So when I picked up this week’s issue of “Green Lantern” and I allowed the impact of Geoff John’s last issue to—wait, it cost eight dollars? Unless this issue also provides a meet and greet with Geoff at Comic-Con then I am going to pass.
So when I picked up this week’s issue of “Young Avengers” and I just let the exceptional quality of this comic sink in, I realized I may be giving people the wrong impression. Yes, I have many issues—ha, comic book puns—with contemporary comic books and the publishing companies that put them out. Yes, it is exceedingly easy to criticize the deluge of mediocre books being released. Yes, “Invincible” is and always will be better than any book out there, bar none. But, that doesn’t mean I hold contempt for comic books as a medium or that I find their material to be mind numbingly stupid. Quite the contrary, I want to show off the awesome books that are making it through the chaff—books like “Young Avengers”.
The publication history of “Young Avengers” is really tragic because when it was introduced, both Marvel and the readership were instantly smitten. But then it became a case of, “What do we do with this?” So despite the high demand, the book was left to circle the drain. That is until Kieron Gillen revived the team and brought them back to fighting form. This team has everything: a fantastic dynamic, spectacular dialogue, an amazing team make-up, and even a dark secret or two for long term intrigue. With art by Jamie McKelvie, this book fills that space that comic books are supposed to fill, a fun superhero teen book.
One of the defining characteristics of Marvel books through the years is their portrayal of teenaged heroes. They usually are a group of novices who each have their own drama but will put that drama aside to help out bystanders or each other in dire circumstances. It’s a very solid formula that makes teen audiences identify with a group of powered temper tantrum machines. Well this book has that in spades. It’s also got marvelous, marvelous character development. When last we left Billy Kaplan, aka Wiccan, he had just found out that he was an all powerful sorcerer. And, clearly, nothing bad ever happens when a hormonal, angsty teen is given ultimate power, so “Young Avengers” is actually a book where Billy is a responsible sorcerer who knows that moderation and responsibility are his most valued possessions. Just kidding, he plays a game called, “Who wants their dead mom back?” But it’s not a bad decision that makes the reader angry; it’s youthful arrogance—the pride of believing yourself invincible that every teen ever felt when given their first car. He simply got a little careless and accidentally brought forth a putrid soul parasite from a nether world of unspeakable evil who is nigh impervious to every conceivable attack. But the good news is that Loki has a plan.
By the way, side bar, putting Kid Loki on this team was by far its biggest stroke of genius. The mistrust inevitably built into the character keeps the team tied together only in such a way as to make sure Loki isn’t being an evil manipulator. I’m not even sure which I prefer more, Loki being good or Loki being evil. It came with great joy to me then in this issue when Loki scarpered off, leaving the team in a jam. He came back, but there was that few minutes of panic that said, “We knew he would do this and we let it happen.” It leaves an undercurrent for the team, not a question of if Loki will stab them in the back, but when.
The teen angst and unskilled super-heroing harkens back to the first volume of “Invincible”. They both took a good approach to introducing the readers to each character, to establish who they are but be expedient about it. “Young Avengers” beats “Invincible” in snappy dialogue and stunning page layout, but I only say that because of the fantastic full page fight spread in “Young Avengers” #4 where Marvel Boy—Marvel Boy? Captain Marvel? I’m going with Noh-Varr—performed an astonishing frontal assault on a dance club teeming with aliens. Comparing books, others might say I have a bias when I rate “Young Avengers” below “Invincible”. Tough, it’s my column.