McKeever Enlists "Young Allies"

In the ongoing cycle of line wide shakeups and brand reinvention that is modern superhero comics, occasionally a series will come along that's out to prove that a new collection of heroes can reignite a classic idea. Marvel Comics has its sights set on just such a generation-defining run with "Young Allies," a new ongoing series by Sean McKeever and David Baldeon that launches this June as part of Marvel's Heroic Age branding.

Led by the girl without a world known as Nomad, who's been kicking her way through her own miniseries and backup stories in the monthly "Captain America" comics, the Young Allies lineup includes longstanding team player Firestar, the spider-swinging superheroine Araña, McKeever's own young hero Gravity and a new player named Toro whose inspiration comes by way of bullfighting more so than any sort of burning powers. "The idea behind 'Young Allies' is that it's literally a group of young allies. It's not so much a team in the conventional sense as it is a group of like-minded people of the same generation," McKeever told CBR News. "The basic idea for the book is that they're fighting for the soul of their generation. That comes to the fore immediately with the introduction of the Bastards of Evil, who are the unwanted sons and daughters of supervillains of course."

The name Young Allies originated in the 1940's when Marvel predecessor Timely published solo adventures of teen sidekicks Bucky Barnes and the flame-powered Toro, however McKeever said that this new series took equal inspiration from a one-shot story featuring the earlier iteration of the young, female Nomad. "The original impetus for it came when I was actually putting together the 'Nomad' miniseries. When I was doing research on Rikki Barnes, I came across the 'Heroes Reborn: Young Allies' special that came out back in 2000 that was by Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley. That had the Heroes Reborn Bucky leading a team of young heroes. Between that and thinking about the original 'Young Allies' series, I thought it would be a good idea to take the sociopolitical work I was doing with Nomad and apply it to that on a broader scale."

Still, despite a recognizable name, McKeever was able to build this new team from the ground up in terms of outlook rather than make the series a throwback to the Golden Age team. "That was just Bucky and Toro and some best-forgotten racial caricatures without powers," he laughed. "What I wanted to do was take the spirit of that and apply it to modern times with a little more subtlty, so I came up with using Araña because Joe Quesada had suggested using her in the Nomad book. I was planning on her for the 'Captain America' backup, so that was a shoe-in. And then we came up with Firestar and Gravity because I really like both the characters. Then Toro was Tom [Brevoort's] idea, where we're taking the Toro from 'Heroes Reborn: Young Allies' and putting him in the story, though it's the Toro from this universe, so he's kind of a different character."

On the flip side of the equation are the Bastards of Evil, of whom McKeever said, "They have no compunction about doing terrible things, so they've been doing those terrible things across the country for a few months now, recording all their terrible deeds and putting them on the internet. They seem like a bunch of joy-riding kids - the sort of soulless, 'Call of Duty'-playing, Columbine-shooting disaffected youths that all parents fear. These are actually them."

The writer is gearing up for the June debut of the Young Allies across his Marvel work, first with April's "Firestar" one-shot as well as with he and Baldeon's ongoing "Nomad" backups in "Captain America" which will introduce Araña into the mix. Finally, the creative team will also contribute a Gravity story to the second issue of theHeroic Age anthology "Age of Heroes." "You'll meet the first Bastard of Evil in the 'Age of Heroes' story. His name is Warhead, and he's the son of Radioactive Man who can create major fission explosions. So he's a bit of a problem, to say the least."

McKeever explained that in order to make this new ongoing series work, he had to give each young ally their own point of view, starting with Nomad and Toro, who, thanks to the latter's being the "Marvel Universe" version, has never met his team leader, though she remembers his counterpart well. "In the Nomad miniseries, you had an opportunity for her to interact with her brother from the Marvel Universe, and that turned out very poorly to say the least," the writer said. "I wanted to have another opportunity for her to interact with someone from her world who doesn't know her in this one. It will also be the opportunity to come up with a character from scratch. He's a kid from Columbia who was abducted at a young age by a drug cartel and made to do some pretty bad things. When he comes in now, he's gotten out and trying to redeem himself. He's definitely not the character Nomad knows, and she's aware of that, so it's a kind of tricky situation for her."

Firestar was an easy pick for the writer, who's worked with the character on-and-off since his run on "Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane." "I suggested her just because I'd always been a fan of her since 'Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends,' and I got to write her in the 616 with Iceman and Spider-Man appearing together for the first time in 'Spider-Man Family.' But I wanted to have a more experienced team player involved, and someone with more experience in general than this group of teenagers. Then I launched my Firestar special that's part of the Women of Marvel series of stories for this year. That takes place in the aftermath of Marvel Divas, where Firestar had discovered she had breast cancer and was going through chemo, and asks, 'Now that she has a second chance, what does she do with it?' That will lead directly into 'Young Allies.'"

Waiting a while to fit into his bigger Nomad plans, Araña still had plenty of character development under her belt thanks to a stint training in the Initiative alongside heroes like Ms. Marvel and Julia "Arachne" Carpenter, though McKeever will make the character his own in the "Nomad" serial first. "She's a character who started out as a superhero because she was kind of drafted into this war between these two organizations that she doesn't necessarily understand, even now. Now she's in a situation where she's powerless, so where does she find power without powers? Coming out of the Nomad backups and going into 'Young Allies,' she's finding her place."

"Young Allies" also represents a return of sorts for the writer in that he'll be scripting his own creation Gravity for the first time in a number of years. "I've had a lot of time to process the stuff that's happened and to process the concept that was really new to me that I knew but never experienced - you create a character for Marvel or DC, and once you're no longer writing them, it's fair game for others to do what they want," he explained. "I'm not saying people messed up, but whenever somebody else writes the character, it's really strange. I think [Dwayne] McDuffie did some really cool stuff with him, and with me coming back to the character, the real challenge was to look at what he's been through and say 'What does that change about him and how is he the same?'

"And in a lot of ways, I think he is the same. He's always jumping to conclusions. When we go through those cycles in our early 20s and late teens where we're really naive, and once we realize we're naive, we think we're not anymore because we realized it. He's going through those cycles of disillusionment, despite having been through pretty much every craziness a superhero can go through in a very short time. He's died, then come back to life. He saved the universe. He had the world know his identity and then had it magically forgotten. He's basically done the whole Spider-Man playbook in a few years! On the other hand, when I started writing him, it was like I had never put down the pen. When you create a character like that, you have a great sense of who they are."

With an opening arc focusing on the building of the team and the full reveal behind the Bastards of Evil, "Young Allies" has plenty of characters to play with, and McKeever expressed excitement that he and Baldeon would be together for the ride. "I like working with him a lot. He just delivers some amazing emotional moments, and those are my favorite artists to work with - ones who can do subtle emotional stuff, like Mike Norton and Takeshi Miyazawa. David has that in spades, and it makes him a delight to work with."

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