Children of War: Zeb Wells on "Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways"

There's a war going on in the Marvel Universe, and as with any war, it's the children who ultimately pay the price. And the "children" that I'm referring to, in this case, are the two teen teams of Marvel: the Young Avengers (created by Allan Heinberg) and the Runaways (created by Brian K. Vaughn). Both teams currently have their own ongoing series, and each book contains fascinating characters who must deal with the usual growing pains, in addition to all the difficulties that come with being a superhero. And the latest difficulty they must overcome is a doozy - the government-mandated Super-human Registration Act.

This is a piece of U.S. legislation that requires all individuals wishing to operate as a "superhero" to be trained and registered by the government. This has split the heroes of the Marvel Universe into two factions: those who are pro-registration, and those who are against it. So which group does the Young Avengers and Runaways side with? And are the two teams even on the same side? Marvel-exclusive writer Zeb Wells ("Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan," "New Warriors") will be answering these questions and more this July in the four-issue miniseries "Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways."

"I think it's a crossover that makes sense, and with 'Young Avengers' going on hiatus (the book will be taking a publishing 'break' after issue #12), now was the perfect time to get the teams together," Wells told CBR News in explaining the impetus behind the book.

As for how he handled the plotting of a book that involves so many characters and also ties into such a large event, the writer stated, "I was offered the gig, and then Allan, Brian, and (Editor) Tom (Brevoort) helped me shape the series' outline. With two large teams, plus a company-wide crossover going on, you need all the 'wingmen' you can get."

Regarding what to expect from the book in terms of story though, CBR News asked if fans should expect the obligatory "misunderstanding between the two teams which leads to a fight?" Wells responded with his usual amount of gravitas.

"I'm shocked you would even suggest…! How dare you…


"I really think fans want to see these two teams square off, and I think the personalities on the teams would lead to natural friction. The Young Avengers, simply by affiliating themselves with such a legendary team, suggest authority to the Runaways, who see authority as inherently evil. And the climate of Civil War is unstable at best; no one knows whose side anyone is on. Let's just say everyone's a bit touchy..."

While Wells is known for his lighthearted, joking style, he indicated that this book actually does have a serious undertone to it. He explained, "These are kids pulled into a grown-up's war. They just want to get out in one piece.

"The story is about how the battles of adults are eventually fought by children. As 'Civil War' escalates in ways I'm not at liberty to disclose, the stresses on the Young Avengers and Runaways will increase exponentially."

Stresses? What stresses?

We tried to press Wells for more details. As the government is requiring super-humans to register, we asked if the folks on Capitol Hill (in the Marvel Universe) would ever consider mandating an age restriction on superheroic activity?

The writer replied, "I can't really answer this one. It hasn't played into my story yet and that would be Mark Millar's call (as the writer of 'Civil War')."

When asked about the two teams and what he likes most about them, Wells said, "The characters. Brian and Allan have made characters that are so rich, they're a blast to write. Both teams are made up of kids who have come to the conclusion that grown-ups aren't always right, and they've decided to follow their own path. But while the Young Avengers hope to get the adult superheroes to come around, the Runaways just want to be left alone."

One of the difficulties of a book like this is having to deal with so many characters, while still giving each a unique voice. While Wells had written a team book before with "New Warriors," this story is putting his abilities to the test.

"There's always the challenge of giving everybody enough 'screentime' when you're writing a team book, but this is definitely the hardest one I've written. And that's because each character has been so well-defined by Allan and Brian that you could put any two of them together and have an interesting scene. So it's been a challenge to decide which character interactions to focus on."

Wells is excited to have Stefano Caselli ("G.I. Joe," "Defex") joining him on art for this tale. And as this book deals with events affecting the entire Marvel Universe, he indicated that the artist is going to have his hands full drawing a multitude of guest-heroes and -villains that appear in the book.

While there are many books spinning out of the "Civil War" series, the writer hopes - and believes - that fans will give this book a try. As he simply put it, "Can anyone who has read 'Young Avengers' or 'Runaways' say they're not even a little curious how these two teams will interact with each other?"

Whose side are you on?

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