"Avengers: The Initiative" did a great job of helping to define a tiered system within the ranks of superheroes in the Marvel Universe. It also gave some lesser-known characters a place to go and introduced some new fan favorite characters right alongside them. Given the prominence of "Initiative" familiar characters in this story, it seemed like a natural draw to scratch that "Initiative" itch.
Except this series proved to be both more and less than the "Initiative" ever was. Drawing a tight focus in on a handful of heroines and heroes, this series did have a virtual platoon of supporting characters to insert to the story as necessary. In the end, however, this story came down to the decisions made by Thor Girl and how those decisions were affected by and in turn affected her one-time teammates. In that regard, it became a story, written by Sean McKeever, about Thor Girl that had a mess of ancillary characters.
McKeever makes these characters fun to read, and uses a trio of them to narrate us through this issue. Through the course of this issue, McKeever opens some new story ideas, closes some started in this series, and alters the Marvel Universe (albeit subtly), setting these characters up for more appearances somewhere. Some of those characters -- like Gravity and Firestar -- almost certainly have roles to play in other books soon to come, while other characters are nicely propped up here for the creative teams of the Marvel Universe to take notes.
Through it all, Mike Norton delivers some fantastic art. Norton is a criminally overlooked talent in this industry, always packing his work full of detail, delightful character work, dramatic expressions, and dynamic storytelling. Norton draws the best Frog-Man I have ever seen, but all the same can't seem to find a way to salvage the hideous abomination of a costume worn by Prodigy (with a name like Prodigy, shouldn't the character have a costume that looks better than a pile of rejected accessories?). The Mike Norton moments are plenty in this issue, and this story is better for them.
"Fear Itself" is a wrap (sort of) and the Marvel Universe is brushing itself off and moving on. With the Initiative enjoying a bit of a rejuvenation in this issue, I look forward to more of these characters popping up soon. If McKeever and Norton want to join those characters, that'd be fun too.