Spoilers in review

With the Marvel universe firmly in the grip of Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers, Taskmaster, head instructor of the now-corrupt Initiative, is promoted to membership of the Cabal, the group of beings running the world during ‘Dark Reign’… and suddenly, he finds he’s overstepped his limits. Savagely attacked by Doom in the first phase of his Cabal membership, Taskmaster is blackmailed by Osborn into remaining on message during his recuperation – but the ‘cover band of super-villains’ uses all his borrowed skills to set his own agenda in motion.

Omitted from the previous Dreams & Nightmares, the original Initiative faculty and students and the former New Warriors, are banded together as the Avengers Resistance and fighting the good fight underground. Some view the process as working their way towards redemption for their past errors, while others, like Tigra, are embracing their inner demons and rather liking the feeling.

Perceiving the proximity of Asgard – presently an embarrassingly short distance above Broxton Oklahoma – as a threat to the Cabal’s power, Osborn stages his own ‘Stamford’ event, involving mass civilian casualties, as an excuse to invade the suddenly-accessible Realm Eternal. While he and his force of heavy hitters are preoccupied, the New Warriors/Avengers Resistance combo attacks the Initiative’s stronghold of Camp HAMMER, lightly defended, and find some surprising allies among the remaining defenders.

Billing this as a Siege tie-in is misleading as, apart from the physical locale, this is much more about the people we have come to care about and the conclusion of their stories as the series runs its course. Yes, of course, the Cabal is defeated, Osborn discredited, and the Initiative disbanded; but what we care about is the faltering romance of Diamondback and Constrictor, the reluctant admiration we’ve developed for the reprehensible Taskmaster, the New Warriors’ battle for credibility, and the way that Christos Gage, with consummate skill, has taken ciphers, role-fillers, characterless costumes and power sets, and, whether new or established, involved us with their welfare.

The artistic contributions are excellent. Rafa Sandoval, Mahmud Asrar and Jorge Molina all bring their A-game, and while the action is pretty much nonstop apart from the final expositional pages, there’s enough quiet moments of introspection and soul-searching which are depicted with equal facility.

The Initiative’s purpose is served, but what happens next to the people we’ve become so involved with? Well, many of them – along with new friends and foes – are next seen in the replacement series, Avengers Academyas the drama continues…