For fans of Marvel's comic book and inematic Universes, "The Avengers" is a team whose name brings to mind different members. Some may think of Captain America, The Hulk and Ant-Man while others think of Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye. As amazing as these teams are, there is something special about the teen lineup of the "Young Avengers", especially the team put together by regular creative collaborators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.
While the Young Avengers' original lineup had members that were connected to The Avengers, this relaunched roster had each member attempting to distance themselves from the past. With a backdrop of gorgeous art, creative comic panels and a youthful spirit, the Young Avengers could strike out on their own and save the world. Here are 15 reasons why this run is the best.
15 A CONCISE STORY
Unlike other comics, this adventure was a stand-alone storyline that didn't have major repercussions on or in the Marvel Universe. The new Young Avengers are brought together when Billy Kaplan (Wiccan) accidentally summons Mother, an inter-dimensional parasite who takes control of their parents and any adult connected to the team. While trying to figure out how to undo the spell and defeat Mother, they are confronted by a mysterious entity known as "Patriot" after he makes Wiccan's brother Speed disappear. In order to defeat Mother and get Speed back, the team must fight their possessed parents and go on an inter-dimensional journey.
It can be difficult to read comics when you have to worry about crossover events, the backstory of a character, and dozens of story arcs. This comic series was only 15 issues long, making it easy to collect and read. Although the series is set after the events of "The Children's Crusade," "Journey Into Mystery" and other Marvel titles, prior knowledge of these comics isn't necessary. In fact, the characters mention past events in a casual, matter-of-fact manner that doesn't make the reader confused. As a result, this comic was accessible not only to long-time comic fans, but also new readers.
14 A STELLAR LINEUP
Gillen and McKelvie's "Young Avengers" included members from different teams. First, there is Wiccan and Hulkling, two teens who were on the previous Young Avengers team. Wiccan is the son of the Scarlet Witch and has magic powers, while Hulkling is a Kree-Skrull alien who can shape-shift, use super strength, and heal himself. Kate Bishop is a bow-and-arrow-packing gal also known as Hawkeye and is another Young Avengers veteran. America Chavez used to be in the Teen Brigade and can create portals between universes with her foot; she can also fly and has super strength.
Rounding out the team are Noh-Varr, Prodigy and Kid Loki. Noh-Varr is a Kree superhero with enhanced speed and reflexes who uses alien weaponry to fight. Prodigy is a depowered mutant who used to be in the X-Men and has the combined knowledge of every person he ever encountered. Kid Loki is a trickster god who uses his magic and cunning to manipulate others. As characters of different races, genders and sexual orientations, they form one of Marvel's most inclusive teams.
13 LOKI'S STORY
Speaking of Kid Loki, he was de-aged when his evil self died and was reborn as a child. Loki's child self tried to become good, except a remnant of Loki's evil killed Loki's child self and then took over his body. In "Young Avengers," we see Kid Loki wrestling with a guilty, self-loathing conscience that manifests as a copy of himself only he can see. Loki has to decide if he still wants to manipulate people for his own purposes or do something else.
With his inclusion in the series, Kid Loki was seen as an introduction to the character for a new generation of readers. His wit and magical abilities make him enjoyable to read, yet his inner turmoil and manipulative tendencies make him fascinating. When Kid Loki literally grows up and becomes an older teen later in the series, it makes the reader wonder whether he will mature inside as well as outside. Loki's character development in this series would lead directly into the events of Loki's solo book "Loki: Agent of Asgard".
12 HULKLING & WICCAN
Wiccan and Hulkling are two of Marvel's most beloved gay characters. Prior to the "Young Avengers" relaunch, we saw them kiss for the first time in the book "Avengers: The Children's Crusade," but they couldn't quite pursue their relationship with all that was going on. In Gillen and McKelvie's books, we finally see them in a relationship. The first fight we see them have occurs over the two giving up their superhero identities after the events of the previous Young Avengers comics. Their relationship is eventually tested when Loki tells Hulkling that Wiccan might have been using his powers to make Hulkling fall in love with him.
Wiccan and Hulkling's relationship is so memorable because, even in this day and age, it remains bafflingly rare to see a gay relationship normalized, especially in teenagers. Since the two have moved past that, we can see them do things that other people do in relationships, including fight, kiss, make-up, and reaffirm their love. If one of them ends up separated from the other because of a villain, then reuniting becomes their first priority. Seeing the ups and downs of Wiccan and Hulkling's relationship is poignant because they show love at its messiest and most real.
