It’s funny, because while I was never a fan of its parent title, “Young Avengers” grabbed my attention from day one. There was something about Allan Heinberg’s writing that made each issue exciting and interesting; it was that rare sort of comic in the age of decompressed stories that made me absolutely dying to read the next issue.
With a second volume of Heinberg’s stories nowhere in sight, Marvel has understandably decided to help bridge the gap between the old series and the potential future book with “Young Avengers Presents,” a six-issue mini-series with different creative teams taking on each issue and spotlighting one or two characters. It seemed like a good idea for all parties involved; readers get another outing with the characters, the publisher keeps the team fresh in the minds of the public, and admirers of the series get to present their own spin on the series.
Unfortunately, all “Young Avengers Presents” seems to really do is hammer home that there’s no sign of “Young Avengers” volume 2, but that’s not the fault of the creative teams assigned to create what are really glorified “fill-in” issues. Let’s take, for instance, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s new issue focusing on Wiccan and Speed. They’re the two most complicated characters of the series, somehow the reincarnation of the Scarlet Witch’s former children, which at various points were pieces of the villain Master Pandemonium’s soul, creations of the demon lord Mephisto, and magical figments of the Scarlet Witch’s imagination that eventually faded away. With a back story as convoluted as that, it’s understandable that the characters themselves would be confused and curious about where they come from, and Aguirre-Sacasa uses that to launch them into a quest for their missing mother.
The problem is, by the very nature of “Young Avengers Presents” it’s quickly clear that characters are mostly in a holding pattern. No major changes in status quo can happen while Heinberg is elsewhere, so this issue follows the same structure as the previous two issues. Main character(s) wants to meet someone connected with their past, searches for them for the majority of the issue, ends up having a brief heart-to-heart, and then goes home. “Young Avengers Presents” #3 is in a worse predicament than the first two issues, though, because the character that Wiccan and Speed would logically look for is too big a deal for Aguirre-Sacasa to be allowed to handle. So instead they meet someone else connected with their origin for the heart-to-heart and then go home with virtually nothing changed in the status quo.
That’s not to say that Aguirre-Sacasa does a bad job, but rather that he’s in a lose-lose situation. If he doesn’t tackle the big story hook awaiting him, he’s in trouble for not addressing it. If he does, though, he can’t really do much with it (especially with only a single issues to tell his story). He does the best he can with it; I thought the character he brought into the mix was inspired, and considering I’d never heard of him before I was impressed at how he was able to make this piece of comic book history fit in without any huge exposition dump. The end message of embracing your present instead of worrying about your past is a good one, although I must admit that I wonder how long that will really last if and when Heinberg returns to the book.
I don’t remember seeing Alina Urusov’s art before, but it’s good. It reminds me a lot of animation cels by way of artist Joshua Middleton; each panel looks surprisingly lush with the colors interacting well with Urusov’s figures, and it’s a nice look. Interestingly enough I think her weakest point is probably drawing people with superhero costumes; Speed in particular always looks a little awkward in his suit, and while Wiccan fares a little better that’s probably in part due to the number of tight head-shots on him that hide his unrealistic outfit. When Wiccan’s back in his bedroom in every day clothing is the most relaxed and natural he looks throughout the entire book, and I don’t think that’s a small coincidence.
Ultimately, I think Aguirre-Sacasa and Urusov really do the best with the thankless task they’re given. It’s tough, because with no continuing storyline from one issue to the next, there’s a real lack of a hook to make you want to keep reading, and that was always one of the strongest points of “Young Avengers” with Heinberg and Jim Cheung on board. Here, you get to the end of the issue and it’s by no means bad, but you really do wish that the characters could finally be free of the holding pattern they’re stuck in. A pity, really. Both the title and all the creators involved really deserve much more.