C2E2: Heinberg & Cheung Launch "Children's Crusade"

"No more mutants."

By uttering these three words in the final issue of the 2006 miniseries "House of M," Wanda Maximoff, AKA the Scarlet Witch, drastically changed the Marvel Universe, stripping most of the Marvel U's mutant population of their powers. After the events of that fateful day, the Scarlet Witch seemed to have vanished and several characters have been desperately searching for her, including her father Magneto and the teen heroes, Wiccan and Speed of the Young Avengers. While the Master of Magnetism's reasons for wanting to find Wanda are obvious, the latter pair has a reason of their own: they believe they are the reincarnated spirits of her two sons, Thomas and William.

This July, the Scarlet Witch resurfaces at last, and the Young Avengers, Avengers, Magneto and several other surprise characters will begin a race to be the ones that find her first. This is the premise behind "Avengers: The Children's Crusade," a nine issue, bi-monthly miniseries from the same creative team who first introduced the Young Avengers to the world, writer Allan Heinberg and artist Jim Cheung and announced at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo. CBR news spoke with the creative duo about the project

CBR News: Allan and Jim, you guys last worked together on the "Young Avengers" series which ran from 2005-2006. How does it feel to be back together again, working on a story featuring the characters you created?

Allan Heinberg: I feel extremely fortunate to be writing these characters again - and to be working with Jim Cheung and editor Tom Brevoort again on the project. This was actually a story we always wanted to tell as a way of exploring the nature of Wiccan and Speed's relationship to the Scarlet Witch. I'm very grateful to Marvel and to Brian Bendis for waiting for us and allowing us to tell the story as we originally envisioned it.

Jim Cheung: It's been great to collaborate with Allan again. He is one of the most generous writers I've had the pleasure to work with, and the fact that he's a good friend makes it all the more pleasant an experience. Allan is very attentive to what goes on the page and really goes out of his way to make sure the scripts are fun for me to draw.

A lot has happened to the Young Avengers since the final issue of their original series. In your minds, how have these characters grown and changed since you last wrote them? And as an artist and as a writer, what do you find most interesting about these developments?

Heinberg: Since I last wrote the characters, they've been through "Civil War," the "Secret Invasion," "Dark Reign" and "Siege." They're definitely more assured in some ways - more experienced and cohesive as a group. And in that time, Patriot and Hawkeye have become romantically involved, as have Stature and the Vision. So they're definitely a little more grown up now. But what I love about them is that they still retain their fanboy enthusiasm about what it means to be a superhero in the Marvel Universe. They're still young enough to be idealistic about the kind of positive change they can create in the world.

Cheung: It's been fun to see that the Young Avengers have maintained a high level of visibility through the Marvel Universe during the various major events. It's gratifying to know that the characters have been able to sustain such interest and I hope they continue to for many years after.

On the artistic side, it's also been cool to see different artists' take on them. They all have fairly distinctive personalities in my head, so it's nice to see other 'interpretations' that can add more depth to those characters. It helps me build stronger personalities for the kids when I draw them, so that I know how they might react in different scenarios.

How would you describe the group dynamic among the Young Avengers when this series begins?

Heinberg: They're a very cohesive group when the story begins. They don't necessarily stay that way throughout, but in the beginning they're united in a cause they feel strongly about, against a common enemy.

What can you tell us about the plot and the themes of "The Children's Crusade?" It sounds like this series will go a long way towards answering many questions fans have about the Scarlet Witch?

Heinberg: The story is largely told from Wiccan's point of view, and it attempts to explore the idea that sometimes the line between hero and villain is a very thin one, depending on which side you're standing on. In my experience, no one is ever purely good or purely evil. The Scarlet Witch is a perfect example. She's always been a ambiguous figure in the Marvel Universe. She started out as part of Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, then she became an Avenger, then she tried to destroy the Avengers. So, in the end, is she a hero or a villain? Jim and I thought it was important the Young Avengers wrestle with the idea that, even in a super-powered world of ostensible heroes and villains, it's not always easy to tell one from the other.

