but tells Taskmaster he knows this is just a show to impress him. NO asks TM how he'd change the Initiative if he was given free rein. Masters says he'd stop trying to get lifetime villains to pretend to be heroes. He'd recruit teenagers who they could mould how they liked. Osborn says he agrees and he's recruiting some of them right now.

But then he *does* offer TM the promotion to the Cabal (which Masters doesn't know exists). And he takes him to meet them - just Hood and Loki now.

There follow some epilogues shown behind a running commentary which is a letter sent from Taskmaster to Constrictor. Tony can't tell Frank about the Cabal, but he says he's mixing with top-level players and he figures he's over his head but he won't be allowed to back out. He doesn't expect to survive this.

We see:-
Tigra attacking Mandrill as part of her revenge. This follows his app in New Avengers #55-60 where Hood's ex-gang attack the NAv to impress Osborn.
Taskmaster himself in the Cabal getting blasted by Doctor Doom (part of Siege: The Cabal). This is after NAv#59 where he leads the defence of Camp HAMMER against the NAv.
Constrictor and Diamondback reading TM's letter (presumably written from his hospital bed).
Justice and Ultragirl sleeping together.
TM is visited by Osborn in hospital and ordered to help invade Asgard. He tries to back out but Norman threatens to cut off his oxygen supply.
Night Thrasher, after a flashback in #33 where he wrestles with his conscience over his brother's grave, discovers what Osborn is doing with his money.

Mandrill will next be seen with others of Hood's old gang in a flashback in NAv#64 where Hood rehires them to invade Asgard. Then in Siege he's in NAv#61-62 before returning here for #34.
Constrictor and Diamondback will be seen next with the rest of the Initiative in Siege #1 p11 where Ares exhorts them and the Dark Avengers to attack Asgard, and then on to next issue.
The recovered TM is in next issue trying to bolster the confidence of his Initiative troops.
Justice and Ultragirl are with the Resistance next issue where they learn that Osborn's troops have invaded Asgard after a staged atrocity involving the Asgardian Volstagg.
Night Thrasher in that issue reveals that Osborn payed the U-Foes to cause the atrocity.

Norman Osborn as usual will light the way through the closing issues of Dark Reign.
After the early part of this issue inspecting Camp HAMMER he'll lead his Dark Avengers as Iron Patriot in NAv#56-60 mentioned above. Then he'll oversee a crossover between his Thunderbolts and Nick Fury's Secret Warriors in TB#134-136 and SW#7-9. He'll be involved in Captain America: Reborn before TB#137.
Then he'll start ticking off his bucket list with Dark Reign: The List: Avengers where he'll capture Ronin, but the NAv will rescue him in their Annual #3. Undaunted NO will continue his list with DRL: Daredevil, X-Men, Secret Warriors, Punisher and Hulk. He'll accompany his Dark Avenger Daken into Dark Wolverine #78-80 before tackling Daken's dad in DRL: Wolverine. DAv An#1, DW#81 and the Dark X-Men miniseries follow before Norman completes his list with DRL: Amazing Spider-Man.
He then fills in time with Mighty Av #32-33, Daredevil #504 and overseeing Madame Masque hunting Tony Stark in Iron Man #14-20. Then DAv: Ares #3, Vengeance of the Moon Knight #2, Sword #4 and back to the Thunderbolts to send them against the Agents of Atlas in TB#138-140. Then things come to a head with Sentry in DAv#14.
Then we move into Siege territory with Siege: Cabal overlapping with DAv #15, including Taskmaster getting zapped by Dr Doom here. Then the NAv#64 fb where Hood brings his old gang to support NO's invasion of Asgard, and NO visits TM in hospital in this issue.
Then Siege #1 starts and within that Ares rouses the troops, mentioned above, Night Thrasher discovers Osborn's plan in our #33 fb and in #32 the Resistance see the invasion triggered off.

Loki does lots of stuff between his 2 Cabal apps here, but doesn't return to this series again.
Apart from S:C Dr Doom steers clear of Siege. Prior to this he was involved in Fall of the Hulks and World War Hulks. After this he will go on to other stuff starting with X-Factor #201-202 with the Fantastic Four.

Hood gets the power of the Norn Stones from Loki in NAv#56-60. He uses them in Dr Voodoo #3-4, then continues in MAv#32, IM#20, VoMK#2-3, ASM#626, S:C~DAv#15, NAv#64fb, NAv#61 and back here for #33.



Rafa Sandoval
Roger Bonet
Edgar Delgado
David Yardin (Cover Penciler)
David Yardin (Cover Inker)
David Yardin (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Joe Caramagna.
Editor: Bill Rosemann.

Characters

Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Diamondback
Diamondback

(Rachel Leighton)
Doctor Doom
Doctor Doom

(Victor Von Doom)
Iron Patriot
Iron Patriot

(Norman Osborn)
Loki
Loki

(Loki Laufeyson)
Tigra
Tigra

(Greer Nelson)

Plus: Black Mamba, Justice (Vance Astrovik), Komodo, Night Thrasher (Donyell Taylor), Penance, Ultragirl.

> Avengers: The Initiative: Book info and issue index

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