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Heinberg's Great New Series Gets Better
on October 31, 2006
The first volume of Allan Heinberg's superb new series Young Avengers was great. This one is much better. Though Iron Man and Captain America tried to break up the Young Avengers, the young group isn't ready to quit just yet. The loss of Iron Lad, their leader and founder, shook the team, but they still feel that there is good to be done and they want to help out.
The Young Avengers are comprised of teenagers who have some sort of connection to members of the premier super-group The Avengers. Patriot/Eli Bradley is the grandson of Isaiah Bradley, the original Captain America. Bradley was a black man who was used as a test subject during World War II, and his powers have been transferred to Eli. Wiccan/Billy Kaplan (formerly Asgardian) thought he had a connection to Thor, but recent events in the first storyline may show that he can do more than thunder. Hulkling/Teddy Altman may look like the Hulk, but his connection is also a little vague. Stature/Cassie Lang is the daughter of Scott Lang, the second Ant-Man. Cassie was able to obtain the chemicals that turned her dad into Ant-Man, and now she has the ability to change size at will. Kate Bishop is the only character on the team without a connection to an Avenger or even superpowers. She forcefully joined the team, and while she may not have powers, she is an expert martial artist and archer. She models herself after Hawkeye and Mockingbird. Finally, there is Vision II, Iron Lad's armor uploaded with the Vision's software. Along with Scott Lang and Hawkeye/Clint Barton, the original Vision was killed during the events of Avengers Disassembled, the event which led to the forming of the Young Avengers. The new Vision has all of the powers of his predecessor, but he doesn't have the experience and his brain patterns are based on Iron Lad's, not Wonder Man's.
This collection contains three stories as opposed to the one arc in the first volume (though the issue count in this hardcover is only greater than the first book by one issue, the Young Avengers Special). Secret Identities serves to reintroduce the team with their new costumes and personas, introduce the various characters' families, and shed some light on a very distressing situation with one of the characters. The story looks into how the secrets we keep can hurt the people we love, even if we keep them in order to protect our loved ones from harm.
In the Special, Kat Ferrel of the Daily Bugle wants to write a story on the Young Avengers, so Jessica Jones speaks to each member and learns their reasons for joining the team. We are given insight into the pasts of the various characters that show how they came to be where they were when they joined the team. Cassie's life after her dad's death nearly drove her to Los Angeles to join the Runaways (another great book!), Billy and Teddy each have some things in their pasts they would like to forget, Kate suffered from something that really drives her today, and Eli... his story is best left to be discovered.
In the final arc, Family Matters, we finally learn who Billy and Teddy are connected to, and another possible Young Avenger shows up. Thomas "Tommy" Sheppard, who looks almost exactly like Billy save for platinum-blond hair, is a kid with the abilities of super-speed and molecular deconstruction (he can blow stuff up). He is forcibly recruited to the Young Avengers after Teddy is kidnapped by two warring alien races, both of whom claim that Teddy is an heir. The story culminates in a huge battle fought alongside the New Avengers.
All of the stories are very well-written, with plenty of humor, drama, and action. The art is top-notch. Jim Cheung, who co-created the series with Heinberg, does the art for Family Matters, and he is one of the best working artists today. Andrea DiVitto, the guest artist for Secret Identities, also does a great job with the characters. As for the special, numerous artists are used, and I am not a fan of most of it. I don't like Michael Gaydos' art, which is used in all of the non-flashback stuff in the issue. While I was ok with the art used for Cassie's and Billy's stories, I hated Kate's art, while I was fairly ambivalent towards the art in Teddy and Eli's stories. The one other critique I have is that the Young Avengers seem to be fighting some pretty A-list villains and surviving. I doubt that such a new team could be able to take on Kang the Conqueror, Mr. Hyde, and the aliens in the end, and live to tell about it. Still, this is a minor thing.
Young Avengers is destined for great things, and this collection only makes the wait until the relaunch even harder.