May 4th, 2012 seemed like a long way off. Especially looking ahead from the May 2nd, 2008 release of Iron Man. Or when The Incredible Hulk came out a few weeks after that. Or, when Iron Man 2 came out. Or even last year, when Captain America and Thor came out.
The Avengers, in theatres now, is a smashing box office success. After the opening weekend, an inevitable sequel was announced, surprising no one.
As an older fan, that has anticipated something like this for a very long time, I feel like SHIELD agent Phil Coulson. Giddy.
Marvel's The Avengers: The Avengers Initiative is designed to capitalize on that excitement. Unfortunately, it is both too much and not enough. Written by Fred Van Lente, with art by Ron Lim, The Avengers Iniative is supposed to be a prologue to The Avengers movie. It opens aboard the SHIELD helicarrier, with an 11pm security check-in. As each SHIELD agent checks in, a lone figure breaches security. He manages to start a download of Nick Fury's video file of The Avengers Initiative, which would assemble Captain America, The Hulk, Iron Man and Thor. What follows, is Fury's assessment of each hero, a voice-over of a solo adventure featuring each of The Big Four Avengers. Captain America chases down four Nazis in London; The Hulk faces mercenaries in India; Iron Man races glider pilots in Dubai; Thor battles the Executioner at the Dwarven Smith's Golden Forge in Asgard. As the video file downloads, however, the Black Widow discovers the spy and the two square off.
Each story is enjoyable. Thor's adventure is probably the most enjoyable, as it introduces The Executioner, a character that could show up in a Thor sequel or "threequel". Each story is designed to be a basic character study. Unfortunately, at $2.99, it's too much. This would be a better thing if it were offered as Marvel's Free Comic Book Day selection, or available as part of the 3-D package at the theatres. It's too little, in that this could have been expanded to a Marvel Universe Directory or Encyclopedia on The Avengers; a Secret Files or Who's Who, with extra pages on each character, from Black Widow to Phil Coulson, Maria Hill to Captain America. There could have been pages on Jane Foster and Betty Ross. It could have been offered at $4.99. That way it could been an incredible, and complete, film primer.
The issue with this issue, as it is, is that it all turns out to be predictable. At the end it turns out to be a training excercise to test the security of the SHIELD helicarrier. On it's own, the reveal at the end is a disappointment, when when taken with the movie, the comic's reveal is an even bigger disappointment. The story might have been better edited as a briefing, or as Fury reviewing his files for a briefing. The whole training excercise to test the helicarrier's security just falls flat, and seems a bit cliche and predictable. Maybe there will be a trade paperback collection in time for the Blu-Ray and DVD release that will have some bonus extras. I'd like to see some extra pages and a copy included with the Blu-Ray or DVD release like the comic adaptation of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was.