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Final Take on Young Avengers

I hate having to say this. It hurts because I wanted to love this series so much. But, in the end, the most recent run of the chronically stalled Young Avengers series (written by Kieron Gillen) has been bitterly disappointing. To the point that any new revivals of the series will be met with a much needed suspicion.

My biggest problem with the series has been Billy Kaplan. His characterization has been atrocious throughout this series (though there are some arguments to be made that this trend started with Children’s Crusade). Though his character is not absolutely dependent on his romantic relationship with Teddy Altman, his characterization revolves around that relationship. This point is best illustrated in the climatic final confrontation with Mother. On his own, Billy cannot defeat her. It is only when Teddy comes to him and redeclares his love that Billy is able to become the Demiurge. 

On one hand, this is a wonderful moment for LGBT representation in comics (as is the later revelation that all on the team save for, maybe, Kate Bishop are shades of LGB). But on the other, when is it a good idea to limit a character’s growth to their romantic partners? 

Furthermore, it doesn’t seem that Billy exactly grows as a character during this series. Except, of course, he does come back to the superhero life. 

Teddy Altman is problematic in a lot of ways. Personally, I feel his personality darkens considerably. While unintentional, I feel that there is a manipulative element in his interactions with Billy. Maybe when Loki intimates that Billy created Teddy to be his ideal boyfriend, he hit closer to home, but still missed the mark? 

The new Young Avengers series is the story, ultimately, of Loki’s redemption after killing his genuinely heroic reincarnation. His confessional breakdown is, perhaps, the best written scene in the entire run. The emotional impact is undeniable. Gillen gets Loki. Pity the other characters don’t get nearly that level of understanding. 

America Chavez comes close to getting that level of understanding, if only on a more subtle level. She depicts herself as a hard, experienced, no nonsense superhero. But behind that tough exterior is a young woman meeting her god (Billy) and learning that he is not what she thought he was. This is great characterization. 

I’ve gone on about my dislike for the overall plot of the series. Mother is a rather ridiculous antagonist. That her menace lasts so long is frustrating. What happens to the team during their months long exile from Earth? Aren’t there stories to be told here? 

At points, Young Avengers does hit a level of coolness that goes beyond the average comic book. But too often that potential is hampered by a bitterly uninteresting plot. Rather than one long (fifteen issue) story arc, the series should have been composed of shorter and more frenetic, action packed arcs. 

In the end, it is hard to say that Marvel has handled Young Avengers well. It may well be years before a return to Young Avengers as an actual ongoing. But this time, I’m going to be far more cautious in my enthusiasm. 

 

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R.I.P. Young Avengers (Until Next Time)

What is wrong with Young Avengers? The latest series is ending in January after fifteen issues and a full year in publication. Apparently, the current creative team had a set story they wished to tell, and now that it is told, they have nothing else to add. Seriously? That was all?

Prepare for a rant in three, two, one . . .

Don’t get me wrong. I like Kieron Gillen’s writing. I love Jamie McKelvie’s art. But a fifteen issue single arc dealing with a transdimensional parasite with a kyoiku mama complex is all they had? Cue eye roll.

I’ve bitched about Young Avengers before. I despised Children’s Crusade and disliked Young Avengers: Dark Reign quite strongly. And I cannot say I’ve been too fond of this present, soon to be ended series. After reading the first two issues, I cannot say that kyoiku mama parasite interested me. Even if the whole point is to try and find new ways of engaging with and writing about younger superheroes.

Perhaps I have the same relationship with Young Avengers that I have with Naruto: a strongly love/ hate relationship. I want to love the series, but the foibles the series commits makes that impossible.

In a way nothing about the plot of this series has really pleased me.

My favorite character is Wiccan (not a shock, I know), but I detest how his character has been written lately. It is great that he is, arguably, the main protagonist of the series (and of Children’s Crusade). But seriously, is writing him as a Shinji Ikari expy the best direction?

Let’s be clear, the plots of the last two Young Avengers arcs have featured Wiccan initiating the story by fantastically fucking up. The first time, in his pursuit to find and redeem his mother, a teammate died at Doom’s hands and saw the birth of Kang. This time? I haven’t been keeping up, but it seems to be a clusterfuck, all because he wanted to do something nice for his boyfriend.

