Review by Will Morgan
We open with a contemplative Hank Pym, founder member of the Avengers, and someone who’s undergone a severe traumatic experience in the course of the previous Secret Invasion. He’s dining with his recently-deceased wife, Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp. The talking-to-dead-spouse angle is offbeat enough to maintain interest through the exposition, while handily filling in new folks on The Story So Far.
Along the way, We touch on Tigra’s fears about her pregnancy and see the depth of Hank’s desperation for forgiveness, when it is revealed that the ‘Jan’ he was talking to was Jocasta, the Ultron-created robot programmed with Jan’s mental patterns, and the closest he can get to her. Even in his darkest moment, though, when offered an easy ‘Get Out Of Jail’ card – the opportunity to erase all his past transgressions – Hank faces the truth, admits his actions, and arrives at a difficult decision. It’s a strong script – the last contribution by original writer Dan Slott – and although intriguing, could have been gripping with better artwork. Unfortunately, fill-in artist Steve Kurth is barely competent, and far misses the emotional markers the story hands him.
After that, we’re into a shakeup storyline, as the effects of the Skrull invasion take their toll. Characters depart, either because they’ve found themselves completely inadequate with regard to the heroic life, because their purpose has evaporated with the conclusion of the Skrull War, or because the real ‘them’ was never there, and has no attachment to the Initiative. The Shadow Initiative’s last mission goes belly-up as, midstream, Norman Osborn’s cabal takes over from the discredited Initiative personnel, and he disavows all knowledge of the ‘Covert Ops’ team. The truth behind Trauma’s parentage is revealed, and Camp Hammond is demolished by the wrathful citizenry of Stamford.
All of this clearing the decks for the new status quo is illustrated by Humberto Ramos, an artist who’s very Marmite – people who like him like him a lot, while the rest can’t stand him and don’t ‘get it’. That being said, his hyper-exaggerated cartoony style is better suited here, to the high-action Shadow Initiative segment and the remaining Initiative’s battle with Ragnarok (the ‘clone Thor’ from Civil War), so his presence is actually welcomed.
The volume closes by introducing Reptil, a Latino boy with the ability to turn any part of him into a dinosaur’s natural weapon (claws, wings, what have you). He originated on Marvel’s Super Hero Squad animated TV show, and was quickly shoehorned into comics. It’s a decent character intro, but we barely come to know the neophyte hero before he’s whisked off again to the Savage Land, and invisible for the remainder of the series. Not to fret, though – he’ll loom rather larger in Avengers Academy and Avengers Arena.
The transitional nature of this volume makes it a bit more hit and miss than most in the series, but still solid, intriguing storytelling marred only by some poor artistic choices. The series continues with Dreams & Nightmares.