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Young Avengers #1 – Review

YOUNG AVENGERS #1

By: Kieron Gillen (story), Jamie McKelvie & Mike Norton (art), Matthew Wilson (color)

The Story: Wiccan proves that taking unpredictable magical risks runs in the family.

The Review: I always thought it was rather ingenious of Allan Heinberg to introduce the original Young Avengers as spin-offs of icon Avengers (in the DC tradition of sidekicks), only to reveal them as mostly original characters as the series went on.  To me, the premiere teen superhero teams from DC and Marvel represent two very different, but equally appealing things: the DC teens focus on their status as legacy heroes; the Marvel kids want to break out of that.

You can say this entire issue is all about the Young Avengers asserting their independence and originality.  Though age is always a fuzzy thing in comics, they do appear older now than when they first appeared, which means calling their own shots.  Gillen makes that crystal clear by having Kate wake up in Noh-Varr’s bed, thinking that a part of her should be ashamed, and then concluding, “I think that part of me is really stupid.”

Make no mistake, there’s something very compelling about the cockiness and confidence of these young adults.  I only fear Gillen will overplay these aspects of their personalities, never letting them find a centered approach to life and heroism.  It’s very telling that Gillen chooses “Style > Substance” as the title for this arc.  It very much begs the reader to scrutinize the story that much closer to see if Gillen’s just being ironic or if that’s really his gameplan.

Here’s a good example: Billy and Teddy’s relationship.  Now, when I left Billy and Teddy (and this was before the Children’s Crusade arc), they had a pretty rock-solid relationship.  Which is why it’s perturbing to see them go through this rather melodramatic spat of Billy disapproving of Teddy’s illicit superheroics (“How could you?” he asks, turning on the light as Teddy sneaks back into his room through the window), and Teddy crying over Billy’s domestication (“Billy…I fell in love with a super hero.”).  Chalk this up to my being out of the loop, but I don’t remember Billy and Teddy sounding this emotionally shaky.

I also highly question the credibility of Billy scoping through the Marvel multiverse to bring Teddy’s mom back to life.  Dang, kid, didn’t your mother’s tomfoolery teach you nothing about the dangers of mixing magic and reality warping?  It’s like we suffered through that whole craziness over Avengers Disassembled and House of M for nothing!  That’s why we all knew, even before the final pages, that Billy’s actions would bite him in the ass, and so it goes.  By the end of the issue, another of those rare, stable superhero families bites the dust.

Still, I appreciate the mix of characters at work here, especially with the intriguing additions of Miss America, an interdimensional teen hero whom no one really seems to know very well; Noh-Varr, who still has that natural edginess that makes him magnetic even when doing nothing (maybe it’s the white hair—or his dancing); and Kid Loki, a situation I don’t even begin to understand, not even with the help of the Marvel Wiki.  Just on this combo alone, Gillen’s got me hooked.  At the very least, I’m pretty sure I won’t see any of them ruthlessly slaughtered in the next couple issues.

McKelvie and Norton deliver unfaultable visuals, at the high end at Marvel’s already high standard of art.  In fact, their approach to depicting the Young Avengers matches exactly the place where our heroes are at in their lives: structured and fleshed out enough to be taken seriously, but with just that hint of boldness that tells you they’ve still got plenty of youthful spirit in them.  The opening pages alone have equal amounts of style and sense, and Wilson’s colors add a punk-rock energy to some already exciting sequences.

Conclusion: There’s a lot of flash and glam going on in this series, surpassing even what you’ve seen in promotions, but there’s signs of a real story percolating underneath it all.

Grade: B

- Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: - Speaking of style over substance, Phil Specter’s remarkable Wall of Sound aside, the Ronettes were kind of overrated as a girl group.  I’m partial to the Crystals or Shirelles, myself.  “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” beats “Be My Baby” anytime.

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4 Responses

  1. A good review and I’m of the same opinion that this was a good and very promising start. And I think here’s certainly nothing grievously wrong with this issue but it wasn’t as much fun to read as I expected it to be. What I definitely liked was how Gillen is able to bring out the feeling of a story about young people who are more or less on the way to maturity and self-reflection and at the same time shows how far they still have to go. The kind of plot that started in issue #1 could’ve easily been turned into a mocking “Ah! Those kids… They’ve done it again! They just couldn’t help themselves in their foolishness, could they?”. Gillen here did a good job of actually giving a little impression of each character who will play a role without making them seem like a young parody of adult superheroes nor are they some pretentious brats who are far too idealistically constructed (“Milk and cookies…! Thank God, my day is saved…”). Gillen really has found a good balance between the fun and problems of young people with his style, I think and I hope this will show itself in the course of this series.

    • I agree. I think Gillen’s captured that brash attitude combined with the modicum of sense and intelligence that characterizes the late teens/early twenties.

  2. It’s interesting how you’ve reviewed this book. Your review is unable to review the very issue to hand, without referring to other books you’ve read. So in a sense, I’m not surprised you feel let down, if you’re bringing all that book baggage with it. That’s not a criticism about your review technique. I just didn’t feel you were reviewing THIS book – but this book in a chain of other books.

    • I hardly think giving an issue a B and saying that I think it has a lot of potential equates to me feeling let down by the issue. I just think it’s a solid issue that isn’t quite excellent in my mind.

      However, you’re right that I do like to do some comparative review in my…reviews. When you’re dealing with a series or any piece of fiction that uses previously established characters, I think it’s sensible to see how well the writer respects past continuity, especially if it’s his job to do so. While they’re not bound by every bit of minutia that previous writers have lain down, surely we should expect the newest writer to be true to some of the general characterizations. And my feeling is that Billy and Teddy have always had a solid relationship and I don’t believe that either would get so emotional over such a non-issue.

      But even if I didn’t have that feeling, I’d still feel turned off by the soap opera execution of that scene. It just feels over-the-top and melodramatic, and I find it hard to take that kind of thing seriously unless it’s done with some irony–and there’s no indication that Gillen intended the scene to be ironic.

      I’m also more ambivalent, rather than disapproving, of Billy’s reality-mucking. Frankly, considering his sensitive and thoughtful personality, I’m not sure I’m convinced he’d do something so obviously bone-headed, no matter how well-intentioned. But that doesn’t mean I think the scene is bad; I’m just not sure it’s good.

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