Written by Dan Slott
Art by Steve Uy
This special is broken up into two stories. The main story revolves around Hardball and Komodo, two of my favourite characters in the series, and deals with Komodo finding out about Hardball's connections to Hydra from earlier in the series. The second story deals with Trauma's origin, so to speak.
While the main story was satisfactory, I think it was a rushed conclusion to the Hardball storyline, which we haven't heard from since WWH. It's also odd saying that it felt rushed when you consider the fact their story was over 30 pages long, far more than a regular monthly 22 page story.
The special kicked off with a brief introduction to Hardball and Komodo's two teams, whose states border each other, teaming up to stop an old Hawkeye villain named Zzzax. For such a throwaway villain, I thought they spent way too much time with the battle and it didn't really add anything to the story. It was nice seeing Gravity, though, and Telemetry is an interesting character whom I'd like to see more of.
After the fight, Komodo and Hardball spend an evening together and it quickly turns into a, "you tell me your origin and I'll tell you mine", ordeal as Hardball, under Hydra orders, tries to get Komodo to tell him where to get the Lizard formula she used to gain her powers.
These origins are interesting, but really killed any momentum the story had been building and would have served better as simple backups in the regular monthly, similar to Trauma's in this very issue.
From there, we follow Hardball as he goes off to steal the Lizard formula. Komodo, not stupid, realizes something is up and catches him in the act. Komodo gives him a sample of her blood to give to Hydra so as to prevent him from committing a crime and, unknown to Hardball, sets up a sting for Hydra with the other Initiative teams.
The sting goes off without a hitch and the team is winning until the Hydra boss uses the Lizard formula to grow into a giant lizard. Komodo explains to Hardball they'll explain his involvement as him being undercover, but, for whatever reason, he decides to kill the Hydra leader and take his spot as a Hydra lieutenant, leaving Komodo and his life behind. It felt forced to me, as if they wanted to have a resolution to this storyline now and just wrote the two characters off.
However, the ending with Komodo stating she's alright and can heal from anything was quite touching, considering their relationship and how it's been portrayed.
In the backup story, Trauma, still coping with coming back from the dead and how people react to him, has Physique, the doctor with see-through skin, give him a therapy session of his own. This just goes over Trauma's backstory, such as his family life and how he developed powers and so on. Seems his mother ended up in an insane asylum due to Trauma's powers. The ending of the origin showed the super-villain, Nightmare, entering Trauma's mother's cell and asking her about the 'little bastard' and telling us he's his father.
Verdict - Check It. Overall, it's better than the current Avengers: The Initiative Secret Invasion stuff, but suffers from poor pacing and some subpar artwork. It should be interesting to see when this is picked up in the main title, but won't really convert any non-Initiative readers to the flock either.