Young Avengers #1-3 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, & Mike Norton
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Jamie McKelvie, Mike Norton
Release Date: March 27, 2013
Mild Spoiler Alerts
Young Avengers is a rarity in popular media: an exuberant story about youth that genuinely understands the real battles being fought.
Just as teenagers exist between childhood and adulthood without belonging to either, most of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s heroes on the brink straddle the line between the terrestrial and celestial — Miss America, Kid Loki, Marvel Boy, and Hulkling all hail from other worlds but lead lives on Earth, or in Hulkling’s case, can assume different physical forms. Similarly, characters like Wiccan and Kate Bishop fall under the shadow of a parent (Scarlet Witch) or mentor (Hawkeye) who occupy a role in the adult Avengers proper.
Gillen continues the parallel between domestic and superheroic life by drawing the title’s primary conflict from the familiar war of teenagers vs. adults. One character’s long lost “mother” returns as a morbid monster and turns other parents and authority figures against her son and his spandex friends, but not before suggesting that he break up with his live-in boyfriend. Whether it’s a fight over a significant other or imprisonment in dimensional limbo, the message is the same — grown ups are not on your side.
The settings further emphasize the relevance of the everyday; battles are just as likely to occur in a kitchen, diner, or nightclub as an interplanetary theater. Recaps are presented via a Tumblr-esque social blogging platform, which could go horribly wrong but the device is saved by a self-aware deployment of online clichés.
McKelvie and Norton’s art mixes indie-kid cool and youthful enthusiasm to capture mannerisms and facial expressions exclusive to teenagers. This style is just as suited to portraying battles in energetic, hyper-modern panel layouts (a spread of Kate and Marvel Boy preparing for combat could double as stills from a music video) as lighter fare like Marvel Boy dancing to The Ronettes in his bedroom. The versatile approach allows the characters to become fully-realized individuals rather than just artful creations, and ultimately elevates Young Avengers from very good to great.
In the space of three issues, Gillen, McKelvie, and Norton have created characters worth emotionally investing in and a world where just being young is an exhilarating, terrifying and gripping adventure.
Preview pages from Young Avengers #3 courtesy of Comic Book Resources