By: Kieron Gillen (story), Jamie McKelvie & Mike Norton (art), Matthew Wilson (colors)
The Story: The Young Avengers decide to give their best Runaways impression.
The Review: As a title, Young Avengers has a lot in common with its featured cast: while relatively new to the masses, it comes with some noteworthy experience and a great deal of potential. Although it’s made a good first impression, there’s a lot of room for the title to improve before it really becomes the classic it wants to be. Like most teens, it has work to do in terms of character development and finding a prosperous direction.
Weirdly enough, it’s the character work that really has a ways to go in this series, particularly where Billy, Teddy, and America are concerned. Billy’s self-loathing has finally gotten to an indulgent point (“If I could cast one last spell, I know what it’d be… IwishIwassomeonebetter [sic]”), America keeps hitting the same short and surly note (“I’m watching you, chico.”), and Teddy has mostly been reactionary, asserting little personality except his commitment to Billy—which supports Loki’s claim that Teddy’s nothing more than a byproduct of Billy’s desire.
Although Loki wasn’t technically responsible for this “interdimensional parasite” mess, he is nonetheless the team’s orchestrator, so it’s not surprising that Gillen establishes him as a central figure in this book. The question of his moral alignment will keep us intrigued for many issues to come, I suspect, as we see him struggling between his nature and his better instincts—possibly literally, or at least in a most literally figurative way. I have only one big problem with this situation of a guilty conscience plaguing a villain who has taken over a hero’s body: doesn’t it sound vaguely familiar? Doesn’t it sound like, oh, I don’t know, the exact same premise of Superior Spider-Man?
The two characters who provide baggage-free entertainment are Kate and Noh-Varr. Last time, I half-jokingly commented that if the series really wants to stay lively, it should just keep the couple involved at all times, and that’s proving quite true here. Between them, they deliver not only the issue’s funniest lines, but its cleverest as well. After Billy presumably manages to get the Kirby Engines on Noh-Varr’s ship working again, Kate remarks ominously, “This machine is powered by teenage delusions. Great! Metaphor!”
“Stop saying that, Hawkeye.”
“Seriously, Noh-Varr, it—”
“I mean it, Kate. You’ll make us crash.”
For a five-issue first arc, this story really does just devolve into an action fest, the ultimate one because our heroes can smash people apart over and over without much concern about the consequences.* Loki’s long, involved explanation as to what happened doesn’t exactly make the plot any smarter, but it’s relatively coherent and logical, and it does have the value of justifying the existence of the team. “A group of kids tied together by some half-assed spell? So now we all have to stick together,” America complains.
McKelvie-Norton seem quite content with drawing the issue as simply and effectively as possible, except for the occasional bit of fanciness. This time, it’s a two-page, circular series of panels depicting the team taking down both Noh-Varr and America’s parents, with Kid Loki channeling his spell at the center. It’s not only creative, but functional as well, but even without these showy kind of pages, McKelvie-Norton’s art is so clean and strong that the art would get high marks anyway.
Conclusion: Aside from a bit of copycat material, this issue provides a solid finish to a most promising series. Already it’s learning to provide as much substance as it does style. [Update: as you can see by the comments below, WCBR readers have informed that the Kid Loki conscience may predate any of the Spider-Ock plot and thus can’t be legitimately considered an imitation. The grade has been adjusted to reflect this point.]
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * I’ve made my peace with the idea that the “Mother” parasite has changed the very fabric of all these folks so that they’re not just doppelgangers, but the real deal, only gooier.