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Comic Book / Avengers: The Initiative

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Following the events of the Civil War, Iron Man opens "Camp Hammond," a military base where heroes old and new are trained to be "proper" heroes. But as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions — and Camp Hammond has many secrets behind it, with many agendas working not to make better heroes at all...

Avengers: The Initiative lasted for 35 issues over three years (June 2007-June 2010). A Spinoff from The Avengers, initially based around Super Hero Bootcamp, the series would soon began to serve as a look at the wider Post-Civil War Marvel Universe from the perspective of C and D list characters. Some characters were new, some classic, but only a few major leading characters appeared throughout its run.

It often crossed over with other big events going on at the time, such as World War Hulk, Secret Invasion and Dark Reign, the later two of which enormously altered its status quo. It was succeeded by Avengers Academy, and many of its characters re-appeared in the Fear Itself tie in "Youth In Revolt."


Not to be confused with Avengers Initiative, which is a tie-in to Marvel: Avengers Alliance for iOS and Android.

Tropes used in Avengers: The Initiative include:

  • A Day In The Spot Light: The series in general. Special mention goes to #27, the short story "Even the Losers" focusing on a one-off Dazzler villain named Johnny Guitar, and manages to make it one of the most poignant character deaths for a C-Lister within the Millennial decade.
  • Accidentally Broke the MacGuffin: Crusader reverses the affect of the newly-appointed 3D Man's glasses making him think all of the humans at Camp Hammond were Skrulls save Crusader and leading him to try to find assistance against the Skrull invasion elsewhere.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Constrictor's arms are sliced off with razor wire by KIA. Somehow, he avoids bleeding out.
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  • Appropriated Appelation: Butterball was originally an insult from Taskmaster that later became his actual codename.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Emery Schaub aka Boulder Butterball.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Terrence Ward, AKA Trauma, has the ability to take the form of a person's greatest fear, which is typically a power or ability that villains enjoy to employ. Trauma has instead tried to re-channel it into a therapeutic tool.
  • Berserk Button: Eric O'Grady insults Scott Lang... within earshot of the guy's daughter.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • Trauma initially feels this way about his powers. He has the ability to become whatever another person fears, which also means that he has some degree of empathetic ability. He has very limited control over this, however, and thus not only did the manifestation of his powers tear his family apart, it also causes his own teammates to panic when they're around him. Worse, even though the government has the power to remove his abilities, they refuse, on the grounds that his powers make him too attractive an asset. This leads to considerable frustration when the Hood becomes the new director of training and expects Trauma to use his powers to keep the trainees in line.
    • Emery Schaub, AKA Butterball, is cursed with literal invincibility. His body is unaffected by everything from death rays to dieting and exercise, meaning he's forever stuck as an untouchable, unkillable overweight weakling. His invincibility also prevents him from feeling physical pleasure (which led to discomfort when Sunstreak tried to come on to him).
    • Hardball's brother arranged to receive heightened strength and endurance from the Power Broker in hopes of pursuing a career in the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation. Unfortunately for him, the League was already full of people who were stronger and more durable, and thus he ended up paralyzed but incapable of being killed by any normal means, thus bankrupting his family.
  • Blood Knight: The entire Skrull Kill Krew.
  • Boot Camp Episode: The boot camp mostly serves as a background setting for the adventures in this series.
  • Breaking Speech: Spider-Man unleashes one on Komodo when she's sent to arrest him, telling her that she'll be depowered for failing. It's enough to make her break down in tears.
  • Break the Cutie: Cloud 9 during the first thirteen issues. She goes from a sweet, innocent kid, who by the time of Secret Invasion has become a remorseless Cold Sniper.
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • The Initiative decides to send untrained kids after Spider-Man, who is in a ferociously bad mood after his Aunt May was fatally injured.
    • Gyrich claims Iron Man has the then-recently deceased Captain America's blood on his hands. Tony doesn't take it well.