After all of this, Wiccan had the right idea when he gave up superheroics. In universe, at least, why the fuck is he not at Avengers Academy or Jean Grey? The boy needs freaking training, regardless of whether or not he going to remain a hero or not.

Personally, an arc that drives Wiccan back into superheroics rather than reinforcing his choice to quit would have been better. One that Wiccan himself did not generate. What that could have been, I do not know. I’m not writing it.

The only good point about this whole thing is, perhaps, the relationship troubles it is giving Wiccan and Hulkling. Not that it will go anywhere in the end. . .

Part of the problem with Young Avengers as a series is that it has to deferentiate itself from other teen superhero books. Especially Teen Titans. I’ve been thinking of the two series together for a while. Now, Marvel itself is not limited to Young Avengers when it comes to teen superhero books. It has/ had Avengers AcademyAvengers ArenaWolverine and the X-Men, etc. And each takes a different track in how it approaches being a teen superhero.

For the Young Avengers, that track is reminiscent of a bunch of fanboys (and girls) cosplaying their favorite Avenger. The only problems are that these kids have super powers and face life and death situations without any sort of training. (Not that Spider-man was ever actually trained, either. . . ).

In addition to the elements of cosplay, the direction of idea separation, of difference, is to make Young Avengers feel more like a teen drama like 90210 or Glee (it has explicitly been compared to Skins). Whether the attempt is successful or not depends on the eye of the reader.

Compare Young Avengers (vol. 2) to Teen Titans (New 52). Teen Titans is a far more traditional superhero comic book. And it is very successful, despite the lambasting of the writing from many fans. While Young Avengers started strong with the first few issues, it dropped precipitously. Currently, it hovers in the early hundreds. Compare to Teen Titans that routinely beats it by at least twenty points on the sale charts and for a good portion of its existence, rested in the thirties (it was in the seventies for last month’s issue).

What is an observer to make of this? Gillen is by far the better writer, but Lobdell is beating him on the numbers. Is this just habit buying or is there something else going on?

I want to root for Young Avengers. I want to love it. I was so psyched for the possibilities teased by Gillen, but now I’m wallowing in the bitterness of lost opportunities. Maybe whoever is going to write Young Avengers volume 3 will avoid these pitfalls. But I wouldn’t hold my breath. After all, this seems to be endemic to Young Avengers. But how can the series be successful if this continues?

“Skins Meets Superheroes,” What Was I Thinking When I Agreed with This?

Before I begin, I must admit the possibility that I am a DC fanboy. Therefore, it is possible that my criticism of Marvel Comics, and Young Avengers from Marvel Now! in particular, is rooted in my fanboy state. But I don’t think so. I am perfectly willing to criticize DC’s Teen Titanstoo (especially given that while I love the concept, I hate the writing).

But this post is aimed at Young Avengers as written by Kieron Gillen. When I first read the initial issue in January, I reviewed it very positively. Perhaps, in hindsight, I was too generous. I have since then read the second issue (and am, so far, passing on the third).

The reason for my growing dissatisfaction with the series is partially rooted in genre but also, as will become clear, in narrative. I still love the art, it is the writing that is bugging me.

Let’s first begin by looking at the comparison of the British teen series Skins with Young Avengers. Why is this comparison even made? I think the clear answer lies in that terrific opening scene from issue one. Where Kate Bishop wakes up in bed with Noh-Varr. But, honestly, that is the only scene that is reminiscent of Skins (okay, maybe Loki in the dinner could count in a pinch). But that is it.

The majority of the first issue, and the whole of the second, is rather traditional superhero fare. With a heavy dose of idiot plot (as carried by pretty much every character).

What has really troubled me, on a second reading of the first issue, is the interaction between Billy and Teddy. Given the nature of the genre (superhero comics), Billy is at fault because he does not want to be a superhero any more. Guess what? Two of his friends died the last time he played hero (and though Doom and Iron Lad committed the murders of Stature and Vision, Billy’s idiocy started it all). Given the extent of Billy’s powers, would it not actually be better if he never cosplayed hero again?

The more I think about it, the less sympathetic I am to Teddy, to be honest. Yes, in the grand scheme of things  Teddy has lot everything save his boyfriend. But how does that translate to cosplaying hero on the down low? And really, “I fell in love with a superhero,”? What the fuck! So, did Teddy fall in love with Billy Kaplan or with Asgardian/Wiccan? The person or the character? Personally, the narrative might have been more interesting if Billy broke up with Teddy for that comment.

