Whatever the igniting spark, the fire roared to life last week when I opened the latest issue of Young Avengers. In its first few pages, our intrepid young heroes pleaded their damned-if-you, damned-if-you-don't end run to Captain America. His response was not "Avengers, Assemble!" -- as you can see above. Of course, Cap's being controlled by a dimension-hopping parasite in the form of Hulking's mother (aptly named Mother), sooooo parents just not understanding is a big part of the book. And appropriate to my ponderings about how generations communicate with one another over time (as when Renaissance artists looked to the Romans and Greeks to breed innovation in their own time).
Now some readers out there are critical of the unsubtle tone writer Kieron Gillen takes with a book about a bunch of teenage vigilantes moving from the drama of sixteen to the maturity and self-reliance of eighteen. Most complaints I've read mock the book's chummy relationship with its fans on Tumblr (the alien Noh-varr's shirtlessness alone could launch a thousand picto-blogs), but other complaints center on the youth of the intended audience. The book is for tweens or teens, folks argue; it's cutting-edge panel construction and kooky characters can't make up for its lack of a traditional plot and tugging at the heart-strings heroics. But why shouldn't Young Avengers, a book about teenagers, largely for teenagers, be celebrated by the audience of young men and women who populate Tumblr? Furthermore, does broad-based appeal outweigh an appeal to youth culture, or an appeal to something new in comics?
Personally, I think Cap's "Father Knows Best" attitude is hilarious -- particularly since his hand-waving away the threat of Mother is followed by Kate Bishop, aka the female Hawkeye, turning to her fellow teenage heroes and declaring that the world is ending, so the Young Avengers should assemble already. Idealism versus pragmatism at its finest. But what does all this have to do with legacy and talking to the past through art? For me, this moment showcases Gillen's awareness of comics history. Young Avengers, in its many "short season" stories, has always been about a bunch of aliens and young kids trying to live up the legacy set by the likes of Thor, Cap, and the rest of the Avengers. Hence, the team being named Young Avengers. Gillen comments on that here, with Cap's paternalism and experience actually hampering the kids' organizational efforts. By hanging a lampshade on the older generation of heroes, he retains the sense of history that dominates and contextualizes the Marvel universe, while allowing enough room for the reader to see how Kate Bishop, Wiccan, Hulking, Loki, Miss America, Noh-varr, and various others will have to operate differently. How will they deal with matters? Not by reasoning with adults, or making elaborate battle plans. They'll use magic and bickering with exes and lying to teammates. They'll take their rightful place as heroes by acting like young adults becoming adults. They'll take stabs at saving the world until they find a way to save it. And I find that as innovative and impressive as the amazing layouts littering this comics run. Certainly, Young Avengers deserves to be loved for all the traditions it will set, and others will later talk to and break.
Young Avengers #12: Kieron Gillen, Writer; Jamie McKelvie, Penciller; Mike Norton, Jamie McKelvie, & Stephen Thompson, Inkers; Matthew Wilson, Colorist.
POST-SCRIPT: This is an unrelated note, but its importance cannot be overstated. It's been brought to my attention that I've tended towards abelist language in posts littered throughout my blog history, mostly terminology concerning mobility and mental illness (making pejoratives of "crazy" and "lame," for example). I am sad to say I used such language without thought, and will avoid all such usages in the future. I am sorry if use of such terms caused offense.