You say you hate decompressed storytelling and long for the days of done-in-one stories? Well, Christos Gage has written the comic for you as not only is it self-contained, it takes what could have been two separate issues, and makes them two chapters in this single issue. It's quite the feat as Gage demonstrates just how much you can pack into 22 pages of a superhero comic book.
This issue shows how Norman Osborn's newly taken over Initiative handles Blastaar's conquering of 42, the Negative Zone prison Tony Stark created during "Civil War," first, by spotlighting a lesser-known, somewhat pathetic z-grade supervillain who's joined up, and, then, by showing the actual battle. The strong lead-up to the actual fight for 42 gives it some added weight when it finally happens, because we're emotionally invested in these villains and their fight.
The first half of the issue, titled "Even the Losers," is narrated by Johnny Guitar, a lame villain who fought Dazzler with his partner, Dr. Sax, "back when she looked good." His story may be one you're familiar with, but Gage tells it through his voice very well. There's the right mix of pathos and self-pity in Johnny's story of wanting to be a rock star, but getting stuck as some crappy villain that went nowhere now given a chance to finally make something out of himself under Norman Osborn's Initiative.
Johnny is a sympathetic character despite his bad choices. His friendship with Dr. Sax is very endearing. Gage finds something interesting to say in these somewhat obscure Dazzler villains and he's our window into the mission to reclaim 42.
The second half focuses on that mission and doesn't really match up to its lead-in. Cage includes numerous funny moments and some solid strategies on the parts of the villains, but after Johnny's story, it feels a little empty and deflating.
Rafa Sandoval's art is full of crisp, clean lines. He has a real knack for creating shots that work with Gage's writing. Since a lot of the issue is Johnny's story, Sandoval provides illustrations that have to cover a lot of ground and time periods. His opening splash page featuring the duo fighting Dazzler is full of energy and kicks things off right. Sometimes, though, his panels get a little too cramped and what's going on becomes unclear. This is especially problematic during the fight for 42, which is chaotic in a confusing way. He's a very dynamic artist, though, and does some good work in the issue.
"Avengers: The Initiative" #27 is a fantastic done-in-one issue that compresses a two-part story into a single issue without feeling rushed. If you haven't tried this book yet, this issue is completely new reader friendly and definitely worth paying three bucks for.