Page 45 Review by Stephen
"I actually didn't see that coming."
You won't from the cover, and deliberately so. For a start, by the second issue there will be two young ladies on the team, while others will experience... trauma.
This is a story of upheaval and flux because it's a book about teenagers. This is a book of mysteries, the biggest mystery presented to its readership at the time - long before Gillen & McKelvie's YOUNG AVENGERS run - being "Who are the Young Avengers?" and because it's a book starring teenagers, it's one which some of them don't know yet the answers to. Which of us knew ourselves, aged 16?
Heinberg created the title at Quesda's suggestion after two years writing and producing 'The O.C.'.
"I do love writing teenage characters. Probably because I never got over being a teenager myself. I don't know if anyone does."
Not "stopped" being a teenager but "got over" being a teenager.
"It's such a tumultuous, deeply felt period in a person's life: you're struggling to define yourself in relation to your friends and family; you're expected to behave like an adult, but you're not permitted to enjoy any of the rights and privileges which most adults take for granted; and you're falling in love for the first time. There's so much about being a teenager that goes unsaid and so many wounds that never heal."
"Being a teenager is all about the beginning of one's search for identity. And that question, "Who are the Young Avengers," haunted me to such a degree that it became the soul of my subsequent pitch."
Every element Heinberg identifies there finds itself at the core of this book, and although Jimmy Cheung will dazzle you with the shiniest of big-battle superheroics fought by those you will be oh so familiar with and fondly attached to, what sets this apart from random costumed crime-fighting is that it comes with its own internal momentum. They'll be dealing with their own dynamics determined by their own identities, their friends' and their families'. Three of the individuals will be startled to learn who their parents actually are. As will you.
On the surface this looked corny, not only to prospective readers but to J. Jonah Jameson, ALIAS' Jessica Jones and fellow reporter Kat Farrell when the first four of our youths appear in costume saving a dozen residents from a four-alarm fire. They didn't call themselves Young Avengers - that was Kat Farrell - but each of them looked like fanboys aping their elders: The Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America's former WWII partner Bucky.
But key to all that is this: they are indeed all connected extraordinarily closely to the Avengers and their history... just not in any of the ways it looked like above.
They emerged on the scene while the Avengers were disbanded immediately following the murder of Hawkeye, Ant-Man and The Vision in AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED (whose self-indulgent, sentimental review is even more spoilery than that sentence, so I really wouldn't read it, just the book which is blistering). That too is key, for Iron Man is still raw from those deaths while Captain America still feels responsible for Bucky's. They're determined to shut this team down before any of them gets hurt, especially when Ant-Man's daughter joins in.
But these Young Avengers aren't looking for trouble; trouble comes looking for them... because of who they are.
Since it's a book of most excellent mysteries, so satisfyingly sewn together, I'm going to have to leave it there in terms of plottage, but as Captain America himself remarks, "I actually didn't see that coming."
Instead, here are a few things that I loved enough to review this book anew from scratch with only one paragraph partially reproduced:
Heinberg does a mean impression of Bendis on Jessica Jones (who appears throughout and is even illustrated for many pages during the investigative special by ALIAS' own Michael Gaydos), whilst having his own voice for the determined but less than experienced or adept kids. It's grounded.
Secondly, during that special Teddy, who's not a young Hulk but a very gentle shape-shifter, talks about how he wanted to "fit in" at school as do most teenagers, and so he did: he morphed to appeal more to his peers. The problem with changing yourself to suit others - to act or to lie and to pretend to be someone you're not - is that you make all the wrong friends. So he did.
Things I liked third: by the time the book opens Teddy has already learned to be honest to the extent that he's boyfriends with Billy. That relationship informs the whole of Gillen and McKelvie's YOUNG AVENGERS stint - it is its very catalyst - but brilliantly it had nothing to do with them being gay. Similarly here their sexuality a complete non-issue, remarked upon by neither friend nor foe. They simply love each other. Brilliant!
Also, I adore the art by Jimmy Cheung. Coloured by Justin Ponsor, it's a gleaming dream with tender, shiny eyes, costumes which are thick enough to feel between your fingers and discern one material from another and the most spectacular aerial fight scenes you could wish for. He's exceptionally adept at vulnerability, and there will much of that witnessed within.
Oh, and lovers of Fraction and Aja's HAWKEYE will be delighted to learn that this is where Kate Bishop comes from and quickly establishes herself as the bond that binds them all together and keeps them on course even when families unravel. Families matter.
For yes, this has a heart of gold. I like Heinberg. Plus, he's done a great job of balancing the young wilfulness and glee of the star-struck newcomers (or, in one case, the baggage that comes from being the grandson of an unrecognised, underappreciated legend) with the respect they have for their renowned adult counterparts, and he's done an intelligent job of presenting the converse view of authority. He's put in some graft, in other words, and there are worse reasons to go out a buy a book than that it's well written by a warm-hearted man, and gloriously drawn by an undeniable star.
Lastly, I know you can't tell from the cover, but this is very much an Avengers title not a mere adjunct or a gimmick, firmly rooted as I've suggested in its history and co-starring core members.