The Shadow Initiative were first formed (or at least first seen being formed) and seen in Avengers: The Initiative #5 by Henry Peter Gyrich. The original roster consisted of:
Although Trauma was later taken off the team and placed back in the normal Initiative. Later, Van was killed (decapitated to be more precise). In the wake of Secret Invasion, The Taskmaster has been given control over The Shadow Initiative, Gauntlet now has the authority to activate the team whenever he wishes... including Mutant Zero who is not allowed to leave briefings anymore, and Komodo has taken the place of their new teammate Ant-Man (Eric O'Grady) who has become a member of The Thunderbolts and been promoted to full-time field agent.
Major Story Arcs
When The Initiative recruits Cloud 9, Hardball, Rage, Slapstick, Thor Girl and Ultragirl were kidnapped by the Warbound, the Shadow Initiative were quickly briefed on the situation, and after the meeting were sent out to retrieve the captured members.
They arrive on the scene, with only Trauma, Bengal and Constrictor on the scene (Mutant Zero wasn't present at the moment and the Scarlet Spiders were in stealth mode). They are quickly confronted by a hoard of robots ( Death's Head robots actually). The team are being overpowered, because their best weapon, Trauma, is unable to use his powers on robots. Luckily, Mutant Zero appears above the enemies, and quickly dispatches them and leaves. They continue onwards and find and free the kidnapped Initiative members, but the Hulk shows up. Luckily, Trauma was able to fight him for a while, turning into his various fears in the form of various enemies of his such as the Abomination and the Juggernaut, but Hulk manages to conquer his fear and beat Trauma severely. Trauma was then taken off the team.
When Gyrich and his guards were attacked by the K.I.A., he called for the Shadow Initiative. Bengal and the Constrictor run there, but they are no match for the speed of Mutant Zero and the Scarlet Spiders.
There, Constrictor, Bengal and the Scarlet Spiders engage in battle, but when Constrictor tries to use his cables, the KIA cuts his arms off from the elbow down. Mutant Zero manages to hide Gyrich from the KIA, and when the Scarlet Spiders try to talk to their "brother", he decapitates Van. The KIA then leaves, and the Shadow Initiative are left over-looking the destruction that has been caused.
After the events of Secret Invasion, Taskmaster had proved successful in training and leading the Initiative trainees, so Gauntlet appointed him head of the Initiative. Taskmaster's first action as Field Leader was to reveal Mutant Zero's identity to the team. To do so, Taskmaster used his mutant ability to remember all body motions after challenging her to a fight. Mutant Zero tried to hide it, but Taskmaster followed her into the gymnasium, and said he knew who she was. Bursting into flame, the entire Initiative soon learned she was former Daredevil foe, Typhoid Mary.
The Initiative: Disassembled
Taskmaster's first mission was to lead the team on a mission to capture Hardball, a former trainee who had defected to HYDRA. Komodo, being Hardball's girlfriend, insisted on joining the team to take down her ex (she promised to give them all the information she could about Hardball since she knew him the best). Reluctantly, Gauntlet agreed.
The Initiative tracked Hardball to the Island nation of Madripoor, and, following orders, secretly entered the country. There, they have found Hardball with a group of Hydra Agents, including Madame Hydra herself.
Meanwhile, back at the Camp, young Initiative trainee Batwing graduated and was admitted into the Shadow Initiative, which he will presumably join once (if) the other members return.
While in the nation of Madripoor, the group were captured by agents of Hydra. Only because they allowed themselves to get captured. Taskmaster said that they were ready to join Hydra.
The roster became:
While the Shadow Initiative (SI) was in Madripoor, Norman Osborn became head of the Initiative and made Taskmaster in charge with Hood assisting in training and recruiting. The SI encountered Madame Hydra, and succeeded in capturing Hardball, and brought him back to the US for prison. While there, Constrictor discovered that Hardball secretly wanted the best for Komodo, but didn't want to confuse her by letting her know. When inquiring, Hardball revealed that Constrictor had a son to whom Constrictor's existence was a secret for much the same reasons as Hardball. On the SI's return, Mutant Zero quit.
