“Young Avengers” #14 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Emma Vieceli, Christian Ward and Annie Wu is the beginning of “Afterparty,” a two-part epilogue that runs through the last two issues. After saving the world, it’s time for the team to celebrate being young and alive. “Young Avengers” #14 has three stories, each with a different art team and focusing on different characters on the same night.
The artwork in “Young Avengers” #14 is excellent, and the characters and settings are always clear, but the artists have such defined styles that the showcase aspect of the book results in jarring shifts in the reading experience, even with the textboxes indicating time and cast changes.
The lead-in with art by Jamie McKelvie starts with a ten-panel sequence of Kate getting ready for the big night. It sets up the tone of party-times, and creates suspense around the final effect of Kate’s glamorous get-up and who is waiting for her on the other side of the door. Matthew Wilson’s color palette is complex and shifts from warm to cool easily. Gillen scripts some long-overdue interaction the two female team members, Hawkeye and Miss America Chavez. America and Kate’s dialogue doesn’t quite pass the Bechdel test because of the oblique mention of Noh-varr, but their dialogue feels spot-on, just the right combination of awkward and tentatively affectionate. McKelvie’s ending panel with the two of them stepping into America’s star-shaped-punched inter-dimensional portal feels perfect as exit shot, and the two-page spread of the Afterparty itself has enjoyable cameos from teen characters from across the Marvel Universe.
The first Afterparty story with art by Emma Vieceli focuses on Wiccan and Hulkling. It’s a straight-up romantic slow dance number, with the least plot or action in “Young Avengers” #14, although it does tie up loose ends with Prodigy and Loki’s insidious suggestion to Teddy. Vieceli’s facial expressions are good at conveying emotion, but her facial shapes for the characters are too too uniform and her backgrounds feel flat. In a possibly misguided effort to stick closely to the club environment, Lee Loughridge’s cool-toned palette doesn’t deviate much from a triad of neon blue, magenta and purple, but the ending panel, with its disco strobe-light halo spots, is very pretty.
The next story with art by Christian Ward is the stand-out story of the bunch. Ward’s art has kaleidoscopic painted effects and a softer line than the other artists, and Gillen shifts the setting and atmosphere dramatically for a gem-like tale about Miss America Chavez. America’s back story has been so mysterious that it would be fair to conclude that her grumpy but amusing interactions with Loki and her spectacular powers were there was to her. Finally, the enigmatic Miss America Chavez becomes less enigmatic via a flashback to ten years ago. It’s an unalloyed pleasure that Gillen has managed to save this doozy of a revelation for now. Ward’s art beautifully captures the feel of another world and America’s childhood joy and melancholy. Gillen’s skills as a writer are also vibrantly on display here. America’s characterization is so suddenly deepened that it’s like watching like a flower bloom in fast forward, or alternately, it’s like watching blood well up from a wound, because there’s a profound undercurrent of pain and loss to America’s story.
The final story drawn by Annie Wu and colored by Jordie Bellaire is focused on Kate. Wu’s graceful curved lines and flair for composition pair well with Bellaire’s saturated warm colors. Bellaire’s pairing of teal with primrose red is a great combination, and Wu draws a particularly attractive Noh-varr, who is slouching about with headphones about his neck with a physique like a young god in a Baroque painting. Kate and Noh-varr’s post-breakup chat is bittersweet but well-done. Their emotions a little overwrought, but it all works, because they are young and the whole sequence feels like a pop song. One suspects this is exactly what Gillen intended, especially since he provides an Afterparty playlist on the letters page. The full-page spread on the last moment is a pitch-perfect party moment.