Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dirty Dozen: Young Avengers

Dirty Dozen is a semi-regular feature with twelve disconnected thoughts on the first twelve issues of a current ongoing series*.

*I know that calling Young Avengers a "current ongoing series" is kinda-sorta a stretch considering it's going to end with issue #15, and the whole thing has basically been one long story. But I think it counts because its endpoint wasn't predetermined when the series began—the story dictated its own length to some extent, as opposed to this having always been planned and announced as "a fifteen-issue series."

1. Loki is the star, right? The story is centered on Wiccan and his relationship with Hulkling, yet Loki is still somehow the main character. He knows the most, he does the most, he's the funniest, the most likable, the least trustworthy, the best. I very much think of it as an ensemble cast, but he's the breakout character and also the anchor.

2. Love and sex are both handled very well. Hulking and Wiccan have a different kind of totally equal, two-way affection than Kate and Noh-Varr. They're both healthy relationships, sincere and therefore valid. But the two couples aren't looking for the same things, so what they offer one another differs, too.

3. Young Avengers does credits pages like nobody else.

4. All the endless hype Jamie McKelvie gets for his layouts/page designs is more than deserved. It's not just that he does something innovative almost every issue, he also keeps finding new ways to do it. The two-page spread of Noh-Varr fighting his way across a room with numbered movements creates an extremely different effect than the page showing more or less every teenaged superhero in the Marvel Universe connected through the world's most well-built social-media-based flow chart. McKelvie is a powerfully creative cat. That said, there is never any way of knowing how much credit goes to writer or artist, and Kieron Gillen's close collaborative partnership/friendship with McKelvie is well-documented, so the praise goes to both to some degree, I'm sure. When the thing that knocks me out is the actual physical structure of the page, though, I have to assume the artist gets a bigger nod. Also, of course, major kudos to Mike Norton, who inks and/or finishes McKelvie's art depending on the issue.

5. The mystery around Miss America Chavez's exact place in all of this needs to be cleared up posthaste.

6. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I quite like Gillen and McKelvie's approach of telling a single, finite, longform story in fifteen issues and then calling it quits. It's true that sometimes this has made individual issues seems slow or light, but ultimately this has been a rewarding narrative told well, and when it does hit its natural endpoint (which you can feel it getting rapidly closer to all the time) I much prefer to have the book end, even temporarily, than keep going just because the sales justify its continued existence. If you've told the story you set out to tell, then by all means, take a bow and get the hell off the stage.

7. The weird, itty-bitty subplot where Kate was worried that when she turned 21 she would count as an adult and therefore not be able to help fight Mother was sort of botched. It was only barely hinted at for a few issues, then suddenly Kate stated her fears out loud, had the rest of the team shoot them down in no uncertain terms, and blammo, the problem was resolved. I would've liked a bit more tension, or, even better, for this silly and inconsequential detail to have never been introduced in the first place. 

8. Young Avengers is classic and modern at once. There's a whole lot of social media, teen slang, pop culture references, etc. that make the comic feel very now. There's also an unthinkable, world-ending threat that a group of heroes band together to defeat, which creates a more old-school vibe. The book's prioritization of inventiveness and, more importantly, fun, feels like more of a throwback attitude, yet it can also be a powerfully dismal comic when it wants to be, grimming and gritting with the best of 'em. The mashing of retro and neo elements is one of the title's biggest draws.

9. I hate this book's treatment of Ultimate Nullifier. He was the best character in Vengeance, which is one of my favorite Joe Casey superhero comics ever. In that title, UN was a ballsy young warrior and a bit of a visionary, leading a team of idealistic teen heroes who operated under the radar, more interested in saving the universe than getting any glory or even recognition for their do-gooding. Here, he's demoted to the role of whiny ex-boyfriend, so upset at having been rejected that he becomes a petty supervillain helping Mother attempt to destroy the universe. He completely reverses his entire worldview and overturns all of his priorities because the girl he likes doesn't like him back. It's a total misfire, so I choose to believe Gillen's UN is a different characters entirely than Casey's, since that's how they read.

10. Wiccan's probably not going to make it out alive. That's been apparent from the get-go, and has only grown more likely with each new chapter. 

11. The idea that Prodigy not only retained all the skills and knowledge of a slew of other super-people, but also their sexual proclivities, intrigues me to no end. What about their tastes in food, entertainment, fashion, etc.? Does he find himself simultaneously drawn to and repulsed by basically everything he encounters? What about political views, prejudices, misconceptions, etc.? Even if he doesn't believe them all, does he KNOW what most of the rest of the Marvel U thinks about these topics? Trying to imagine what it's like in his head is the world's best thought experiment. Dear Marvel, please give the guy a mini-series, if not an ongoing, so this can explored!

12. No matter what happens in the final fifth, I will miss this volume of Young Avengers. It did stuff I liked reading, looking at, and thinking about.

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