“Young Avengers” #3 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie begins with a clever mock-Tumblr recap page. It gets the job done, but with an extra dose of panache. It’s just one page, but its construction and delivery is entirely in line with Gillen and McKelvie’s narrative approach and their shared sense of pop culture and design. The hash tags and details like the handle “B@C0N M@G1C” are full of such appealing mockery and cleverness that I couldn’t help but be amused and impressed.
Similarly, Gillen’s script is salted with present-day references to “Game of Thrones” or “The Hobbit,” and there’s the meta-irony of Wiccan and Hulkling having geeky interests. Gillen and McKelvie shoot for not only a fun story, but also for a self-conscious hipster coolness, a dangerously difficult attitude to pull off. Luckily, Gillen and McKelvie have the chops to match their ambition on this point. The style of “Young Avengers” is substance, so thoroughly does it pervade the reading experience.
Pop culture references themselves are always a double-edged sword, but they are balanced by Gillen’s accessibility of tone and how the setting of “Young Avengers” is enriched with this specificity. There’s a delightful sense that “Young Avengers” happens in real time.
More than anything else, even the visuals, Gillen and McKelvie’s exceptional sense of pacing and timing makes “Young Avengers” #3 a joy to read. For the scene in the club, where Loki tries to make a case for playing things his way, McKelvie’s superb facial expressions and panel-to-panel flow create just the perfect reaction shots and comic beats. Wilson’s colors compliment the cheerful mood and McKelvie’s sharp eye for panel composition and design.
Taken by itself, Gillen’s plot is a deliberate replay of the classic “parents against teenagers” dynamic so common in teen fiction. It serves to band young characters together against the common foe of adults. Every teenager can relate to Miss America Chavez’s chafing against the life prescribed for her by her family, even if the other characters or readers only have a hazy idea of exactly what she is rebelling against. The fact that one of the parents really is an evil villain in disguise just further justifies adolescent rebellion, “Young Avengers”-style. The failure of Captain America and the Scarlet Witch to recognize this evil and come to the rescue just means that our young heroes must defeat the evil themselves — of course.
Along these lines, Gillen’s plot mechanics are a little obvious. The weakest part of “Young Avengers” #3 is the ending cliffhanger, which follows directly from the “evil parents” setup. There’s nothing terribly wrong with the ending, but it feels rote and dull compared to how distinctive and sharp “Young Avengers” #3 feels as a whole.
The speed and subtlety of Gillen’s characterization is impressive. Although technically none of the cast of “Young Avengers” is a truly new character, Gillen’s interpretations give each character greater depth, and the combination of these kids as they intersect on the page is exciting. With more of the stage given to Miss America Chavez in “Young Avengers” #3, the entire main cast has been introduced more fully, and no one feels like a token or throwaway character.
Gillen’s dialogue is also addictively sharp and feel-good, and like a catchy pop tune, “Young Avengers” #3 will leave fans humming to themselves and eager for more.