Four books into this nine-issue series and the action is immense - two teams of Avengers, Dr Doom and Magneto, all battling for the heart and soul of Wanda Maximoff, heroine turned menace.
She's not a menace when we meet her this issue. She's just a Gypsy girl with no memory of her former life, about to wed the man she sees as her saviour - Victor Von Doom.
That can't be good.
But Doom tells her supposed son, Wiccan, that he's not out to exploit Wanda, he's fallen for the now powerless amnesiac, and keeping her happy is in everyone's interests ... for who knows what will happen should she recover her mind, and her madness?
Writer Allan Heinberg does another fine job of keeping a lot of balls in the air, supplying plenty of action while slowly doling out answers as to what Wanda's been up to for the last while, and asking us to guess where she'll go next (hopefully to a closet seen in an issue of Avengers, where she seemed to have locked up Agatha Harkness). Inevitably, some of the heroes on display don't get a moment to shine - some barely show up - but those that do make quite the impression.
That's helped enormously by the power-packed artwork of penciller Jimmy Cheung, inker Mark Morales and colourist Justin Ponsor. They give us pages blazing with energies mystical and scientific, wielded by passionate heroes and villains in a storybook setting. Cheung gains extra points for making Wanda and Wiccan resemble one another, not a straightforward task.
|They look alike, except one is a gorgeous European, the other uses fake tan|
I have the merest quibble, one I've raised previously ... the artists seem to have a real problem fitting the Young Avengers' resident giant, Stature, into spreads. This issue she pops up mid fight scene looking as if she's kneeling in a trench, massive, passive head on display. Actually, given that she's dialogue-free, Stature might as quit the YA and join the Legion of Super-Heroes as Afterthought Lass.
As I said, though, it's a moan of the tiniest kind. For The Children's Crusade feels like an Avengers epic of old, a work by such masters as Thomas and Michelinie, Buscema and Byrne. And I can't pay a higher compliment.