Allan, you mentioned that this story is largely told from Wiccan's point of view. Who are some of the other key featured and supporting players in "Avengers: The Children's Crusade?"

Heinberg: The Young Avengers are all present and accounted for, as are a number of the Avengers who appeared in "Young Avengers." Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Ms. Marvel and Luke Cage among many, many others.

The information we have so far makes it sounds like this story is a race between the Young Avengers, the Avengers and Magneto to see who can get to the Scarlet Witch first. What can you tell us about each group's motivation for getting their hands on Wanda, and why would the Young Avengers oppose the Avengers and Magneto, who appears to have genuinely reformed and has become a member of the X-Men?

Heinberg: Since the events of "Avengers Disassembled" and House of M, the Scarlet Witch has proven herself to be the single most powerful and potentially destructive force in the Marvel Universe. So everyone's trying to find Wanda for different, conflicting reasons. Some want to rehabilitate her. Some want to kill her. Some want to control her - to make her limitless power their own.

What can you tell us about the tone and feel of this series? It sounds like a story that is both epic and grand, but also incredibly personal for several of the characters involved?

Heinberg: Tonally, Jim and I are picking up right where we left off with "Young Avengers," trying to tell big, epic Marvel Universe stories in a very personal, very emotional way.

"Avengers: The Children's Crusade" also sounds like a story that could have big ramifications for the entire Avengers line of books and possibly even the X-Men line. Is that true?

Heinberg: Absolutely. The Scarlet Witch is an integral part of the Avengers and the X-Men mythologies, and the events of this series will definitely have an affect on both families of books

Jim, What can people expect from your work on this series? Will it be similar in approach to your work on "Young Avengers," or does the nature of the story call for something different?

Cheung: I hope that the quality of my work will have improved since the first series. I'm definitely trying harder and putting more effort than ever into the pages, so hopefully that will be noticeable to the readers. It has been a long time since the first series, so I want to make sure that the wait for this story has been worth it. Allan is making sure he meticulously hits all the right notes in this book, and I want to do the same. We both want to be able to end this book (and leave the characters) on a high note.

Speaking of ending and leaving. I know this book is a bi-monthly, nine issue miniseries and the first issue doesn't hit until summer, but fans of the Young Avengers and your guys' work on the characters will be clamoring to know if there's a plan in pace for the Young Avengers after "The Children's Crusade" ends ,and if you will both be part of that plan. Can you comment on that at all, or is it way too early to talk about?

Heinberg: I definitely have more "Young Avengers" stories to tell, but Marvel and I are still trying to figure out the best way for me to do that given the limits on my schedule. But I'd love nothing more than to keep writing these characters.

Cheung:I'd prefer to focus on getting closer to the end of this series before I start thinking about what I'll be doing next. There's a fair amount of work to go, so I don't want to get too distracted with anything else. With that said, there have been a couple of suggestions about what might come next, so it's nice to know that there should be something coming after.

I wouldn't be opposed to doing more YA, though. I do like the characters a lot; they will always feel very personal to me, so anytime I'll get to revisit them will be welcomed.

Heinberg: There is one thing readers should prepare themselves for. Since Jim, Tom and I started this project almost two years ago, we forecasted as best we could about what the Marvel Universe would look like when the book finally came out. But it turns out we were a little bit off. So, in "Avengers: The Children's Crusade," Steve Rogers is wearing his Captain America uniform and Iron Man is wearing his classic red and gold armor. Apart from that, there are plenty of surprises in store, and Jim Cheung is delivering the best work of his career so far. I cannot believe how lucky I am to be working with him. Especially on a project that means so much to both of us.

Cheung: Allan's pretty much covered the topic of Cap and Iron Man's outfits not being absolutely up-to-date with the Marvel continuity, so I hope readers will forgive and overlook that fact and just enjoy the ride that we're taking them on.

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