by Allan Heinberg (writer), Jim Cheung (pencils & inks), Mark Morales (inks), Justin Ponsor (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story: A sudden outburst of power from Wiccan and a temporary loss of control sparks questions about his relation to the Scarlet Witch.

What’s Good: It’s great to see the gang back together again and certainly, the team dynamic is just as strong as ever.  This is thanks in no small part to to Heinberg’s dialogue, which is tight, natural, and humorous, and at different turns evocative and light-hearted.  It’s by far the best part of this issue, mostly because of how human it is and how well-managed the voices of the various team members are.  Each characters is well-defined and their close relationships with each other are clear just through Heinberg’s tone.  The conversations are a joy to read.

Of course, this issue also marks the return of Jim Cheung and, as expected, that means that this issue looks absolutely gorgeous.  Cheung’s style, to me, represents the pinnacle of what Marvel’s “house style” would look like, were there such a thing.  Everything is well defined and, well, heroic with a very light anime touch.  Essentially, this looks like the greatest Saturday morning action cartoon to never exist.

As far as the book’s plot goes, it takes a while to be really pulled in, but by the book’s final pages, the team’s dynamic and their new, troubling position had me eating out of Children’s Crusade’s hand.  While this issue in itself wasn’t the fastest or most engaging overall, in itself, I feel sure that this series as a whole, and most likely every issue after this one, will be awesome and of the standard we were expecting.  By the end of the book, I really, really wanted more and it wasn’t just due to the massive cliffhanger at the end.

What’s Not So Good: When I think of awesome, engaging storytelling, “groundwork” isn’t a word that comes to mind.  Most of this issue feels heavily weighted with exposition as Heinberg goes about the work of introducing the Young Avengers and recounting the events of House of M for new readers.  As you can imagine, this isn’t the most gripping stuff, particularly since it distances us from the team itself and their particular voices, which is the Young Avengers’ key selling point.  It certainly doesn’t help that the Avengers have such a massive role this month, which only dilutes the Young Avengers’ presence further.  Whenever the Avengers were out of the picture, allowing the team to converse among themselves, I felt that the quality made a massive upswing.

All the talk of House of M this month also makes the issue feel just a little out of continuity.  It’s as though this book is a couple of years late.  Of course, it didn’t exactly help to see Steve Rogers in the book dressed as Captain America throughout.  It’s just weird having a book launching now that is so attached to House of M but almost completely unaware of Siege, outside of a single passing reference.

Conclusion: This book is not necessarily a disappointment and certainly not a failure, nor is this issue’s grade a sign of things to come.  This series will be great; I got that feeling profoundly from this issue.  But I can only grade what I have in my hands, which is merely an introduction.

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans