Young Avengers #12

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie take the Young Avengers into their "final" battle with Mother, as she uses their own exes as allies (and one as a hostage) to bring alternate reality versions of them to Earth to destroy everything in "Young Avengers" #14.

It's a tribute to Gillen and McKelvie that while "Young Avengers" has not been crossing over with any other books or events, the battle feels every bit as important as an event book. The stakes have been raised consistently throughout the series, and Gillen has done such a good job with the characters on the whole that it's nearly impossible not to connect emotionally with the characters.

Unfortunately, though this story delivers all it needs to in order to make for a solid and enjoyable comic, "Young Avengers" #14 does happen to hit in that mushy spot where a battle is just getting going but it's not actually at the heart of things yet. Because Gillen's characters, world and story are so wonderfully layered, there are a lot of great bits to mine -- including Miss America and Loki's shared secrets about Wiccan; Kate and Noh-Varr's flawed relationship and plenty of funny bits beside -- but there's also a lot of Loki's speeches about what could go wrong; and funny but ultimately repetitive bits establishing the helplessness of adults like Captain America in their current predicament. There's nothing wrong with the issue per se, but with so many fun characters guest-starring, it's hard not to feel like some opportunities were missed on the whole.

Though McKelvie delivers a spectacular issue full of clever storytelling choices, the bar has been so exceptionally high on the visuals for this series on the whole that "Young Avengers" #14 does not actually stand out as one of his more exciting issues. It's still stunningly beautiful -- the storytelling effortlessly clear, the emotional beats absolutely riveting -- but it's just not as clever as other issues. In fairness, McKelvie has a massive cast on his hands to deal with for at least part of the issue, and it's the kind of cast that (while painstakingly and awesomely rendered) makes it hard to be too creative in layout choices. There are still some very cool double page spreads of action to be found, some cool visual tricks (like the coloring on the "portal" in the opening pages), and the quieter emotional scenes have all the resonance readers have come to expect from McKelvie, but it's just slightly lacking comparatively. I guess that's the downside to being an ultimate badass that constantly pushes on visual boundaries. You can't let up even a notch, or your risk even slight disappointment.

"Young Avengers" has consistently been a book to watch over the last year, breaking boundaries visually every month and telling wild dimension-hopping yet character-based adventure stories with excellence. News this month that "Young Avengers" will be ending in a few short issues is a disappointment, but assuming Gillen and McKelvie can end on the expected high-note, it will be a comfort to have this strong nearly perfect series immortalized forever.

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