Published by Marvel Comics
This could be the coolest comic ever made, not the best (although it is very, very good) but the coolest. It’s that cool kid at school who’s going to gigs before you are allowed out past ten, has a serious girlfriend long before you get chest hair but still manages to remember your name and give you a smile as you struggle not to hate him.
Killen and Mckelvie are compatriots from the trenches of creator-owned comics in England (one day I will write about the pop drenched glory of their book Phonogram) who have been steadily rising through the ranks at Marvel. Finally the band is back together and their new tunes are outstanding.
The Young Avengers are a group of teen heroes who have disbanded and sworn not to fight crime again. However as one of them so keenly puts it, “I’m not going to spend the rest of my life in the phone booth.” This trade collects the origin story of the group and puts the pieces in play of what I hope will be a long-running series.
No previous knowledge of these characters is needed. I had no idea who most of them were, the exceptions being Kate due to her role in the excellent Hawkeye and the Norse God of Mischief, Loki. Miss America is the powerhouse of the group and demonstrates it by punching everyone. Hulkling shape-shifts, Wiccan casts spells and Marvel Boy runs up walls like a cockroach while shooting lasers and looking great with his shirt off.
The art is near perfect. McKelvie has the cleanest, surest line in modern comics and uses it to draw great looking young superheroes (helping Gillen to address the elephant in the room of such books-these kids will be wanting to have sex with each other). There is a faux realism to his art, the people look real and even nearly normal sized, even if they are green, godlike or from another dimension. Fashion and haircuts play a role in adding to the teen texture of proceedings but not so much as to put off old geezers like me.
Mention must be made of the panel layouts. Most of the storytelling is through simple, clear structured panels but as soon as the action starts it gets interesting. Mckelvie is doing great things with panel inserts to display movement. Marvel Boy (or Noh-Varr as he prefers to be called) features in an amazing double-page, numbered action sequence that displays a fight scene in a way I haven’t seen before.
Loki seems to be pulling the strings of this group and Gillen uses him to explore the power of story itself. There is a great sequence where Loki* explains (while talking to a previous, less evil version of himself) that Gods are creatures of story and because Evil Loki now inhabits the body of Less-Evil Kid Loki this limits not only his power but also his malevolence. It’s that sort of added depth that lifts this book from being just another good-looking adventure comic.
Should I buy it? If you think you are past teen super-heroics then, well you’re wrong. This is yet another great comic from Marvel, its wicked fun to read, the dialogue is whipcrack smart and the art gloriously pretty.
Next time: It’s a return to classic adventure storytelling and art in a very original way with Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray by Frank J. Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham.
*For a full exploration of how the traditional grown up, evil god of mischief (like the one portrayed in the films by Tom Hiddleston) becomes a pre-teen Trickster check out Gillen’s exceptional run on Journey into Mystery. It too is bloody good comics.