REVIEW: Young Avengers #1

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Young Avengers #1 reunites the creative talents of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, while focusing on the more youthful side of the Marvel Universe in the form of Wiccan, Hulkling, Miss America, Noh-Varr, Kid Loki – you get the picture. So how are the adolescent Avengers getting on? Major Spoilers has the review.

YYoungAvenger1CoverOUNG AVENGERS #1
Writes: Kieron Gillen
Arts: Jamie McKelvie with Mike Norton
Color Arts: Matthew Wilson
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Arts: Jamie McKelvie & Matthew Wilson
Editor: Lauren Sankovitch
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99

Previously, in Young Avengers: Something something Children’s Crusade…. I, uh, didn’t read that.

ALLOW ME TO DIGRESS FOR A MOMENT

A friend introduced me to Phonogram sometime last year. It’s an Image Comics story written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Jamie McKelvie about the literal magic of music, following the exploits of phonomancers, magicians with powers fueled by music and pop culture and community. The first arc leaned heavily on deep knowledge of the Britpop scene. I dug it, but didn’t fully grasp it. Then the second arc blew me away, somehow scratching both my music geek and comic geek itches simultaneously. It is a beautiful thing in comics when you can see a writer and an artist working in sync together on the page – that collaborative storytelling aspect is one of the great strengths of the format. Gillen and McKelvie produced just that on Phonogram. So when I saw they were doing Young Avengers, I had high hopes. I have no particular affection for any of the characters in this book – I didn’t follow the earlier incarnation of Young Avengers past a few issues. Not to mention I’m suspicious of young casts, since I’ve been burnt by Marvel’s affection for killing off any their adolescent characters with great gusto. So the question with this issue is could Gillen and McKelvie’s talents overwhelm my not-insignificant ambivalence towards these characters? Yes, yes they could.

Marvel has done a good job of tapping the world of indie comics for talent in the past few years, and Young Avengers #1 is another argument for why that’s been such a great move. Gillen’s script is smart, witty and moving with a masterful sense of pacing and balance. A few lines are laugh out loud funny, while others trend to just the right side of syrupy sentimentality. The core of the issue is Hulkling (I hope he gets a new name) and Wiccan’s relationship, with Gillen able to take what could be a saccharine moment and transforming it into an important plot-driving element. Noh-Varr and Hawkeye (Kate Bishop version), and Kid Loki and Miss America (America Chavez version) are paired off in their own rights; just what will bring them all together is not revealed, but their individual interactions are so good that I did not mind. It is not clear what the central conflict will be, but even if this is just a book about these kids hanging out, with the occasional Skrull invasion, it would still be worth reading. It also carries a share of Phonogram DNA – Noh-Varr dancing to the Ronettes and espousing the joy of Sixties girl groups is an inspired touch.

ALL THE PRETTY PICTURES

It’s great to see Jamie McKelvie working a high-profile gig, and he does not use this opportunity to disappoint. This has to be some of his best work. There is a two-page spread at the beginning that’s as good as anything I’ve seen in comics – a sweet montage of fractured panels depicting ray guns and space station heroics, splashed with a ridiculously cool caption. If that’s not enough, there’s another similarly dazzling sequence later on which mixes movement, memory and action. I cannot wait to see what he can do when the action gets really big. I like McKelvie’s work because it’s clearly his. He has an exceptionally clean style which brings pop art influences without being derivative. Matthew Wilson’s color job is also effective, giving the pages plenty of verve while never getting in the way of the action.

BOTTOM LINE: LIKE A PHIL SPECTOR SINGLE, ONLY WITHOUT THE MALEVOLENT INSANITY

Gillen has a little write-up at the back of the issue where he outlines his thesis for this title. In his view, the first Young Avengers book was “about being sixteen,” whereas this will focus on being eighteen – on bridging the gap between child and adult, about entering the grown-up world on one’s own terms. That’s good fodder for storytelling right there. This is an issue that’s explicitly poppy, in terms of its energy and influences, and it captures all that’s good about pop culture, pop music or pop soda. Sweet, smart, well-produced with a bubbly energy, right after I read it, I wanted to read another issue. The heroes in Young Avengers are emotional (as teenagers are), but they are heroes – this makes it a good tonic for those concerned with overwhelming doom and gloom in their comics. Big adventure with an emotional core is the essence of classic Marvel storytelling, and Gillen and McKelvie and everyone else absolutely nails it here. Young Avengers #1 earns five out of five stars. Check it out.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Reader Rating

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