It’s been 18 months since the release of the first issue, and over 3 since the previous installment, but when an issue of “Avengers: The Children’s Crusade” finally makes it onto shelves, it has always, always been worth the wait. This is no exception.
The climax of last issue saw Doctor Doom steal the reality-altering powers of the Scarlet Witch as the X-Men and Avengers stood powerless to stop him. As far as cliffhangers go, it was fairly audacious. Unsurprisingly, since Doom can’t instantly rewrite reality (there are other comics to sell, after all), watching him back out of that situation makes for a slightly less exciting resolution than the promised battle — but Heinberg’s skill means that by the end of the issue, a reasonably satisfying conclusion has been reached which remains true to the players involved.
That said, the start of the issue is slow-paced and excessively verbose. Heinberg’s dialogue is great fun to read, with strong characterization and interplay, but it takes a while for anything to actually happen. There’s a particularly clunky section where Speed takes Cyclops to task for seeking justice against Wanda when he’s surrounded by a variety of reformed characters, which is a point worth making but one which is never adequately rebutted and makes for an unsatisfying close to that arc (if that’s indeed what it is).
More interesting is the implication that even in his god-like and notionally benevolent state, Doom’s limitations are self-imposed and caused by his own arrogance. Although our heroes provoke him, the defeat he suffers is mostly due to his own actions. The decision for Wanda to “open a portal” to the source of the power he wields (thus helping to “overload” him) is a little sudden, and feels like a late addition to the story. The ending seems ambiguous on whether Doom still has Wanda’s powers, and it’s not obvious whether #9 will contain some kind of final assault or an exploration of the fallout. If it is the climactic battle, it feels over rather too fast (but after 18 months of build-up, perhaps it can’t feel anything but).
Of course, it’s all relative criticism. Even when it’s faltering a little, “The Children’s Crusade” is a hugely enjoyable read and a gripping superhero story. Cheung’s art is faultless in its storytelling and beautiful to look at, while Heinberg juggles a massive cast with apparent ease. It helps that in an event such as this, he has the freedom to provide developments that feel shocking and surprising. There are two apparent deaths in this issue, and the fake-out makes the next one all the more technically brilliant, even if I’m personally disappointed to see that character go.
With only one more issue to go, we can confidently say that this series will become a classic read. If you’re not reading it, it’s probably a bit late to start — but do yourself a favor and buy the collection.