11 AMERICA CHAVEZ
America Chavez made her first appearance in 2011 as a member of the Teen Brigade in the comic book series "Vengeance." She ends up leaving the team due to "musical differences" and becoming a member of the Young Avengers after a suspicious encounter with Kid Loki leads her to Wiccan. As a Young Avenger, her no-nonsense personality and powers are on full display, giving her a more prominent role. She fights Loki, literally kicks the way into different dimensions, and banters with Kate Bishop, all of which instantly made her resonate with a new readership.
In addition to placing America front and center, the comic also reveals her origins as a princess of an alternate dimension and establishes her as a lesbian. This character development would make her a favorite among fans, causing her to become a member of "A-Force" and "The Ultimates." The support for America Chavez would also lead to her getting her first solo series, which is set to debut in March 2017.
10 WICCAN'S POTENTIAL
Magic users almost always have a big destiny waiting for them. For magic-using superheroes like Wiccan, this is no exception. In the previous "Young Avengers" comics, it was revealed that Wiccan and his twin brother Speed are the sons of Scarlet Witch. In Gillen and McKelvie's comics, Kid Loki reveals that Wiccan is destined to become an all-powerful entity known as The Demiurge and rewrite the laws of magic in every universe and time period. Heavy stuff!
Prior to this, Wiccan's powers appeared to be limited to repeating statements of intent in order to create a desired effect. Like with his mother before him, this could result in almost anything happening, from teleportation to locating someone. To have Wiccan be destined to become something so powerful shows that he is not to be underestimated as a magic user and that his powers can be taken to great heights. Whether he is more powerful than his mother is yet to be seen, but only time will tell.
9 MILLENIAL SAVVY
Real people using social media is one thing, but having fictional teen superheroes use it is even more fun. At one point in the series, the Young Avengers use Yamblr, a social media app that is combination of Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram. Through Yamblr, Loki documents their adventures by taking selfies and photos, with most of the team commenting on them in their own styles. It allows the team to let go of their cares for a moment and shows a sentimental side to Loki's character.
Yamblr is also used cleverly as comic book recaps that involve fictional readers posting screencaps of the events and discussing them with hashtags. Given how millennials are often put down for using social media and taking selfies, it's refreshing to see teen superheroes doing so without getting scolded by any adults. It shows millennials use social media for fun and for posterity, to document key moments and thoughts that mean something to them. This is highlighted and indeed celebrated by these heroes doing the same.
8 TEEN HEROES
In these comics, the "Young Avengers" have teen moments before, during and after saving the world. In addition to using Yamblr, they also eat breakfast together at a diner and eat Korean barbecue at a pitstop while traveling between dimensions. They also reference pop culture and entertainment like "Game of Thrones" and "Scott Pilgrim." Most amazing of all is that they and a bunch of other teen heroes have a fabulous New Year's Eve party to celebrate their victory and ring in the New Year thanks to Loki's generosity (and residual guilt).
When teen superheroes have to fight crime, save the world and go to school, there isn't a lot of time to just be a teen. These younger heroes can never just kick back and relax or celebrate their victories without being interrupted by bad guys. It is for this reason that seeing the Young Avengers do teen things is so precious and wonderful. It allowed them to take a break from being superheroes and show how entertaining it can be simply to be a teen!
7 NO ADULTS
As we previously stated, every adult that the Young Avengers has come in contact with is infected by the parasite Mother. Since this includes their parents and The Avengers, they have no adults they can go to for help. If they try, the infection will go into effect and the adults will try to attack them and turn them over to Mother, if she isn't already present. This is humorously played with in the comic, such as when the Young Avengers fight the infected adults right outside of Avengers Mansion and none of The Avengers notice.
By not having The Avengers and the parents coming to save them, the book showed that the Young Avengers were heroes in their own right, rather than just being associated with certain teams. Of course, the icing on the cake is that they had little adult supervision and could practically do whatever they wanted. After all, there is no way they would've been able to have that sweet after party if the adults had intervened.
6 THE ART
A comic book's artwork is just as important as the characters and storyline. The best comic book artwork has to be attractive enough to illustrate the story without distracting or putting off the reader. In this comic, the artwork does that and then some. The characters are drawn so well that they look like actual people rather than comic book characters; it's not necessarily photorealism, but McKelvie's deft hand always conveys true life and real emotion effortlessly. On top of that, certain visual effects and background images are so striking, they literally seem to glow. One prominent example is this lovely, giant sparkling star that appears when Wiccan and Hulkling kiss later in the series (issue #13); a credit to both McKelvie and colorist Matt Wilson.