  • Charles Atlas Super Power: MVP, great-grandson of one of the scientists working on Captain America's Super Soldier serum, became a perfect human specimen by following an experimental diet and training regiment since birth.
  • C-List Fodder:
    • Explored and invoked.
    • Gorilla Girl states this is the reason for getting the hell out of dodge once she leaves Camp Hammond.
  • Cloning Blues: MVP and the Scarlet Spiders.
  • Clueless Boss: War Machine, the leader of the Hammond base... at least on paper. MVP died in training, all those who saw it were sworn to secrecy, and he did not know anything about that. Gyrich organizes a "shadow team" for secret operations, and again, War Machine had no clue of the things gong on at his base.
  • Comic Book Death: Trauma is killed by KIA. He wakes up in his coffin, after being embalmed. This turn of events confuses him as much as it does everyone else.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Hardball was blackmailed by an agent of HYDRA to obtain a sample of the SPIN technology. He did so in the night, infiltrated into the secret labs, took it, saw the agent outside and returned to the barracks, for some sleep. And then Gauntlet show up to wake them for more training... and praised Hardball for having his clothes and bed already done. It seems he will become a super soldier, and not a silly New Warrior!
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Trauma notes that Gyrich's greatest fear is getting Alzheimer's, like his father.
    • In the first issue, Gyrich talks about M-Day shifting the super-human balance of power back into America's favor.
  • Covers Always Lie: That image up there? Half the heroes in that shot never appeared in the comic during its run. Many of them were never part of the Initiative in the first place. Iron Man, who's front and center, only appeared a handful of times, and almost never interacted with the rest of the cast.
  • Crazy-Prepared: When Norman Osborn took the reins of government and the original members became fugitive outlaws, Gauntlet's wife said on TV that he's not the man she married, and doesn't want anything to do with him anymore. The others tell Gauntlet that she surely didn't mean that — and Gauntlet reveals that he told her to say that if he was ever in such a scenario, so she doesn't become a fugitive as well.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Komodo, who is also a Lizard Folk.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: In its early days, the Initiative buys out a number of former villains, including Taskmaster, Constrictor, and Baron von Blitzschlag.
  • Defacement Insult: After kicking the crap out of Gauntlet for insulting his dead friends, Slapstick further rubs it in by spray-painting the New Warriors symbol on his body.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: A little girl flying about on a puff of cloud? Scramble F-22s and send War Machine after her!
  • Doppelgänger Gets Same Sentiment: Trauma uses his fear-based powers as a therapy method, transforming into a form that allows the client to face their worst fear and gain release. In one case, he turns into a man's father to assure him he won't get Alzheimer's like he did.
  • Downer Ending: For Crusader. After coming to Earth as a spy, he grows to enjoy Earth and human culture and signs up to become a registered superhero. He spends the whole story trying to hide his Skrull form, fights alongside Earth's heroes, kills many Skrull invaders including his Skrull best friend from his early training days, and ends up unceremoniously shot through the head after being uncovered as a Skrull by the 3-D Man right in the middle of being congratulated for his service to Earth by fellow heroes. Despite everything he's tried to do for Earth, his death is written off as just being another Skrull and his last moments are spent wishing things could have turned out differently.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Gauntlet, always insulting the recruits to turn them into good soldiers, who specifically uses "New Warrior" as his worst insult. A flashback shows he was like this before he became a drill sergeant. Eventually Slapstick gets fed up with the man insulting his dead friends, and subjects him to a brutal, bloody beatdown.
    • Later Taskmaster serves this role as well, though he takes specific note off the bat that he's going in a different route from Gauntlet.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Young Avengers Wiccan and Hulkling are seen in early issues as part of the Initiative. Later issues in other titles would quite emphatically state that they were not, and never were, part of the Initiative, and they quickly disappeared from the title. A rather tongue-in-cheek issue of She-Hulk tried to establish that the Wiccan and Hulkling in Avengers Initiative were actually inter-dimensional tourists out for a lark.
