I’m incredibly glad that this is the issue of Young Avengers I’ve gotten to review. Usually when you’re handed a comicbook in mid-arc (with nothing significant about the assignment) you’re just catching up on the storyline, admiring the creators and characters, and just all around pointing out why someone should buy the comic. With Young Avengers #4, though, I’m getting the opportunity to highlight just why this is one of the best Marvel NOW! books on the stands.
When Young Avengers was announced, it brought up mixed emotions for me as a fan. The original series by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung was an extremely solid superhero comic with a great Marvel twist on the idea of sidekick superteams. It raised the point that Marvel hasn’t really been a comic universe that encouraged a superhero to take on a protégé and put them in harm’s way like Batman does with Robin and Green Arrow does with Speedy. Heinberg and Cheung worked to make the series theirs and accomplished this with a solid voice and distinct art. This also the unfortunate side effect that when they couldn’t keep the book coming out on time, the characters were forced to sit on a shelf as opposed to handing off the ongoing monthly reigns to another writer/artist team. Sure, Marvel would put out an event-specific mini-series or two to remind the world that the characters still existed, but the actual forward momentum of a Young Avengers storyline was stalled for years.
Marvel NOW! changed all that. Heinberg and Cheung had their swansong on the title with their maxi-series, Young Avengers: Childeren’s Crusade and then they dropped the mic and walked off stage leaving the team in total disarray. Team members died, team members quit and that seemed like it for the book. Enter: Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen, self-styled pop comics gods.
This mad comic duo became synonymous with quality comics with their two Phonogram mini-series from Image Comics. It was obvious from these books that they both had a love of pop music and fantastic magical landscapes. When the both of them finally got noticed, Gillen became the go-to journeyman writer while McKelvie would swoop in on random books like Secret Avengers and deliver a solid done-in-one issue. Their reunion on another Phonogram comic was derailed by the announcement of this new Young Avengers series and it looks like superhero comics are better of now that they’ve shown up.
From the first issue, the characters of the book feel like they’ve been taken to the left of Heinberg and Cheung’s original comic. The additional cast members of Kid Loki, Miss America, and Marvel Boy serve as the gateway characters for Gillen to use to direct the cast’s mainstays of Hawkeye (Kate Bishop), Wiccan, and Hulkling into a bold new direction for the team. In the first few issues of the series, Wiccan, in an attempt to help his boyfriend, Hulkling, reaches into alternate realities with his powers and tries to find a reality in which Hulking’s mother wasn’t killed in battle defending her son. Wiccan thinks he’s found the perfect alternate universe but realizes too late that what he’s brought through is not Hulkling’s mother but a parasite that controls parents and is out to absorb Wiccan’s vast powers. Kid Loki and Miss America both show up to aid the couple but arrive too late to stop the summoning and are immediately on the run. Meanwhile, Hawkeye and Marvel Boy have met and hit it off and are enjoying a post-coital morning after when they’re attacked by marauding Skrull soldiers while on Marvel Boy’s spaceship in orbit.
This brings us to issue #4 where Kid Loki, Wiccan, Miss America, and Hulkling are surrounded at nightclub by more infected parents and are about to be captured. The issue opens with probably one of McKelvie’s most inventive setups as Marvel Boy arrives in the nick of time to save the foursome and a terrific action scene is outlined and executed. Marvel Boy easily dispatches the attackers and then spits his action movie line and the team is finally assembled and off to try to figure out the best solution to the parasite’s growing threat.
Young Avengers hooked me more from promo material than it did the first issue. I was worried after reading it that Gillen might have bitten off more than he could chew. Could he write these characters in a solid, clear adventure that would keep me interested month to month? After arriving at the fourth issue, I can see that I was horribly mistaken with that question. This was never going to be a solid, clear adventure book. It was going to be a wild rock opera with crazy soundtracks, solid dialogue, realistic emotional conflicts, and action and adventure delivered inventively. My other concern was if McKelvie could meet an even remotely monthly deadline. The solution appears to team him with the equally talented Mike Norton who splits duties by handling backgrounds while McKelvie does the main characters proper.
If you’re looking for a different take on superhero comics, then I highly recommend this comic. It never panders, fires on all cylinders, and continues to impress with every issue without slipping backwards.