Gage Takes "The Initiative"

As the U.S. government's top superhuman law enforcer, Norman Osborn has many weapons at his disposal, but the deadliest one has to be The Initiative, the superhuman division of the U.S. Army. Under Osborn's control, The Initiative has become much more ruthless and vicious; in a recent operation some of the least powerful and impressive members were sent in first so they could act as cannon fodder and draw enemy fire. The ranks of The Initiative have also become rife with supervillains, with Osborn even going so far as to appoint fellow Cabal member and head of the supervillain underworld, The Hood, as his second command.

All hope is not lost, however. Some Initiative members were disgusted by Osborn's rule and went underground where they joined forces with members of the New Warriors to form the Avengers Resistance. In "Avengers: The Initiative" #28 the Resistance came to the aid of the Heavy Hitters, an Initiative team that also decided they had enough of Osborn and were seceding from his organization. The Resistance was able to help most of the Heavy Hitters escape, but the mission was not a complete success. Resistance member, Night Thrasher, and Prodigy, the leader of the Heavy Hitters, were captured by Osborn's people. CBR News spoke with "Avengers: The Initiative" writer Christos Gage about the next battle in the struggle between the Resistance and Osborn, as well as the title's involvement in "Siege," the Avengers family crossover event coming from Marvel Comics in January.

In issue #28, it seemed like leaving behind Prodigy and Night Thrasher was a pretty heavy blow for Resistance member Justice. How's he handling that, come issue #29?

He's handling it by leading a strike on Camp H.A.M.M.E.R. to get Night Thrasher back!

Let's talk about some of the Resistance members that will be assisting with that strike. It seems like Tigra has really taken to being part of the Resistance, and it seems like you've taken a liking to her, as well. What is it about the character that you find so compelling? And why do you think Tigra is such a good fit with the Resistance?

Her powers lend themselves to guerrilla warfare - catlike agility, heightened senses, stalking ability, etc. And she's a veteran Avenger, the most senior Avenger of the group, so in the absence of a Cap or Iron Man, we're seeing her leadership skills rise to the forefront.

I find a lot of things compelling about her - her look, her backstory, her status as one of Marvel's first 'women's movement' characters. And the struggles she's been through lately, being attacked by the Hood and so forth, give her some powerful motivation. In fact, it would be very easy to take that motivation too far - which regular readers know she may well be in danger of doing. She'll continue to play a prominent role going forward.

While Tigra almost seems to be enjoying her role in the Resistance, the Gauntlet seems to be a lot quieter now that he's part of the group. How is the former Initiative drill instructor handling the fact that he's now working against his former superiors?

It's tough. He swore an oath to obey his superiors, and Norman Osborn is that. But it's also a soldier's duty to disobey unlawful orders, and he believes Norman is pursuing an illegal course of action. Still, it's hard for this old soldier to be in the role of insurgent. Also, he's had to separate from his family, and that's crushing him. He's going through a hard time.

The Resistance are a vital part of "Avengers: The Initiative," but they are still just a part of a larger ensemble cast. The end of issue #28 had a scene that seemed to indicate that Trauma, The Initiative's counselor, would be stepping into the spotlight. In that scene, a sleeping Trauma is tormented by his father, the demonic being known as Nightmare. How would you describe the dynamic between these characters? And refresh my memory - are they aware of their familial connections?

Nightmare definitely knows he is Trauma's father - in fact, in issue #29 we'll see that Nightmare plans things far ahead, indeed. Trauma just found out that Nightmare is his real father in issue #26. He's not happy about it. He's been shaken to his core, and it's affected him badly. Issues #29 and 30 get into the relationship between the two of them. The story brings up issues of family ties, to what extent we can defy the circumstances we're born into, and how far the apple falls from the tree.

It sounds like, in issues #29-30, the stories involving Nightmare and the Avengers Resistance collide? Is that true?

Yes. It all happens at once. While the Avengers Resistance is trying to break Night Thrasher out of Camp H.A.M.M.E.R., Nightmare attacks. And to an extent, the two enemy sides have to join together to fight him. But the old 'meet, fight, team up, part as friends' dynamic is highly unlikely to apply here...

Issues #29-30 feature art by Jorge Molina, and issue #31 features the return of regular series artist, Rafa Sandoval, correct? What can people expect from their work?

That's right, the super-talented Jorge is drawing issues #29 and 30, then Rafa returns for #31, our tie in to 'Siege: The Cabal'. Their styles are different, but equally exciting. Both are terrific storytellers and very strong at character work, which is really important in a book like this.

