Writer: Christos Gage, Pencils: Rafa Sandoval.
What Happened: This comic begins with the story of a c-list villain(and even c-list may be too good for him!)named Johnny Guitar, whose gimmick is a guitar that fires energy beams! Yes, really! Anyway, Johnny and his friend and accomplice, Dr. Sax(I think you can guess what type of weapon the good doctor uses), decide to join the Initiative now that it's under the direction of Norman Osborn. The two losers figure this is their chance to finally become successful super-villains. Well, they not only make the Initiative, Taskmaster(the leader of the Initiative program)puts them on the special black ops team, the Shadow Initiative. Unfortunately for Johnny, he discovers Taskmaster took a bunch of useless Initiative members and placed them on the Shadow Initiative, so he could send them on a suicide mission to take back the Negative Zone prison. Taskmaster figures the losers would take out some of Blastarr's forces(Blastarr took the prison over in a recent issue of Guardians of the Galaxy)at the prison and then Taskmaster could send in his big guns for mop-up duty. After overhearing this, Johnny attacks his lifelong friend, Dr. Sax and injures him to the extent that he wouldn't be allowed to take part in the mission. As for Johnny, he knows if he tries to back out Taskmaster would have him killed. So he rushes into the Negative Zone and is promptly killed by the combined forces of Blastarr and the prisoners who had declared their loyalty to Blastarr. The Shadow Initiative winds up making it into the prison and gets some inside help from Hardball, a onetime member of the Initiative turned leader of Hydra. After the battle is just about over, Taskmaster and his forces arrive on the scene and clean up the rest of Blastarr's forces as well as the escaped prisoners. When Taskmaster realizes Hardball was helping out, he seems very pleased. This issue ends with one of the Brother's Grimm carrying his thoroughly beaten brother into Camp HAMMER for medical attention after his brother was ambushed by an angry Tigra.
What I Thought: Wow, there was a lot of good stuff packed into this comic. The stuff with Johnny Guitar was extremely well done, by the time he died, you couldn't help but feel badly for him, which is a credit to how good a writer Christos is. The battle at the Negative Zone prison ended a lot quicker then I thought it would(just one issue?), but I have my fingers crossed that this leads to Hardball returning to the Initiative, or better yet, the New Warriors. If nothing else, it should be quite interesting to see how Komodo reacts when she sees her ex-boyfriend, Hardball, again. Before I give the score, I have to give some big time kudos to Christos for really knowing his continuity. Not only did he work in the Negative Zone prison break from the Guardians comic, but he also remembered that Dragon Man had a huge crush on Komodo! It's SO nice to see there are still some writers left in Marvel who actually care about the work of past/other writers unlike a certain Avengers scribe who shall remain nameless...
Score: 8 1/2 out of 10.Come on, you had to know I'd be posting a picture of Johnny Guitar and Dr. Sax in all their glory!