Monday, February 25, 2008

Young Avengers

Who are these upstarts, you ask? Well, since you obviously have no taste* and don't deserve to know, I will answer you fairly. They're the Young Avengers, Marvel's best answer to the Teen Titans, and they rock.

Young Avengers happened at the right time in comic book history. Honestly, the idea wouldn't have worked as well at a different point in Avengers history. It came at one of the worst points. It took the senseless 'Avengers: Disassembled' and ran with it, crafting a story of a team brought together because they were the 'next generation' - a group of youngsters with ties, sometimes unknown, to the Avengers, who decided to follow in the footsteps of their elders and idols.

Part of their appeal lies in Marvel's much lauded, rarely existent 'realism'. You hear it all the time: "Marvel's more realistic than DC." It is, of course, a conceptually idiotic claim, but it's a popular one. A huge problem with claiming realism in any comics universe is the stagnation built into the industry that results in characters having 70 years worth of stories taking place within 10-15 years of a life**. However, one of the things that I've felt gives at least a passable illusion of change is the concept of the Legacy Hero, the hero who has taken up the mantle of an older hero out of respect or family ties or plenty of other reasons.

Young Avengers are Legacy Heroes. Here's a brief introduction...

Patriot: Before Steve Rogers became Captain America, the government tested the Super Soldier Serum on some African American members. Patriot is the grandson of one of those men. Patriot knows he's following some pretty enormous footsteps by inviting comparison to Cap, and he's got some inferiority issues...but he's a pretty heroic kid, when push comes to shove.

Hawkeye: Kate was given Hawkeye's bow by Captain America, and named Hawkeye's successor. Born to wealth, unexpected tragedy (because in order to do good, you have to have a tragic origin...) strikes. Instead of collapsing, Kate dedicates herself to helping out everyone she can, eventually joining the Young Avengers. She doesn't have powers, but she's good with a sword and great with a bow. She's the only member of the team that didn't have pre-existing connections with the Avengers.

Hulkling: A super strong shape-shifter, Hulkling is one of the earliest members of the team, and is currently in a relationship with another member of the team, Wiccan. Confident and openly gay, he and Wiccan are, in many ways, the back-bone of the team.

Wiccan: A budding magician, Wiccan comes from an extremely supportive household and he finds acceptance in the Young Avengers that he never had at school. He's honest and genuine, and like Hulkling is just an all around good kid.

Stature: Daughter of deceased Ant Man Scott Lang, Stature gained his ability to grow to enormous heights. She joins the Young Avengers both as an act of rebellion and as an honor to her dead father. Sadly, her home life isn't great: her father, being an NYC cop, hates superheroes, while her mother desperately wants to keep her out of the life that killed her father and ruined his relationships.

Speed: Yeah, his name's not very creative. And he's a little psychotic. But he's the 'edge' of the team, the one who's always trying to push the boundaries. They steal him away from his imprisonment as a recruit for the Kree/Skrull War that was breaking out above NYC.

Iron Lad: Iron Lad is the team founder, here, bringing the Young Avengers together to fight off Kang the Conqueror in the absence of the Avengers. He has quite a tangled past with Kang - oh, time travel - and is the focus of the first arc.

The Vision: After the Vision dies in Disassembled, a new Vision - with all of the knowledge and a bit more power, but none of the experience - arises. The Avengers have reformed by then, and they try to hold him back, but Vision, eager to help, just off and joins the Young Avengers.

The Young Avengers have larger than life adventures, something the current incarnations of the Avengers are lacking. The Young Avengers also have something the Avengers title has, for me, always been lacking: a sense of connection. The writer, a former scribe of The OC, does a great job at showing the kids become both friends and superheroes, of giving me a sense that they're growing up a little bit, but aren't succumbing to the pervasive darkness of the Marvel Universe. The Young Avengers Special especially, I think, shows them as a beacon of hope for the older heroes in the Marvel Universe.

Now, this wasn't a review. This was an introduction. An explanation, a little, about why I like the series. It's posted for two reasons. First off, I just recently bought this and lo! but it was good. The other reason? The Young Avengers will be making an appearance in the Vs System TCG come May in the Marvel Universe set. So, for all you Vs. fans wondering why Hawkeye is now a hot teenage girl...this is for you.

Hope you enjoyed.

*Or you just don't read comics. Which could mean that you have bad taste, or it could mean that you just don't have the time or money. If so, I apologize.

**Grant Morrison gives good interview, and this is him talking about a fascinating project of his: trying to shove all existing Batman stories into a coherent continuity for the Dark Knight.

Where you can begin reading:
The entire Young Avengers miniseries was released in Hardcover recently.

Or, check out the first arc. It costs less.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Damn, I love stuff like this. Hearing new characterizations bouncing around the brain of a dedicated fanboy? It doesn't get any better than that.