Some of Marvel's best books right now feature some of the (frequently perceived) lamest characters in Marvel's seventy-year history: "Guardians of the Galaxy" delivers every single month, yet the most casual comic book fan would have no clue who any of the characters in that book are. "Avengers: the Initiative" follows that pattern. Tigra, Justice, and Taskmaster are the most "well-known" regular players in this title. While a great deal occurs in this book, beyond the fact that this title has been published for over two years, this book never feels out of control.
Over thirty characters appear in this issue alone, and Gage does a stellar job of letting many of those characters have a catchy line of dialog, a chance to stand up for what's right, or even a bit of action that gives them a chance to flex their muscles visually through the art of Rafa Sandoval. Sandoval gives this book a visual boost, deftly handling all of the characters, the action, the excitement, the settings, backgrounds, and adventure.
The Avengers corner of the Marvel Universe has been the strongest collective offering from Marvel for some time now, and this title fits right in. While there may not be a plethora of familiar faces in these pages, there is an astonishing amount of creative freedom. You never know what is going to happen to whom, and even when it does happen, there are surprising aftershocks that resonate past the initial story and even beyond the issue at hand.
Gage and crew have utilized the setting and surroundings of Tony Stark's Initiative (although now a perverted shadow) to share background on the characters in the story while advancing the story. In a scene between Norman Osborn and the Hood, as they attempt to address a calamity, we learn of the Montana roster and then see them in action, the same with the Force of Nature (Oregon's squad.) This title has a great deal to offer any reader familiar with the Marvel Universe, but it also offers quite a bit to those readers who may not know who the U-Foes are or what Penance's former ID was. Knowledge of this deepens the read, but ignorance of same will not impede anyone's ability to enjoy this book.