Alan Heinberg and Jim Cheung captured something pretty amazing with the original Young Avengers. The book came out during a time of copious death, destruction, and depressing status quo shifts in the Marvel U. Such shit storms are a given in comic books, sure, but, in this particular instance, readers were witnessing the beginning of a new era, a la Disassembled and House of M. Yet, in spite of these Earth-shattering events, this group of kids, these Young Avengers, reminded the Marvel U. that the good fight was still worth fighting. The team’s idealism kept hope alive for a better day and instilled that hope in this young reader.
That’s a lot to live up to. Fortunately, Kieron Gillen and co.’s Young Avengers delivers, while being a different animal all together. Only three of the original Young Avengers have made appearances so far, and the new group is older and a tad more jaded – they’re starting to question what it means and takes to be a superhero. After all, most of the cast are only a few years into their superhero careers.
The narrative is broken down into three portions. My favorite has got to be the opening sequence which features Kate Bishop, aka Hawkeye, and Marvel Boy: Kate wakes up after a saucy evening with Marvel Boy. She realizes that she’s on his spaceship. Some cool character moments ensue, and we find out why Marvel Boy has been sticking around Earth, all while he dances to 60s rock music. The scene ends on this sort of punk rock, high note of action, with Kate, guns a-blazin’, an average human, declaring that she loves being a superhero. I’m most intrigued to see where this side story is going and how it’ll tie into the overall narrative.
Meanwhile on Earth, Hulkling and Wiccan make their appearances. The usual ooey-gooey bits follow between these two, and, without a doubt, this couple is definitely the heart of the book. Some lingering discrepancies from previous runs are dealt with (where Hulkling has been living since his mother’s death and where Speed has lived), which, in keeping the continuity fluid from previous runs, is a show of good faith on the part of the authors.
The last plot element involves Miss America Chavez, the best and only original character to be featured outside of the miniseries Vengeance, and Kid Loki. I’m not sure what’s going on with these two, and I sort of feel like I missed something, possibly from Gillen’s earlier work with Kid Loki in Journey into Mystery.
I must admit that the art is hard to follow at times. I’m all for the deconstruction of comic book art (Paul Pope’s Battling Boy is looking amazing, by the way), but the narrative still needs to be apparent. I found myself staring for longer than necessary at the paneling, trying to decipher the meaning. Maybe, with time, this art team’s style will grow on me; they are developing a language, and I have not yet gained fluency. While this is disheartening, it’s also exciting.
Bottom line, these guys have captured something special. Gillen states in the afterword, “The only way I could do this is cut it to the core and then rebuild everything around it. And the core, means the heart. Its optimism. Its intelligence. Its characters and their genuine emotions for one another.” It’s this reader’s opinion that Gillen is definitely on the right track. 4 out of 5 fist bumps. ((Editor’s Note: That means it’s a solid B!))