  • Empathic Weapon: The Tactigon has enough of a mind of its own that Trauma can mimic its fear which actually screws him when he faces off against KIA, who has no idea what it is or why he should fear it, enabling him to take Trauma out.
    • Gauntlet's gauntlet, which took over his comatose body to battle the Tactigon during the KIA arc.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Humorously subverted when Gyrich is fired and tries to claim that he's stepping down to spend more time with his family, to which Sally Floyd responds that he has no family.
    • Johnny Guitar may be a career criminal (albeit a not-particularly-successful one), but he only went into a life of crime to provide for his daughter.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: How do we recognize Gauntlet's wife when we see her? With that big word in her clothes that says "wife."
  • Face–Heel Turn: Hardball, one of the first recruits in the series becomes a high ranking member of Hydra. He later gets better.
  • Fantastic Racism: 3D Man comes to take this view, that all Skrulls need to die, regardless of whose side they're on.
  • Five-Man Band: The initial recruits.
    • The Hero: MVP.
    • The Lancer: Hardball.
    • The Big Guy: Komodo and Armory.
    • The Smart Guy: Trauma.
    • The Chick: Cloud 9.
    • MVP is accidentally killed by Armory in the first issue; Armory is then sent to a psychiatric hospital after having the source of her powers removed. When the remaining cadets graduate, they're all sent to different teams. Future issues follow a rotating ensemble cast in addition to these kids.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Stated by Gyrich as the reason to create an army of super heroes.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Tigra becomes pregnant as a result of her affair with the Skrull impersonating Hank Pym. While she initially considers getting an abortion, the choice is more or less taken away from her when events force her to go underground.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: Why Crusader turns against the Skrulls.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: 3D Man, after killing Crusader at the end of the Secret Invasion arc.
  • I Know What You Fear: Trauma's power is to transform into whatever another person near him fears.
  • Jerkass:
    • Henry Peter Gyrich spends the first thirteen issues in top form. He covers up MVP's death, has the recruit dissected, cloned, then hands a clone over to the guy's father and lies about his son's death, has Armory, the one who (accidentally) killed him kicked out, institutionalized and constantly monitored by a plant.
    • Eric O'Grady spends his screen-time finding ever more inventive ways to be a putz. Hiding during the KIA incident, mocking Scott Lang and blaming his own Covert Pervert tendencies on him, mocking one of K.I.A's victims...
    • Among the recruits, Hardball stands out
  • Karma Houdini: Slapstick is never implicated for his attack on Gauntlet nor for taking a device that contained the villain's K.I.A's personality at the end of the K.I.A. arc.
  • Killed Off for Real: Quite a few. the original MVP and two of his four active clones, Johnny Guitar, Whiz Kid, Proton and possibly Spinner and Crusader. Despite this, none really feel like a waste of a character nor done for cheap drama.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Gyrich claims Iron Man is responsible for Captain America's then-recent death, and honestly believes he can survive whatever Stark throws at him. Smash Cut to two hours later, and Gyrich announcing his departure from Camp Hammond.
  • Logical Weakness: Trauma's power is impressive, he turns into a living embodiment of someone's fears, but (obviously) it does not work with robots. It also doesn't work on someone who has overcome their fears, as the Hulk quite emphatically demonstrates.
  • Magnetic Hero: Butterball who at the end of his arc had won over formerly antagonistic teammates and instructors to the point Taskmaster and the Constrictor actually posed for picture with Butterball, making it look like they lost a fight just to make up for his being kicked out of Camp Hammond.
  • Meaningful Name: Baron von Blitzschlag's given name, Wernhar, is a nod to Wernhar von Braun, a Nazi aerospace engineer who defected to the United States after World War II.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Hardball steals a set of super-powered nanites from Iron Man, which the very next day turn out to be the ones Tony planned to use on the Hulk during the opening issue of World War Hulk.
    • The decision to cover up MVP's death comes back to bite the entire Initiative in the ass when Norman Osborn uses the cover-up as a pretense to overhaul the Initiative so that he can stuff it full of supervillains.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Hardball originally intended to be a villain, but in his first attempt to commit a crime, he saved a life by accident, he was seen by Wonder Man, and taken to the training camp, as Wonder Man mistook him for an aspiring superhero.