Meanwhile, Norman Osborn was getting bad press for having so many "former" villains in his new Initiative (such as the U-Foes). Under the suggestion of Taskmaster and Hood, Constrictor gave a fake but convincing speech on how his cyborg arms prevented him from petting a dog and ever rocking kids to sleep. After the presentation, he celebrated with Hood and Taskmaster.
Up is Down
Then, Hood presented to Taskmaster and Baron Von Blitzschlag the problem that the Negative Zone prison created during Civil War had been over run by aliens and was a portal into Earth. The guards had all fled, and while Norman Osborn was going to blame the issue on former Initiative head Tony Stark, the problem had to be fixed. Hood suggested that instead of using the regular Initiative recruits to start off an attack, washed-out recruits, people reluctant to Dark Reign, and super-powered cons with a chance of freedom could be ticked into thinking themselves important and then could be used as cannon fodder to wear down the aliens before the real battle. Taskmaster agreed and pulled together this first wave of attack in a new Shadow Initiative. There would be lots of members, but not Taskmaster or Constrictor. The roster became:
Johnny Guitar, who had tried his best in training, became anxious shortly before the attack on 42. Going to Taskmaster for encouragement, he heard outside the mercenary's door Taskmaster explaining his nefarious plans for the Shadow Initiative to Constrictor. Taskmaster mentioned that Bengal was doing it for his kids and wife, Komodo just wanted revenge, and the rest of them were to pathetic to care and he would kill any who refused to cooperate. Johnny threw up, but did not tell his partner, Doc Sax, but expressed concerns of his survival (though not the entire story) to councilor Trauma). Trauma did not approve of Taskmaster's methods, but could only say that if Johnny died in battle, his family would get benefits. Johnny decided to go, but couldn't stand to let Doc Sax die (blaming himself for getting Doc arrested and blinded). Johnny blasted Doc's hand (impairing his music and therefore his power as well). Then he wrote describing his life to his son, whom he asked to read the note to Doc. He also told the son that it was "ok to dream," but it hurt to write the letter.
The Initiative charged in the portal, most of them unaware of their doom. Under his breath, Taskmaster muttered "Suckers."
The Initiative was ferociously taking down aliens, but were being slaughtered. Johnny was stabbed fatally, Slaughter Boy died from being impaled by over twelve spears. Blackwing II and Barracuda II also fall to the enemy. When Butterball calls for help, Taskmaster refuses to come yet, telling the young man "Your invulnerable." Boulder/Butterball then replied "But the rest of them aren't." As the realization that they had been tricked crept in, Firearms managed to battle back to the portal and try to return. However, a mechanism to prevent prisoners from escaping peppered his body with lasers, killing him. To try and prevent more casualties, Komodo came up with a plan. Batwing flew Butterball to directly in front of the main forces of the enemy and their leader, Ning. Being invulnerable, their firearms did nothing, but proved enough of a diversion to cause the remaining SI to attack from behind. Ning asked his new recruit, the prisoner Hardball, for advice. Hardball, not wanting to really hurt his former friends, suggested releasing Dragon Man. Of course, he knew Dragon man had a crush on Komodo (who could talk to reptiles). When Dragon Man switched sides, Hardball did the same. This swayed the battle enough that Taskmaster deemed it suitable to attack, and entered 42 with Penance, Scorcher, Living Laser and Constrictor. After the fight, Taskmaster recruited Hardball to his new Initiative (the previous leaders had wanted him arrested, Taskmaster was fine with him).
Seven SI members had died in the Prison 42 Battle. The remaining roster of the Shadow Initiative was:
- Badd Axe
Komodo argued the choice to include Hardball in the Initiative too much, so she was depowered and kicked out. It is unclear what the other seven SI members are doing, or whether the SI is even still active.