Heinberg Leads The "Children's Crusade"

They say youth is wasted on the young, but in the case of Marvel Comics Young Avengers franchise, keeping the teenage versions of Earth's Mightiest Heroes in high school has been a boon for getting more stories into the Marvel U. Since their introduction in 2005, Wiccan, Patriot, Hulking and the rest of the next generation heroes have kept a stable foot in the publisher's biggest events even as fans of that first book have waited for co-creators Allan Heinberg and Jimmy Cheung to return to the team full time.

That wait finally ends on July 8 with "Avengers: The Children's Crusade" - an nine-issue, bi-monthly comic that's part and parcel of Marvel's Heroic Age branding. the writer and artist spoke to CBR about the series in April, and today, Marvel set up another of its "Next Big Thing" conference calls for members of the press to talk to Heinberg and VP Executive Editor Tom Brevoort about the series, and CBR News was on hand LIVE! to bring you the full scoop from the call including new artwork from "Children's Crusade" #2!

The call started with some importance being placed on the Scarlet Witch. "We're looking for the Scarlet Witch, essentiall," Heinberg said. "We try to figure out where she is and what happened to her and whether or not she's able to rejoin the Marvel Universe."

"We've hinted and teased and messed around with this in the past," said Brevoort before confirming. "We are going to find her...her whereabouts and circumstances and all surrounding her...will form the backbone and the spine of this story." He added that "we'll discover where she's been, what she's up to" and "all the boot-quaking potential" she holds for the heroes in the universe."

"It feels very much like we just picked up where we left off creatively," the writer said of his collaboration with Cheung. Brevoort jumped in to joke, "It doesn't feel like much of a reunion because we've been working on this for two years now." He added that Cheung is in the fourth issue of pencils while Heinberg has scripted through issue six and that they're "relatively confident" the series will ship on its bi-monthly schedule. Heinberg is keeping the panel count per page down to give Cheung breathing room, especially considering a large cast that involves the Young Avengers, the Avengers, the X-Men and more. "We're walking a fine line here."

As for the setting and role of the book in the larger Marvel Universe, Brevoort said, "There's a point we've been making in every single conversation we've had publicly about the project: 'Children's Crusade' is set 'right now' in the Marvel Universe. It is the post-Siege, Heroic Age Marvel Universe...HOWEVER because we began work on this book about two years ago, we had to take the best educated guess we could as to where certain elements shake out, and over the course of two years some things are in a slightly different place now." The major issues of change were different costumes for Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, but Brevoort promised that by the end of nine issues an explanation would be made for these changes, and they would be reconciled in the story just as the story would create waves in other modern Marvel books. "We though it would be better to get the books out, and this is the price you pay."

The final status of Scarlet Witch and who she would side with came up with Brevoort saying too many questions existed now to know for sure including "Is she going to be anywhere at the end of this? Is she going to be in any shape at the end of this? Has she been pulling strings in the Marvel Universe for months?" He did say that a number of villains would be looking to draw the Witch to their side. "There are at least two world-class, you'd recognize them if you saw them on a street, villainous characters that are involved in the course of the series. I think one of them is relatively obvious, and the other is less so."

Heinberg added that one element from Brian Michael Bendis' "House of M" story that would play in would be how the Scarlet Witch's existence tears the expectations for heroes and villains apart. "The idea of Wanda and what she represents and the enormous amount of power she wields sort of calls into question who's a hero and who's a villain in the Marvel Universe." For example, Magneto operating as a concerned father and new member of the X-Men will shift fan perception of the character while the conflict impacts the Young Avengers growing sense of self.

Those elements would "fragment" some of the teams in the book, as Brevoort reminded the press that Stature may have a different view of Wanda as she lost her father to one of the Witch's past rages than Stature or Speed as the potential reincarnations of her lost children. "It's not nearly so cut and dry," he said.

"Absolutely, there's going to be some matter of relationship and tension between a resurrected Wanda and [the new] Vision," Brevoort added of the character who's part her former husband and part the young Kang once called Iron Lad. "Where does his allegiance lie? Here is a woman who at least some part of him was married to in the past? What does that mean for him and for the situation he'll find himself in?"

While Heinberg said, "I have missed them. In the brief time I was away I wondered what they were up to," he noted that with the long wait "I really am grateful that I've had the time and the time to see the way things have unfolded in the Marvel Universe. Context is everything."

Originally, future plans for the "Young Avengers" series involved plans for a Young Masters of Evil and the Search for the Scarlet Witch. But now, the writer said of this new series "It's a much larger story. So much has happened to these kids and the Marvel Universe that the ffate of the Scarlet Witch has much more to do with the Marvel Universe than it would have been." He said that this makes "The Children's Crusade" more than just a "Young Avengers" story and a true epic tale.

Brevoort stressed that "[Now that] there's greater distance between when we last saw Wanda in 'House of M'" the story has more resonance and impact for everyone than it would have if the story would have been in "Young Avengers" #16 or whenever it would have hit in that storyline. "The X-Men and the mutant community as a whole have been slowly building their forces together and assembling out in a bunker...the last mutant refuge in the world. That puts them in a more interesting and extreme position. That makes her value and impact to those people much more important than it would have been."

Asked if the book was Heinberg's final take on the Young Avengers cast, the writer said, "Initially this was going to be one of many stories with Young Avengers we would tell," he explained. "I think Tom and I - and Jim too - came into 'Children's Crusade' feeling this would be our last stand with these kids...but the more time I spend working on the book, the more I realize that there are more stories I want to tell with these kids." So while there is no definite plan for the creators to continue past them yet, "it's certainly an event where all three of us aren't going to be able to pull off again in the near future...this could be it, but I hope it isn't."

Asked how important it's been to keep the cast in the forefront of the Marvel Universe, Brevoort said it was "Absolutely crucial. We knew Young Avengers under Allan was going to take some time to get into production. Comic book readers have short memories...and it's very easy to lose track of who these characters are and why they're important." He said also that the cast of the original series proved as popular with Marvel creative talent, which made keeping them in the limelight easy. Today, fans know that they're central to the Marvel Universe.

A reporter asked whether or not Heinberg would be dealing with Brian Bendis' plot point involving an intimate encounter between Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch, Heinberg said, "For the most part, the story is told from Wiccan's point of view, and he certainly won't be asking her what happened with Hawkeye." Brevoort noted that whenever those plot points would be followed up on, it would be Bendis' story to tell.

However, as far as the teenage cast is concerned, "We're picking up where everybody else has left them off," Heinberg said, especially in regards to the romances between characters on the Young Avengers team.

"Avengers: The Children's Crusade" hits comic shops on Thursday, July 8 and will ship bi-monthly thereafter.

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