Friday, July 06, 2012

Graphic Novel Review – Avengers: The Children’s Crusade

The Young Avengers, a team of superhero teens who came together when the Avengers fell apart, now find themselves in the sights of the team they idolize, when Wiccan manifests powers similar to the Wanda, the Scarlet Witch – the Avenger who betrayed her team and could well be one of the most powerful people in the universe. When Wiccan and the Young Avengers decide to seek out Wanda – who may also be his mother – they inadvertently start a conflict between the Avengers and X-Men, who blame her for the decimation of the mutant population.

But things are about to get a whole lot worse when the Young Avengers find Wanda – suffering from amnesia, in the hands of Doctor Doom, and planning to marry him. Do they try to stop the wedding? Do they attempt to give her memories back to her when she was responsible for so much death?

This is not a book for the casual reader, for someone just looking to pick up an Avengers book and get a new story featuring some of the characters from the movie. The Children’s Crusade is really the culmination of years of Avengers stories, starting back with Avengers: Disassembled, continuing through House of M, the New Avengers, and of course most especially the Young Avengers. There is a lot of material a reader needs to be familiar with before bothering with The Children’s Crusade, and it’s not something I’d recommend unless you are up to speed on those things.

So, with that said, how do I feel about this book assuming the reader is familiar (like I am) with the backstories? Honestly, I had mixed feelings on this story – and that’s coming from someone who’s a big fan of the Young Avengers, and the artist for this book, Jim Cheung. Even the artist for the special issue was Alan Davis, another favorite of mine. And as I was reading the book, I was just so happy to be reading another adventure of the Young Avengers – they’re such a fun group of characters. There’s Patriot, the African-American grandson of the original Captain America, who all too often second guesses himself – and winds up doing that just one too many times in this story. Then there’s the female Hawkeye, the high society girl who finds herself leading this rag-tag bunch – though you’d never know it from the way this whole adventure is really led by Wiccan and Speed – the two boys who just may be Wanda’s long-lost sons. Wiccan has a boyfriend in Hulkling, a Kree/Skrull descendant of Mar-Vell – of note because towards the end of the book there’s a full on shot of the two boys kissing (hey, I don’t care, but this seems to be a big deal in comics right now). There’s also a version of the Vision on this team – who seems to be the same as the original only suffering from amnesia as well, or a reboot to his programming. He has feelings for Callie, or Stature, the daughter of Ant-Man, Scott Lang. Callie is easily one of the best characters in the Young Avengers, the character most easily relatable for the readers – she’s trying to live up to her father, mourning his loss (at the hands of the Scarlet Witch) earnest and striving to do the right thing.

So of course, she’s killed towards the end of the story. There’s little point to it really, just like when years ago the writers decided to kill Blink without realizing they had just gotten rid of the most interesting character in Generation X. There’s no reason for her death other than the shock value, especially after they’ve just managed to find a way to bring her dad back to life. Likewise Wiccan is all over the place – first he doesn’t want the Avengers to protect him (when his friends think he should go with them), then he changes his mind, only to have the other Young Avengers break him out. The story continues in this jerky motion throughout. Wanda doesn’t want to learn about her past, then she does. She doesn’t want to go with the Young Avengers, then she does. And then there’s this “Life Force” that suddenly gets introduced – don’t think too much about it, because it’s never explained. I suspect it was meant to be the Phoenix Force, but then that story got sidelined as it was decided that would be the driver behind the Avengers vs X-Men event. To be honest, that was probably the right decision, as it would have been a poor use of that force in this weak story.

I said near the beginning that I did enjoy reading about the Young Avengers again – honestly, the team is under-utilized because the powers that be at Marvel want the creators of this comic to be the ones driving the story. That’s a shame really, this group does not need that creative guidance in order to function. This is the kind of story that’s necessary, it resolves a lot of plot-lines that have been left open for years, and was probably necessary to set up the next big event – it’s just a shame that it’s so uneven and ultimately unfulfilling. That Alan Davis back-up story held more promise, more intrigue than the main plot – what happens if the Young Avengers do go on the run from the Avengers into the timestream – how do they wind up hunting their former idols? That’s a story I’d like to read more about. Hopefully there will be some follow-up in the eventual next Young Avengers comic.


Andrew McAllister said...

I thought you might be interested to hear that I have published my first novel! I put up a post on To Love, Honor, and Dismay with a description. I hope all is well with you :o)

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

Well I'm definitely a casual reader so I don't think I'd try to tackle this for a long, long time.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Jim, it's always tricky when they kill a character, but it sounds like this was just shock value. Great review.