Of course, Billy being Billy, he then proceeds to perform an idiotic action. That is compounded by Loki and America Chavez performing idiotic actions. Yeah, they’re teenagers, but seriously. Couldn’t Loki have just told Ms. America that he was trying to prevent Wiccan from bringing a transdimensional parasite to their reality? And what the hell with the Not-Ms. Altman acting like Stepford Mom? Wouldn’t the plot be better served with her being less immediately antagonistic? I know I haven’t read issue three (with four and five still to drop). But again, I am bitterly let down by this initial arc.

Is it possible that I want a stronger sense of rebellion or independence in my young superhero team comics? As I said in the introduction, I love the concept of the Teen Titans in the New 52, but I don’t like the writing. And from what I’ve heard about the upcoming The Movement from Gail Simone, I suspect that I do prefer a more rebellious/ independent take. (I am, actually, looking forward to The Movement).

Has part of my problem with Young Avengers always been my annoyance at the characters cosplaying as heroes rather than struggling to do the right thing, whatever that is, with powers they don’t quite understand? Is it, perhaps, the fact that, despite the promise of these kids standing alone, they are very much still looking up to/ dependent on their role models? Perhaps.

Regardless of whether or not my issue with Young Avengers is rooted in any sense of fanboydom for the opposition, disappointment with the narrative, or general dislike for the kind of superheroics espoused,  I am leaning towards dropping this series (if I haven’t already). I just don’t feel where this series is going. Perhaps if there is more Skins and less Heinberg, the series would be more enjoyable.

What More Can Be Said? Young Avengers #1 is. . . Amazing!

Less than a week ago, Young Avengers #1 was released by Marvel as part of Marvel Now!. Written by Kieron Gillen with art by Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton, colorist Matthew Wilson, and letterer Clayton Cowles, this opening issue is simply great. I loved every minute of it. But, what can I say in this review that hasn’t already been said in other reviews? I mean, every review I’ve read have been extremely positive with some very high ratings. 

I really can’t, to be honest. I love the writing. I love the fact that Billy and Teddy are depicted as a sickeningly in love couple (though I do wish we’ll see them get as much action as Kate and Noh-Varr, if not, I may change my tune). I love that opening sequence, hot damn! And Kid Loki is going to be a favorite of mine. He is a trip, no matter what. 

And the art work? Wow. I love it. I especially love the work of Mattew Wison. His colors are just freaking amazing. It is, honestly, a perfect complement to the amazing pencils and inks. Just, wow. What a great art team! 

I can only hope guest artists will be used in a manner similar to what DC is doing with Earth 2 and Batman (letting the art team have “filler” or standalone issues off in between the big arcs). 

So, what can I say about this series? Well, I can interrogate how Gillen answers my concerns about teens with aspirations of becoming superheroes. And I think he does a splendid job.

The kids who make up the team are doing the job because they want to do it. During the fight with the Skrulls, Kate Bishop wonderfully explains why “everyone should try it.” “Being a superhero is amazing,” which indicates the excitement of the lifestyle. There is, perhaps, something addictive to a superheroic lifestyle. 

And maybe, that is a metaphor for certain elements of the teen experience? I don’t remember which review compared Young Avengers to Skins, but I think that is a very excellent comparison. Isn’t the superhero lifestyle not comparable to a heavy party scene? 

In that metaphor, I think I find the answer to my earlier question about teen superheroes. Though, to be honest, I really do prefer them to be more “outlaw” than the groomed “next generation.” Perhaps it is a difference between rebellion and falling in line with one’s parents. 

So, while there is some elements of “cosplay” culture at work here, I don’t think that sense of emulation is all there is to it in this “new” Young Avengers team. Rather, these young heroes are standing on their own, not trying to be their parents or their role models. And that is, I think, a very good thing. 

Now, damn, I have to wait another month to see what happens! I can’t wait to see how the team comes together. For now, I think the team will be pulled together through three different storylines: A: Wiccan and Hulkling’s mistake (yes Wiccan does it, but Hulkling subtly guilt trips him into doing it). B: Loki and America Chavez’s violent game to figure out how to deal with Wiccan. And C: the sexy space adventures of Kate and Marvel Boy (’nuff said). I can see how A and B come together, but C may be a little tricky. Again, I can’t freaking wait. How will they get out of this one?