Jorge has come up with some gnarly, horrific visuals for Nightmare's assault, while Rafa is drawing the hell out of our Taskmaster-focused story - I think it'll really be something special.

Let's talk a little bit about issue #31. I know you're a fan of Taskmaster, and from the solicits, it sounds like he's moving up in the world, thanks to an offer from Norman Osborn to join his secret criminal Cabal. How does Taskmaster initially feel about Norman's offer to join the Cabal? In his mind, what are the pros and cons of joining such a group? What are his feelings on the groups' other members?

Taskmaster is definitely one of my favorites, going back to his first appearance. Not only does he have a great look and very cool powers - being able to duplicate any feat after seeing it just once - but I always loved the fact that he's got more sense than the average super-villain. He's smarter and not nearly as guided by ego or insanity. He has the sense to know when the odds are not in his favor and when to run like hell. He wants to get rich and live the good life, not rule the world or prove he's smarter than Reed Richards.

His more realistic outlook has kept him out of the ranks of villains like Norman, Dr. Doom and Loki - but he can't help looking at the big guns and wondering what it would be like to be one of them. And now he has his chance. What you're asking - how he feels about joining the Cabal and its members - is the crux of issue #31. Pick it up - you can't miss that awesome cover by David Yardin - and find out!

Taskmaster has shown that, if the money is right, he's capable of some nasty and vicious stuff, but it also seems to me that he's not a cruel or absolutely evil character. Do you think that's true?

I agree. He's not cruel or sadistic for its own sake. But he is selfish, greedy and out for number one. He's not going to kill women or kids, but he wouldn't take a bullet for them either. And he had no problem sending unprepared, out-powered z-list villains to their death in issue #27. I see him as similar to Tony Soprano in the sense that he's a guy you can see likable qualities in, you can root for him, but then he does something to remind you that he is most definitely not a nice guy. He's that kind of gray area character I love to write.

Is there anything else you can share about the plot of issue #31?

It shows the events that led to Taskmaster being invited to the Cabal's table, and what happened afterward. There are definitely other important things happening as well, concerning the Resistance, Constrictor, Diamondback, Justice, Ultragirl and others.

I imagine that issue #31 is also important because it leads into the "Siege" crossover.

Exactly. It's a direct lead-in. It sets up everything that happens during the "Siege" issues.

Will both the Avengers Resistance and The Initiative be involved in "Siege?" And do both sides play equal parts, or does one side have a stronger presence than the other?

The Initiative will be involved directly in Siege in that they are a major part of the action you'll see in the "Siege" event. They are Norman's shock troops against Asgard, on the front lines of the war. The Resistance will be involved in a different way - taking advantage of the distraction "Siege" poses for Norman Osborn to launch a major strike on his operations.

Will the action in "Siege" flow directly into the "Initiative" tie-in issues? Or will the story in "The Initiative" be more of a side mission that's directly related to "Siege?"

Both. It's going to be a war on two fronts. Several members of our cast will be directly involved in the action you see in Siege, and we'll be expanding upon and filling in parts of that. We just discussed that [during] the Avengers Retreat, in fact. Meanwhile, there'll be action at Camp H.A.M.M.E.R. that is influenced by and related to Siege, but not part of it in a geographic sense.

Any other plot hints or teases you can give about the "Siege" issues of "Avengers: The Initiative?"

I know readers often get annoyed with crossover issues that seem tangential and irrelevant to the main story. That won't be the case here. As I said, a number of our cast members are directly involved in "Siege" - in a very physical and bloody way. Many plotlines will come to a head, and by the end of it, everything will be different. That's not idle hype - it's fact!

In terms of scope and scale, how big of a story is "Siege" for the cast of "Avengers: The Initiative?"And how large of an impact will the fallout from the story have on these characters?

Huge on both counts. The Initiative goes up against their most powerful opponents yet. They're Norman's superhuman army, and like it or not, they're going to war - against gods. And the Avengers Resistance moves to take down Camp H.A.M.M.E.R. once and for all. The fallout will change everything. The status quo as it's been since issue #26 will be blown up. And no, it's not going back to what it was before Dark Reign - it'll be something totally different. Draw your own conclusions...

As a creator how does it feel to be part of "Siege," an event that will have a huge impact on the entire Avengers family of books?

Coming out of the Avengers Retreat, as both a fan and a creator, I could not be more excited about what's coming up in the Avengers family of books. If you haven't been picking them up, now's the time to start - you won't want to miss it later! Speaking to "Avengers: The Initiative" in particular, we've been getting great word of mouth and reviews lately, which I am very grateful for. We've been making a definite effort to make upcoming issues new reader friendly, so if you haven't been getting the book, there couldn't be a better time.

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