Dark Reign: Young Avengers #1

Story by
Art by
Mark Brooks
Colors by
Christina Strain
Letters by
Cory Petit
Cover by
Marvel Comics

The "Young Avengers" franchise might be in something of a holding pattern while readers wait for Allan Heinberg to free up his schedule, but that doesn't stop Marvel keeping the characters in circulation with a variety of one-shots and tie-in miniseries -- and the franchise couldn't be in better hands with Paul Cornell and Mark Brooks at the helm.

Of course, it's a bit misleading to call this strictly a "Young Avengers" title, since the group itself doesn't appear until the final page. Instead, we follow a new group of wannabe heroes who could easily be a new Young Avengers team -- but who we know from solicitations are more likely to turn out as the Young Masters of Evil.

The issue marks the creation of several new characters, all of whom spring immediately into life through Cornell's vivid characterization. It's hard, as both a reader and writer, to get attached to new characters when they all appear at once, but by the end of the issue, you're certain to have discovered a favorite -- and chances are it'll be the new Enchantress, who definitely has powers comparable to a goddess, but whose Asgardian credentials are, er, slightly more suspect. The hilarity of her mangled Thor-like speech-patterns are worth the cover price alone.

To Cornell's credit, the ambiguity of the characters is believable and well-pitched. They don't just show up and decide to be evil -- in fact, throughout the book, we see the team actually attempt to be heroic, with limited success. The suggestions of villainy instead come from each character's personality, from the well-meaning but responsibility-dodging Melter, to the vigilante-inspired Hangman, who simply chose a poor moral compass in the Punisher.

The artwork from Mark Brooks is nothing less than stunning. Brooks has shown in the past that he can handle teenage casts brilliantly on the "Ultimate Spider-Man Annual", but paired up with Christina Strain's colors, the series takes on a vivid, animated appearance. It imbues the book with the required youthful energy, bringing the cast to life and providing the perfect visual counterpart to Cornell's dialogue. Instantly a worthy successor to the Young Avengers name.

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