In other hands, "Young Avengers" #6 might have been a typical artist fill-in sort of issue, as Kate Brown joins series writer Kieron Gillen in a story that shifts gears away from the main narrative while regular artists Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton get a brief break. But here's the fun thing about "Young Avengers" #6: it's still an engaging and entertaining story that's clearly going to feed back into the title -- which is, of course, how it should work.
As the cover insinuates, "Young Avengers" #6 follows a former teammate (Wiccan's sort-of-brother Speed) and a former "New X-Men" character (Prodigy) as they work mind-numbing jobs in a dead-end company; Prodigy answering technical support questions, Speed assembling high-tech machinery. But of course, neither job is quite what it would be in other hands. Gillen makes Prodigy's technical support position a funny, tongue-in-cheek sequence where Prodigy's absorbed super-genius abilities helps people disarm extraterrestrial bombs and try to survive an attack from Elektra. It's goofy and silly, even as it hits several important points: this is what a job in the Marvel Universe would be like, this is what Prodigy's powers let him do, and this is an incredibly mind-numbing job.
And of course, that's part of works so well about "Young Avengers" #6 (and the series as a whole); Gillen doesn't just toss out one idea, he tosses out multiple ones simultaneously and lets readers absorb them all at once. Speed's position in the comic not only gives a different viewpoint than Prodigy's for what it's like to work at the company, but also gives a take on super-speed that has always made much more sense than the typical depiction of that ability. Honestly, if that's all there was in "Young Avengers" #6's script, I'd be perfectly content.
When the get the bigger plot elements of "Young Avengers" #6 were presented, my attention was grabbed even more so. The new foe gets a strong and deliberately mysterious introduction, and I like that when it's over, readers still don't really know anything more about it than when the issue began. It also answers the question of how and why Prodigy would meet the rest of the Young Avengers. His fast-growing friendship with Speed is the first half of the equation, of course, but Gillen quickly establishes that neither Prodigy or Speed want to be part of any sort of superhero team these days. With this new foe, though, the other half of the draw clicks into place, and I felt like it's a believable hook to add in a new character to the mix.
Brown's guest art is a great choice. It's got a softer and looser edge than McKelvie's or Norton's, but it still fits with the overall look that's been established for "Young Avengers." It reminds me almost of some animated properties, with the way that Speed's hair shifts when he moves his head, or how leans back in surprise when he sees an old friend's costume on the security camera. The color palette that she uses certainly helps with that; it's got a very subdued, non-flashy look, and it melds well into the lines to really emphasize the art overall.
Most of the page layouts are pretty standard, but every now and then Brown pulls out a fun trick from her sleeve. When Prodigy and Speed are in the warehouse watching the intruder move across the floor, I love the vertical panels that shrink more and more with each movement, looking like a set of steps that guide your eye down the page. And when you turn the page and see Speed's attack against the intruder, the panels circling around the final page not only are easy to follow, but offset that last image in a way that it pops out at the reader and gives it a special punch.
"Young Avengers" #6 is a fun way to take a sidestep from what we've seen so far, and have a guest artist flex her artistic muscles. Gillen and Brown have turned out a truly satisfying comic, and once again "Young Avengers" is defiantly showing other series how it should be done. I, for one, approve.