Friday, 25 January 2013

New Beginnings - Young Avengers #1

"Young Avengers in its first incarnation was about being sixteen. This Young Avengers is about being eighteen." Kieron Gillen

I was struggling to review Young Avengers #1. Why? The simple answer is it's very, very good. The story, the characterisation, the art, the dialogue - it aligns to make one of the best comics I've seen from Marvel in years (second only to Matt Fraction's Hawkeye).

So unless I devoted 500+ words as to why Kate Bishop clearly has the Midas Touch, I was stuck. Reviews that gush are often dull, sycophantic nonsense. Similarly though, reviews that cynically trawl for a flaw in an otherwise stunning piece of work tend to reveal the underlying bitterness of the reviewer - a failed author swiping at the more fortunate.

Then I read Gillen's editorial piece in the back, in lieu of a letter column, and the quote above helped it all click into place.

I loved Young Avengers. Introduced in the wake of Avengers Disassembled, Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung brought us a book about motivated individuals who aspired to be heroes. Rooted in Avengers lore - but not confined by it - the kids were first and foremost characters rather than components of an ensemble team.

Sadly, it was dogged by delays and concluded after twelve issues and a special. After that Marvel dabbled with a few miniseries, all with different writers, agendas and decidedly mixed results, culminating in the recent Children's Crusade - featuring the return of Heinberg and Cheung, and frustratingly delayed releases.

Enter Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, the creators behind the wonderful Phonogram. Picking up the best remnants of the old team, Gillen is adding the new Miss America; his own reimagined Kid Loki from Journey Into Mystery; and Noh-Varr - who is quickly shorn of his ridiculous Protector identity and neatly ditches all the nonsense he was saddled with during AvX.

The story contains sex, confusion, defiance, magic, conflict, science fiction, heroics, horror and a loving relationship. Plus the age old struggle between adolescents who are becoming adults and parents who refuse to accept that.

The art work is deceptively simple, with clean pencil lines and neat panel layouts, coupled with a perfect use of colour akin to cel shading in my eyes. The characters are recognisable and yet completely McKelvie, which seems to be so rare in franchised comics these days. Too often a stylised artist distorts a character's look away form what makes them identifiable - particularly Ramos and Allred - or we get an identikit in-house approach to the art that reflects none of the artists' personalities.

This is a 21st Century comic book, with style and substance despite the issue's bold title. It's diverse without feeling like it wants to be a banner pole for diversity.

Bryan Lee O'Malley variant cover!

It's about being 18 and all the wonder, pain and intensity that brought with it. There's a passion for music within, but moreover there's a passion for the Marvel Universe and these young characters within. There's no clumsy exposition here to artificially pull them together; in time you can trust their lives will force them together.

That and Loki's machinations no doubt.

And above all it's very, very good. ;)

 Ben Fardon is tired but glad that a few things have clicked into place.

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