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Comic Review – Young Avengers: Sidekicks

Young Avengers TPB #1 by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung

I have never watched The OC (a bunch of well-off teenagers whining about life? No thanks) and I’ve never been much of an Avengers fanboy. Therefore, this wasn’t a book that was on my radar. However, the great word of mouth from the comic blogosphere persuaded me to try it out. So I blame you, blogosphere, you hear me?

The start of Young Avengers is a perfect beginning to a story – introducing the idea with good dialogue that doesn’t feel like exposition. Heinberg’s TV background means that the conversation between Jonah Jameson, Kat Farrell and Jessica Jones in the offices of the Bugle (in answer to the question: ‘Who the #*&% are the Young Avengers?’) is natural and flows – it explains that there are some kids dressed up as young Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Hulk flying around trying to save lives, and that Kat and Jessica have to find out more. It’s a great piece of set-up and tells you everything you need to know in a little time as possible.

What follows is the origin of the Young Avengers, as they are brought together initially to prepare to fight Kang, due to them being linked to the Avengers in a sufficiently vague way for the plot. It feels a bit fanfic though; what would it be like if the writer had some powers and some friends and needed to become a superhero team, as well as being gay. It is very well put together fanfic, but it feels so light and pointless.

The problem is that the story doesn’t feel like it is worth its own series. The title of the trade indicates the nature: it is a subplot within an Avengers main story, where Captain America and Iron Man have to worry about some young kids getting into trouble. Even with the, admittedly great, last-page reveal of Iron Lad as a young Kang come back from the future at the end of the first issue, it doesn’t add up to anything, substantial or worthy of a whole series.

The most annoying aspect is the ‘let’s get together and fight crime attitude’ that pervades it: it’s the superhero equivalent of ‘Hey, why don’t we put on a show here?’ I’ve always disliked the concept of not having a reason for the team, as if just having powers and a costume is enough of a reason for stopping muggings and bank robbers. What’s even worse here is the addition of a non-powered girl (who just happens to have lots of money) who just wants to be part of the team. It all seems a little outdated. It isn’t helped by the fact that the whole reason for the story, that of Kang coming back as a young man to stop himself from becoming the bad Kang of the future, is entirely negated (as it has to for the sake of Marvel continuity) by the end of the book.

However much I don’t enjoy the story, it is still told well. Heinberg is a very capable writer for his first comic book work; he supplies enjoyable dialogue and his narrative construction is clear, moving things along well (if a little slowly – it definitely feels like writing for the trade). The other aspect to the book that is laudable is the artwork of Cheung; he is a top-notch draftsman, with a slick superhero style, expressive and angular and sleek. He is able to make the talky scenes visually interesting, providing fully detailed panels instead of just the characters, and he has a dynamic edge in the fight scenes, making him an ideal superhero artist. Together, they make a good creative team; I just wish that it was on something more substantial. And I still hold the blogosphere responsible for making me believe that it was more than it is …

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