In addition to the artwork by Jamie McKelvie, the last two issues of the comic also featured a slew of guest artists that included Becky Cloonan, Joe Quinones, Ming Doyle, Christian Ward and Emma Vicelli. Each guest artists brings their own style to the characters and the goings-on in the issues, making it a hugely collaborative tapestry. Some of the most vibrant artwork seen throughout the run was orchestrated by Christian Ward, featuring bright colors and a watercolor painting look.
5 RULE-BREAKING PANELS
Just as important as the actual artwork are the panels that contain the story; the manicuring of a page, after all, not only adds to an aesthetic, but also the visual flow of a story. The panels of this era of "Young Avengers" seem almost three dimensional, sometimes even breaking the fourth wall to address the reader directly. One of the best examples of how well the panels were handled occurs with the character Noh-Varr in the first volume of the series.
At this point, Noh-Varr has broken into a nightclub to rescue some of the Young Avengers from Mother's clutches. Instead of regular panels, we see every move he makes literally mapped out with numbers. On the bottom left of the "map," you see a key that explains what he is doing at each number. These numbers feel as if Noh-Varr is in an action movie, moving in slow motion, and the effect is absolutely stunning. It is these visual risks that truly set this series apart from any other, a unique and heady presence that can also be found in its narrative.
4 WITTY DIALOGUE
A superhero is nothing without witty banter and having teen superheroes only adds to the humor while showing off a capricious youthful exuberance. Almost all the Young Avengers have a quip or two to say to each other or the villains. Some involve the pop culture references mentioned earlier, while others are poignant and powerful, delivered with true gravity at key moments. Of the pop culture references, one of the best bits of dialogue occurs between Loki, Wiccan and Hulkling in "Young Avengers" #3.
While trying to convince Wiccan to lone him his power for ten minutes, Loki asks if they watch or read "Game of Thrones." Both Wiccan and Hulkling say yes at the same time. Loki then asks them, "Who's your favorite character?" The two of them reply, "Tyrion." Loki then exclaims, "I'm Tyrion!" in an effort to get them to trust him. Of course, it doesn't quite work, but it makes one imagine Loki, Wiccan and Hulkling sitting around geeking out, just like the reader.
3 IT'S MULTI-DIMENSIONAL
With one kick of her foot, America Chavez takes the team through different dimensions to chase down The Patriot and fight Mother. When people think of the word "multi-verse" they probably recall other comic book superhero worlds like those seen in X-Men or the world of Thor; or even TV multiverses as seen in "The Flash." However, the different dimensions that the gang travels to end up being different than that. One world involves one which Noh-Varr claimed as his own with a bunch of creepy female characters known as Exterminatrix, all of whom turn out to be ex-lovers!
A more pleasant world features cute little green alien creatures that worship Wiccan as the Demiurge. There is even an excursion to the alternate Earth, which leads the teen heroes to having some Korean barbecue. With all these various dimensions, the team eventually figures out a way to use them to their advantage when they grab every alternate version of themselves and literally drop in on Mother in her own dimension.
2 FUN BATTLES
Since it's teenagers versus an evil inter-dimensional parasite that takes over parents and adults, you'd think that the entire multi-verse would be in danger. While this is true to some extent, the battle between the Young Avengers and Mother doesn't have astronomically high stakes, mainly because the parasite is tied to them and them only. Other than The Avengers, the exes that team up with Mother, and the teen heroes that help the Young Avengers in the climatic battle, the battles didn't involve any other Marvel heroes.
Instead of having the fate of the multi-verse completely at stake, they end up fighting because the parasite has disrupted their current lives and brought them together. They fight because Mother corrupted their parents and the adults so they would literally become evil beings that try to make their lives and the world miserable. In that, the battle wasn't a major deal for the Marvel Universe, but it was for the Young Avengers themselves, making it an entirely intimate affair.
The final battle between the Young Avengers and Mother, as well as the journey that led them to it, changes the Young Avengers for the better. They aren't just teen superheroes saving the world, but young men and women trying to figure out who they are and what their place is in the universe. The fact that every member of the Young Avengers comes together after events that occurred in the past with their old teams isn't a coincidence, of course.
In one part of the comic, Speed exclaims, "Legacy, legacy, legacy! Why can't people just do their own thing?" This line of dialogue perfectly sums up what the Young Avengers go through as they try to defeat Mother, and really, what the comic is about. Each of the team members must move on from who their parents were in order to make their own mark on the world. They mature as teen superheroes and as regular teenagers, facing battles inside and out.
What were your favorite parts of Gillen and McKelvie's Young Avengers run? Let us know in the comments!