It’s zany, it’s funny, it’s got action, suspense, and heart. Maybe not the best issue of Young Avengers ever, but still pretty great.
As always, SPOILERS
Something Young Avengers seems to be fond of in recent issues is throwing the reader headfirst into the middle of the story and letting us work our way back from there. Fine by me. Kieron Gillen has his cast’s voices down pat now, and can make their expositional/recap dialogue not only sound natural, but often quite funny as well. The story opens with Hawkeye narrating the events that took place between last issue and this one, and her typical brand of wit is present, even when discussing horrible things. She explains that the team has been dimension-hopping, on the trail of the Patriot lookalike who captured Speed. And one of the best parts of the sequence is that the examples Gillen gives are not what artist Jamie McKelvie draws. It provides a richer experience in a shorter space, a fuller picture of what the Young Avengers have been up to since we saw them last. Gillen and McKelvie have proven themselves to be an exquisite collaborative pairing, and this opening page is a good example of why.
From there, we actually do follow the gang as they travel through a few more new worlds, all through Miss America Chavez’s newly-revealed power to open star-shaped gates to other realities. The story’s pace is rapid and never lets up. Neither does the creators’ inventiveness. Five locations, each one as detailed and standout as the last, and each of them with a particular connection to one of the central cast. Mostly, they are universes where one of the Young Avengers went bad, which Wiccan comments on, saying that perhaps the kid their chasing, who seems to be an evil version of Patriot, is sending them a message with his trail. It’s a brief but likely important point he makes, and I suspect it will come up again down the line.
For now, though, the conversation is cut short, and the Young Avengers tumble into the home dimension of Mother, who is, at this point, pretty much the team’s arch-nemesis. By revealing her hand in Speed’s kidnapping and thus tying herself to the second story arc, she establishes herself as their primary foe, and a relentless one at that. Also more of a schemer than I gave her credit for. Though she says and does very little this issue, her mere appearance does a lot to flesh out her character, and I think she needed it.
Also, her home dimension looks great. Everything does, because McKelvie is a stellar artist. And it’d be unfair not to mention Mike Nortion, who I think usually gets credited with “art assists” or some such, so I’m not entirely sure what are his contributions and what are McKelvie’s. The point is, as always in this book, there is a tremendous level of detail on every page. And even in the darkest realities, the lighthearted tone of the series maintains in the visuals. These are kids, after all, and kids who’ve seen a lot more than most, so they can handle even the grimmest challenges with a wisecrack and a smirk. Heck, one of them is Loki.
Colorist Matthew Wilson also adds some nice touches, particularly insofar as he uses a new palette for each new world. The characters all still look like themselves, but the hues around them shift, as does the overall lighting of each space. These visual cues from the entire art team help Gillen’s fast-paced story stay clear, because it’s so starkly obvious when a brand new reality has been entered. And since visiting a handful of realities is the main thrust of the narrative this time out, it’s essential that the art do what it does here.
At the end of the issue, the team is separated, and Gillen gives each of the two splinter groups a truly gripping cliffhanger, for very different reasons. More than anything, this issue reaffirmed for me that I want more Young Avengers in my brain as soon as possible. As I said above, it might not be the best single issue, but it firmly cements this book as one of the best ongoings coming out right now. Superhero or non, Big Two or otherwise, this is some fantastic comicbookery.