Taskmaster opens this issue up, giving us his life story in three quick pages before being launched into action against Thor. Photographic reflexes or not, a "normal Joe" against a god isn't a fair match. Except this is when Taskmaster decides to move from the shadows to the limelight. Gage gives us an issue filled with Taskmaster justifying his existence and setting goals for himself. The end result is a compelling peek behind the skeleton mask.
Gage doesn't let us forget the purpose of this title, however, using the Asgard skirmish as impetus for the Underground Avengers to take decisive action against Osborn and Camp H.A.M.M.E.R. This is only a sliver of the action surrounding "Siege," but it is a healthy slice of the action, running nonstop from cover to cover.
Jay David Ramos soaks this art in murkiness, but then rings it out so we get a story that is filled with the grime, shadow, and noise of hand-to-hand combat. His colors, with Mahmud A. Asrar's pencils and Rebecca Buchman's inks make this book visually compelling. This art team seizes upon the violence, bloodshed, and evil present in this issue to drop the tone of the book into shadows. Taskmaster's tale isn't one of ponies, rainbows, and butterflies, and there is no mistaking that all of those would be dreadfully out of place in this issue. Asrar's portrayal of Taskmaster in battle is fluid and stunning. Asrar is meant to draw this character and I hope he continues to do so.
While the story for "Siege" doesn't seem to be as sprawling as the tale of "Blackest Night," there are more than a few titles carrying plotlines and subplots beyond the main Bendis-written title. For the money, "Avengers: The Initiative" delivers the most bang for the buck to this point in the story. "Siege" #1 left some things unbuttoned, but this issue buttons those areas up, giving us an on-the-ground, first-hand account of what happened.
Marvel has announced that the Avengers brand is coming to a (temporary) end following the "Siege" event. Make no mistake, "Initiative" is going out with a bang. This title has always been a sleeper hit, gaining critical acclaim, but avoiding commercial accolades. Now with "Siege" running through it, this title is going to get a great deal more exposure, and deservedly so.