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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."

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The first twenty-five issues were co-written by Dan Slott and Christos Gage, until the end of Secret Invasion, when Slott went off to write Mighty Avengers, with Gage writing the remaining ten issues.

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:

  • Aborted Arc: Earlier issues had dark hints that Slapstick — a jokey character with Loony Tunes-like powers — was slowly going insane, like when he beat the Gantlet into a coma, or kept a device with the brain patterns of the murderous KIA for some purpose. He actually tries several times to talk about this, almost confessing to nearly killing the Gauntlet to his teammates and mentioning at one point that he can't go back to his Secret Identity as Steve Harmon anymore — but every time he does, he either gets interrupted or dismissed as more of his wacky antics. It was an interesting subplot — that ends up going nowhere, thanks to the events of Secret Invasion and Dark Reign completely changing the plot of the whole series. We never find out what he does with the brain pattern device, either.
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  • 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.
  • Accidental Hero: How Hardball winds up in the Initiative in the first place. He'd planned on using his powers to commit crimes (to pay for his brother's medical treatment). First time out, he knocked over an armored security van when it was about to run over a little girl. Wonder Man saw this happening and assumed Hardball was trying to be a hero.
  • 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.
  • Adult Fear: When Gauntlet goes on the run, he's got to deal with the fact that while his wife has distanced herself from him to save herself, he's still got to live with the fact he's abandoned his wife and two kids.
  • An Arm and a Leg:
    • The whole reason Komodo got started. She lost her legs in a car accident, and used a knock-off of the Lizard serum to give herself some new ones.
    • Constrictor's arms are sliced off with razor wire by KIA. Somehow, he avoids bleeding out.
  • 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. He later manages to gain control of his powers and starts using them as a therapeutic tool, by moderating them so people could confront their fears instead of being overwhelmed by them.
    • 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 to a remorseless Cold Sniper by the time of Secret Invasion.
  • Broken Record: Debriefing in the Shadow Initiative with Gyrich gets headache inducing when Mutant Zero shows up. Because there are one-hundred and ninety-eight mutants, and Mutant Zero? There is no Mutant Zero.
    Constrictor: I'm in Hell, and it's a bad Abbott and Costello sketch.
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • The Initiative decides to send Komodo, a still-green recruit, after Spider-Man, who is in a ferociously bad mood after his Aunt May was fatally injured. Even with War Machine backing her up, it doesn't end well.
    • Gyrich claims Iron Man has the then-recently deceased Captain America's blood on his hands. Tony doesn't take it well.
  • The Bus Came Back: The Skrull Kill Krew reappear in the Secret Invasion issues. Well, sort of. Due to their condition, all but two of them are now on the verge of death. By the end, they're just down to one.
  • Captain Patriotic: The Liberteens play their Americana-ness to the hilt. Well, with a name like that, they'd kind of have to...
  • 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.
    • Proton, who joins up midway through the first year, never gets any real character moments, and is the only one murdered by the Skrulls during Secret Invasion.
    • 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 dies in training, all those who see it are sworn to secrecy, and he dosn't know anything about that. Gyrich organizes a "shadow team" for secret operations, and again, War Machine has 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 is blackmailed by an agent of HYDRA to obtain a sample of the SPIN technology. He does so in the night, infiltrates the secret labs, takes a sample, gets it to the agent outside and returns to the barracks for some sleep. And then Gauntlet shows up to wake them for more training... and praises 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 takes the reins of government and the original members become fugitive outlaws, Gauntlet's wife says 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.
  • Dirty Coward: Ant-Man Eric O'Grady's usual response to a situation is to run and hide. It sort of backfires on him during Secret Invasion, since he stays at Camp Hammond... which the Skrulls take as their operations center.
  • 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.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Baron von Blitzschlag frequently complains about not getting any respect. The fact he's a former freaking Nazi just doesn't seem to click with him.
  • 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 — the Tactigon may fear it, but its wielder doesn't, 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.
  • Friendship Moment: The Irredeemable Ant-Man and Taskmaster become buddies during the KIA incident, when they decide to sit out the carnage and watch Chuck on Erik's iPod.
  • 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.
  • Handwave: How does Yellowjacket survive being on an exploding helicarrier? Shrinking! How'd he survive getting killed by KIA? Shrinking again! Actually, it's because he's a Skrull cover agent, using his superpowers to survive. Actually, he's annoyed by how everyone just accepts his cockamamie stories.
  • 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.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The Hood just eats Vampiro when he starts mouthing off at him.
  • 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, then has Armory, the one who (accidentally) killed him kicked out, institutionalized and constantly monitored by a plant.
