Steven “The Steve” Bradford
Young Avengers: Season One
The team of Allan Heinberg, Jim Cheung, and John Dell has finally completed Young Avengers season one. It is twelve issues, as well as a bonus one shot Young Avengers Special. Despite regular delays, Young Avengers was worth the effort, and the wait. Be prepared for spoilers beyond this point.
Issues #1-6: Sidekicks
Here we are introduced to a team, starting with four members, Iron Lad, Hulkling, Asguardian, and Patriot. They appear to be modeled after Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, and Captain America respectively. The group expands with the addition of Cassie Lang (Ant Man’s daughter) and Kate Bishop who force themselves onto the quartet. Captain America learns about the team, and in a flashback to the death of Bucky, he refuses to allow a group of teenagers to go around pretending to be super heroes. He does attempt to stop them, however in short order the reality behind Iron Man is revealed. He is a youth version of Kang the Conqueror whom jumpstarted an Avenger’s Failsafe Program, hidden in the programming of the destroyed Vision. The program is how Iron Lad contacted Patriot (who gained his powers through a blood transfusion from a super soldier), Hulking (whom has shape shifting abilities and super strength), and Asguardian (known to have some spell casting abilities as well as lightning control). Ultimately, Iron Lad is forced to leave in order to maintain the time line; however his armor is left behind, now inhabited by the Vision program.
This opening to the series was fantastic. I know I started out afraid of a bunch of Avengers rip offs. During the course of these first six issues that theory was completely blown away. The characters feel like it is their job to play the roles of the Avengers, but they in fact have a completely different set of powers which they need to come to grips with. This arc also sets up a huge theme for the first season. Cap feels responsibility for any kid who dons a uniform pretending to be a super hero in his likeness. I want to give a huge kudos to Heinberg for introducing a romance already in the works between two guys. He does a great job of letting it just be part of the landscape, rather than a central theme. The dialogue kept me laughing the whole way through. I simply had a good time reading, and every issue left me postulating who the Young Avengers were, and where their powers really came from. The art was very pretty and clean. Good use of color and the heroes as heroes look wonderful. Subtle emotions are portrayed very well.
Issues #7-8: Secret Identities
Captain America, Jessica Jones, and Iron Man take it upon themselves to make the final blow that will force the Young Avengers to stop trying to be super heroes… by telling their parents. Meanwhile, Patriot has taken upon himself to single handedly take out Mutant Growth Hormone dealers. We find out, the REAL source of Patriot’s power here, because as it turns out, his cover story was a lie. Ultimately, he leaves the team. Pencils and Inking were done by Andrea DiVito and Drew Hennessey respectively.
These two issues are polar opposites in feeling. The first one is good fun introducing the parent angle to teen super heroics. The second one, deals with drug use and addiction, and is extremely powerful. The character of Patriot has a lot more going on than just disliking Captain America, and being an angry black youth. We also end up with an insight into Cassie’s family. The family interactions throughout this arc are very realistic; Heinberg’s experience writing dramatic television shows about teenagers really serves him well with this team book. The end of issue #8 is a huge bombshell, which had me questioning for a month what was going to happen to Patriot, they got rid of a character in the first arc, and they seemingly did it again in the second. The art in these two books makes the team look like they just got two years younger. It seems much less detailed when it comes to the faces. The characters have a Saturday morning cartoon look and feel to them which is certainly much less subtle. I definitely prefer the work of Jim Cheung for this book.
Issues #9-12: Family Matters
The team is disheartened by what happened with Patriot in the previous arc, and have stopped trying to be a super hero team. Sadly, with the powers which they have, they are unable to stand by when they see something happening, despite their best efforts. While trying to keep to their selves, trouble yet again comes looking for them, this time in the form of the Super Skrull. He attempts to take Hulking captive and back to the Skrull Empire. Hulkling becomes an orphan thanks to the Super Skrull during the first issue, and is taken captive. Finding themselves, slightly outgunned by the Super Skrull the Young Avengers use the Vision’s Failsafe program to locate another potential candidate. This leads them to releasing a super powered speedster who has the ability to create explosions from juvie. Oddly enough he looks exactly like Asguardian (whom has changed him name to Wiccan). The real parentage of Hulkling is revealed… as well as why Wiccan and Speedster appear to be twins. The Kree show up as well to take Hulkling for their own, and a large battle ensues involving the Kree Army, the Skrull Army, the Young Avengers, and the New Avengers. We are back to Jim Cheung for pencils for this arc. The inkers are a combination which shifts through the 4 issues, most often including Jim Cheung, Dave Miakis, and John Dell.
I was knocked out by this story arc. Hulkling has become a suddenly much deeper character to me, steeped in Marvel continuity. Not to mention the relationship between Speedster and Wiccan. By the end of this first twelve issue run, it is terribly clear that these kids are not the Avengers, but all of them are certainly linked to the real Avengers. This final installment of the first season of Young Avengers really brings closure to some of the themes and issues brought up in the first arc. Why these kids are the Young Avengers, where their powers come from, will Captain America keep standing in their way? It was certainly a fun roller coaster ride of a book for me. One of the best reads I have had recently. The inking seems different from the first arc when John Dell was working on it exclusively. He used a lot of shadows on faces, making them capable of a lot of emotion, however, also giving them a little bit of a gritty look to them. Those shadows have been cut back on severely and the characters effectively look newer. This is good for this book where it is a team which is just starting out and learning how to be super heroes. Those shadows are still being used on characters like Super Skrull, and to good effect. I like the refinement of the art in this book, this arc shows an improvement over the first arc as far as art is concerned, hopefully it will continue to get better next season.
Young Avengers Special
To appease the comic book fans like myself who were getting antsy waiting for the regular issues to come out, as they had a habit of being delayed, a one shot was published. It was an amusing set of interviews with the Young Avengers team, a little bit of insight into whom they are and why they want to be super heroes. Not really a must have in the series. All it does is serve to keep the impatient fans interested during the extended delays.
If you don’t know anything about the Avengers, or Marvel Continuity, then you are going to have a few moments where you scratch your head. For the most part, everything you need to know is clearly spelled out in the pages of this book. If you do know about the Avengers, you are going to have a great time reading this book, because it is full of references and history. Most importantly, the book is enjoyable. The characters tackle some serious issues, but without throwing it in the readers face. The story starts out leading you to believe one thing, and it totally shatters the idea of a bunch of kid Avenger rip offs by the end of the first season. These kids have just as much right to be super heroes as anyone else, and on their own steam. A very fun read which did a fantastic job of keeping me begging for the next issue.
While this series is a lot of fun, it does not really force the reader into any really deep soul searching thought. It is an action book, with a teen drama going on in the middle of the fight scenes. However, it does what it proposes to do very well. If you are looking for something that makes you sit up at night thinking about the questions of the universe and the human condition, you have not found it here. However, if you are looking for a good time with humor and a fair number of fights, this is your book.
Overall, I would give this series an 8, or maybe 9 out of 10. I am going to go with an 8, because I think there is still room for improvement. The major drawback is a lot of the enjoyment I had while reading this book is a result of already being familiar with the Avengers mythology. The book is a bit of a reference-fest, but you can enjoy it without knowing who any of the Avengers were. I would suggest picking it up when it comes out in trades for any Avengers fan, if you have not already started reading it. If you do not know who the Avengers are, you will still enjoy Young Avengers, but it might be worth reading up on the classic Avengers first if you get the chance, particularly Avengers Disassembled. Regardless, I am going to stay pumped for Season Two… whenever it does come out.