I want issue 2 now, damn it all!

 

I… I Just. . . I Can’t. . .

I know I’ve promised for like two weeks now a review of Avengers: The Children’s Crusade. Well, I can’t keep that promise. Why? Because I couldn’t even make it through the first damn issue. It was just so bad. Really bad.

Let’s be clear. I still love the Young Avengers (or maybe just Wiccan and Hulkling). But Alan Heinberg is a bad comic book writer. He freaking telegraphs what he’s doing in the first issue. Like a damn neon sign saying – “Doom did it! He did it all! Blame him!”.

And please, don’t get me started on the dialogue. Or the plot for that matter. Ugh.

The more I think about it, I really haven’t liked any Young Avengers related material that I’ve read. Young Avengers volume one was okay, but not spectacular. Dark Young Avengers was, well, idiotic in the extreme. And now this.

Do I really not like the Young Avengers? Or is it I like them as characters, as a team, but I just don’t like the stories that they have been featured in? I’m hoping, really hoping, that it is the later. But to answer that question, I’ll have to trust in Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (and the rest of the new Young Avengers team). Hopefully, this will be a new starting out point. And the start of something even better than what came before.

I do have issues with some aspects of the team, though.

I really hate the fact that they are presented as a bunch of Avengers fans who take up the mantle to fight crime. Really, there are a million other ways of getting a team of super hero teenagers together. Especially given that a good number of classic super heroes and teams started out as teenagers (Spider-man; the X-Men).

And why, oh why, did Wiccan (and Speed) have to be the reincarnated sons of the Scarlet Witch? That doesn’t even make sense with reality warping thrown in! The two (Wiccan and Speed) have to be at least ten years older than the children they used to be. Couldn’t he have been some kind of Asgardian? Or why did he have to even have a legacy?

To be honest, I think I would have preferred something more original rather than a group of teenage cosplayers with super powers. Why couldn’t they have been original?

Now that I’ve calmed down some, this does bring into consideration a past post on buying and collecting comics as well as a recent IGN post on habit buying comics.

I agree that one should not buy comics out of habit. If you, the reader, don’t like the writing or the art, then please, don’t keep purchasing the title. If you buy out of habit, the publisher won’t take the initiative to try and fix the problem. The problem will only fester.

The question I have for myself right now is, is the first on panel kiss between Wiccan and Hulkling worth the price of The Children’s Crusade

No.

Here’s hoping the new Young Avengers will be far better than what has come before.

31 Days of Post Day 14: Things I’m Looking Forward To

Okay. So I don’t have anything major I want to post about today. That’ll come tomorrow. And the next day. Instead, I really want to touch on some things that I’m looking forward to in the coming months.

Next month and close enough to my birthday: Skyfall. Remember in my review for The Dark Knight Rises that the  last movie I had seen in a theater (before TDKR) was Rent (and before that was Independence Day)? Well, I really don’t want to wait another five years between watching a movie in a theater. And I’m super psyched for Skyfall.

Coming up in January is the launch of Young Avengers with Gillen and McKelvie. Yeah, I know I posted about this earlier this month, but hey- it is something else I’m super excited for.

Then comes the news that Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire have new projects coming out at Vertigo. (Though it does suck that American Vampire is going on hiatus).

Oh, and Gillen has a new project coming out-Three. 

Well, that’s about it on what I’m looking forward to.

Anyway, here’s a hint for what’s coming up this week:

A post on my feelings about fanfiction.

A post on sword and sorcery.

A review of the season opener of The Walking Dead.

And a few others.

Until then.

31 Days of Post Day 9: Yes! Comic Book News

So, Marvel announced today that Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie will be launching a new Young Avengers series starting in January. All I can say is that I’m super excited for this book.

I like the Young Avengers. I’ve posted before that I haven’t like how Marvel handled the initial series. Hopefully, this time it’s done right.

Another thing that I’m looking forward to is Kieron Gillen. I’ve read some of his work and I’m a fan.

I’m less familiar with Jamie McKelvie. But I’ve liked the art I’ve seen.

So again, excited all around. Now if only January would hurry up so I can add Young Avengers to my pull list (which includes Earth 2, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel ).

For more information, check out CBR.

I know this post is short. But I’ve got other things to do, like more ILLing, working on a character sketch, and revving myself up for a rant tomorrow. I would do it today, but this bit of news has me to excited to properly rant.