    • Gauntlet spends most of his page time being an asshole, which as a drill sergeant is technically his job, but he does so by repeatedly insulting the New Warriors.
    • 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...
  • 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.
  • Killer Robot: "Ragnarok", the Thor clone from Civil War, is kept on the camp grounds for study. After Secret Invasion, it reactivates, and promptly goes on a rampage.
  • Klingon Promotion: Hardball is groomed to be a mole for HYDRA, but when the situation goes belly-up, he just kills his boss and takes his job. Which, since this is standard operating procedure for HYDRA, goes pretty well.
  • Lampshade Hanging: A very harsh example used by Gorilla Girl when she prepares to leave, pointing out three things: She's black, she turns into a gorilla, and no-one's ever heard of her. By superhero standards, she's a dead duck. So she's GTFO. She actually turns out to be wrong.
  • 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 doesn't work with robots. It also doesn't work on someone who has overcome their fears, as the Hulk quite emphatically demonstrates.
  • Madness Mantra: KIA likes to say "killed in action".
  • Magnetic Hero: Butterball who at the end of his arc had won over formerly antagonistic teammates and instructors to the point where 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.
    • Justice and the New Warriors revealing how the Initiative covered up MVP's death and cloned him multiple times comes back to bite everyone in the ass when Norman Osborn uses the reveal 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.
  • No-Sell: Trauma's powers don't work on Dani Moonstar, who just wrestles him to the floor. They don't work on the Hulk either, because the Green Scar is just too pissed to be afraid.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten:
    • Hank Pym (or a Skrull impersonating him) is a main character, so he still gets shrift over Ultron, and hitting Jan (which Trauma shows is his worst fear).
    • Prodigy's drunken fight with Iron Man in Civil War: Front Line.
  • 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 asks him to make a child's trick of a "bunny" before leaving for work. And, for a fraction of a second, Gauntlet stops acting like a hardened badass and is nice and good parent with his small daughter.
    • Taskmaster and Constrictor let the washed-out Butterball get a going away present of a photo looking like he's beaten them in a fight to take home to his mom (with the agreement they'll never tell anyone about it).
  • 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 says in an outburst that he wants 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.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: On taking control of the Initiative, Norman Osborn gives Prodigy a plumb job leading a team of his own. But they've already got a leader, Gravity, who Norman informs is getting transferred. To Wisconsin, and the Great Lakes Initiative. Gravity... is not enthusiastic about this.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: As a military trainer, Gauntlet gives those to the recruits on a daily basis.
  • The Reveal: Mutant Zero is Typhoid Mary, she of Daredevil fame.
  • 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.
  • Sacrificial Lion: MVP dies in the first issue.
  • Sanity Slippage: Penance, formerly known as Speedball, after but a few short weeks in the care of Norman Osborn's choice of shrinks, has lost all the progress Doc Samson made over in Thunderbolts, to the extent he's barely functional at all.
  • Sequel Hook: When last seen, the not-quite dead Crusader uses his ring to warp himself away to parts unknown... as of 2019, there's been no sign of him.
  • 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.
  • Sinister Shades: Henry Gyrich is probably at his absolute worst in this series, and his shades are utterly opaque.
  • Spotting the Thread: Ragnarok initially freaks out when Trauma uses his powers to look like Thor, until the robot notices Trauma isn't fighting like a trained warrior. He's just charging like a bull, and not even throwing Mjolnir.
  • 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 escape and fight Hulk on their own. They're defeated and captured. To prevent the political scandal, Gyrich sends the shadow team to infiltrate Hulk's base, liberate them and return. Bengal asks why they don't liberate the other captured heroes while they're there? 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.
  • There Are No Therapists: Actually, there is, and it's Trauma. But when Osborn takes charge, he blackmails him into staying, so Trauma can sign off Penance as good for duty.
  • Trading Bars for Stripes: How some of the "recruits" wind up at Camp Hammond, though given the "bars" come with life imprisonment without trial or parole, some of those recruits point out it's not a fair choice. Not helping is that some people (Hank Pym) are very self-righteous about this.
  • 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 for all the non-villains left.
  • Villain Ball: Good old Skrulls. Throughout Secret Invasion, every time 3-D Man reveals one of their impostors, they immediately drop their disguise and go on the attack.
  • 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.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The Avengers Resistance, consisting of the former New Warriors, the other New Warriors, and some strays from the Initiative. They don't get along.
  • Wild Teen Party:
    • The Liberteens throw one, much to their boss's irritation.
    • 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 on 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 has managed to clean up all the mess and make it seem as if it was a serious military base... but Norman realizes that it was all a set-up anyway.

NO MORE TROPES! BUT NOBODY SAID YOU COULD TAKE A REST! RUN, RUN, RUN!
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