  • Percussive Prevention: Johnny Guitar uses his guitar to shatter the bones in Doctor Sax's hand and destroy his sax, which causes him to be retired from the Shadow Initiative just before a suicide mission.
  • Pet the Dog: Gauntlet's daughter asked him to make a child's trick of a "bunny" before leaving to work. And, for a fraction of a second, Gauntlet stopped acting like a hardened badass and was nice and a good parent with his small daughter.
  • Punchclock Villain: Constrictor was only ever a supervillain for the money, so he readily signs up for the Initiative.
  • Random Effect Spell: Spinner's power is to get a random super powers every 24 hours.
  • The Real Heroes. Gyrich said in an outburst that he wanted to "turn heroes into soldiers, and soldiers into heroes". Gaunlet then politely informs him that soldiers are heroes, and if he ever says a similar thing again, he will take his #"@&%$!º/= and stuff it into his &/)=?,:%.
    Grynch (completely straightfaced): Of course, Gauntlet, my apologies.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: As a military trainer, Gauntlet gives those to the recruits on a daily basis.
  • Rotating Arcs: The series shifts focus on different groups of characters each arc.
  • Rules Lawyer: During the Dark Reign era, Osborn's lawyers arrange for the Ms. Marvel costume to be taken away from Ultragirl after learning that the rights to the costume had been signed away to the Avengers so that it could be licensed for charitable use, and thus Danvers had not been authorized to give the costume away.
  • Shoo Out the New Guy: MVP dies in the first issue.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Violet Lightner a.k.a. Armory's entire story in the series. She attempts to jump off a bridge, but is saved by the Tactigon which she uses to try to be a hero. On her first day she kills a fellow cadet, is driven out of the program, has the Tactigon surgically removed and is stashed in a mental hospital so she can't tell anyone about what happened with little hope to be released, on account of her shrink working directly for Gyrich.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Osborn supporter Constrictor and Diamondback, who was a double agent working to bring Osborn down.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero / Fun with Acronyms: MVP stands for Michael Van Patrick. Each of his first three clones take one name for themselves.
  • Stripperiffic: Moonstone grumbles about Ms. Marvel's old costume, which she happens to be wearing at the time (although it is admittedly more modest than Ms. Marvel's then-current costume).
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham: During World War Hulk, the recruits escaped and fought Hulk on their own. They were defeated and captured. To prevent the political scandal, Gyrich sent the shadow team to infiltrate Hulk's base, liberate them and return. And Bengal pointed out: if they are there, shouldn't they liberate the other captured heroes as well? No, they have a very limited time (and besides, that would completely change the story).
  • Super Soldier:
    • Technically what the camp tries to turn the 'recruits' into through various training regimes.
    • MVP is a great-grandson of Doctor Erskine, the scientist behind the program that created Captain America. Michael's parents found some of Eskine's notes outlining a training and dietary regime that helped turn Michael into super-soldier over the course of his childhood.
  • Super Zeroes: Butterball is a rather sad example of this trope.
  • Swiss Army Weapon: The Tactigon adapts itself to fit the situation or the opponent's weaknesses.
  • Training from Hell: Did you think that Charles Xavier enjoys watching teenagers sweat? The X-Mansion is a vacation resort compared to this.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: During the Dark Reign era, Norman Osborn appoints the Hood as the new director of the Initiative. Things quickly go downhill.
  • Villain Protagonist: Taskmaster and several other villains during several of the Dark Reign arcs.
  • Walking Spoiler: Everything about the Spider-Clones.
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Gauntlet's wife, she wears a full American flag over her skirt.
  • Wild Teen Party: Just replace "teen" with "supervillain", and it's the same. All the villains are having a wild party, and the Supervisor (who was also taking part in it) answers to Norman Osborn in the phone. Those noises in the background? No, sir, that's not music, those are explosions! We are training here, training like hell! Norman shows up the next day. The supervisor had managed to clean up all the mess and make it seem as if it was a serious military base... but Norman realized that it was all a set-up anyway.


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