Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Avengers: The Children's Crusade #9 review

Last issue, Stature died fighting Dr Doom. Now the question is, should the assembled Young Avengers, Avengers, X-Men and X-Factor allow Iron Lad to take Cassie's corpse into the timestream in the hope that future medicine can bring her back?

The answer leads to the brutal loss of another Young Avenger, a second going down a very dubious path and a turning point for the remaining members. They've been through a lot since they gathered after the tragic events of Avengers Disassembled. Now, not only are the adult Avengers back as a team - several teams, actually - but the woman who wrought so much chaos that day, the Scarlet Witch, has returned too, her sanity back. It's time for everyone to take a breath and decide where to go from here.

Her father and brother, Magneto and Quicksilver, want to spend time with Wanda. Cyclops orders her to make amends for wrecking the lives of thousands of mutants on M-Day. The Scarlet Witch herself wants to be a mother to Young Avengers Speed and Wiccan, while doing what she can for the people she - however inadvertently - hurt.

As for the Young Avengers, they act like the adult original team and decide to split up, go their own way for awhile. Months, in fact, as this long-delayed mini-series catches up with the current Marvel Universe. We see members ignore crisis after crisis, donning costumes again only when summoned by Captain America for a ceremony at Avengers Mansion. The then-destroyed property was the scene of the teenagers' first gathering, by the statues of Avengers lost in battle. Now the rebuilt mansion is the setting as events come full circle, putting a cap not just on this mini-series, but on the first phase of the Young Avengers' existence.

Because they'll be back. Even as they go into retirement here, Speed reckons it won't last, and Hulking hopes that's the case. Meanwhile, this book has finally laid the appalling story that was Avengers Dissassembled to rest. Wanda is back, Ant-Man Scott Lang is alive again, Dr Doom has claimed 'credit' for the crisis ... Hawkeye and the Vision both returned in the Avengers series proper. And the Young Avengers can make their own way in the world, free from the responsibility of replacing the adult heroes before their time.

This is, overall, a gloomy read, with heroes understandably not in the cheeriest of moods. They're exhausted and, frankly, so am I. Those delays I mentioned have taken away from the initial excitement of having the Young Avengers back, as this book existed in a strange limbo apart from the rest of the Marvel Universe. The catching-up page is necessary, but it means that a scene which, really, should have occurred about a week after the main story comes months later for no reason other than, perhaps, Alicia Masters having a busy schedule. And what exactly has Wanda been doing all this time? She's not been a presence in the Marvel Universe during this period. Plus, there are so many little chats to be had in Allan Heinberg's script that there's no room for a big, cathartic splash of the Young Avengers going into the sunset. You know, the plucky survivors watched over by cheery ghosts. Instead, the final panel is a mix of Young and adult Avengers and some woman I don't recognise being hugged by Hulking. Jessica Drew? A second on-panel Kate-Hawkeye? Probably it's Cassie's proud mom, but who can tell?

Before that we do get a big picture of two of our heroes sharing a big moment, which is sweet. I'm sure One Million (Bigoted) Moms will be thrilled. It's the happiest scene in the book, so I'll take it. Actually, it's the only happy scene - this really is an issue for the Gloomy Guses among us. Artists Jim Cheung and Mark Morales have little in the way of fun moments to illustrate, and the only action echoes one of the nastiest parts of Avengers Disassembled. Still, what they do get to draw looks pretty good. The transition page between then and now, with Wiccan in the same pose over several frames as Hulking reacts to the world around them, is a great rendering of Heinberg's clever narrative device.

I've enjoyed previous issues, but am left feeling flat by this conclusion. While the tragedies that hit the Young Avengers act as a neat bookend to their first phase, I think the heroes deserve better. They were keepers of the Avengers flame when there was no one else, and it'd be nice to see them all alive, together and being thrown a parade. As it is, given Marvel's reluctance to have anyone but Heinberg and Cheung tell the team's stories, it could be a long time before we see them again. Let's hope not.

8 comments:

  1. hey Mart, who was the 3rd character on the memorial statute beside Stature & The Vision? I didn't recognize him.

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    1. Good question, facially it's Hulking, who's standing right there ... maybe he was slated to die, the story changed and they forgot to tidy up the plinth?

      Anybody?

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    2. They put their statue behind Scott Lang's. I guess when supposedly dead Avengers turn up alive again, they don't put their statues down.

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  2. The issue, and CHILDREN'S CRUSADE (CC) as a whole, constituted a pile of (expletive deleted). Each issue read as though Heinberg had sat at his desk, mentally flailing around, wondering "What the hell do I put in this issue?!" Dr. Doom had about as much of a connection to Wanda as a villain selected at random by throwing a dart at a poster.

    CC was a storyline without a plan, theme(s), or a coherent plot from issue to issue. Try to connect Wanda's "kids" in CC to her twins in the Englehart/Howell maxiseries. You can't. But without a connection, there's no reason to read the kids in CC as being hers.

    If CC had been submitted for publication anywhere else, Heinberg would have been advised to look for work in some other market.

    SRS

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    1. You're right, Steven, this issue is a letdown. I've been happy with previous issues, though. Dr Doom's inclusion didn't bother me at all, as he and Wanda are both mittel-European Romany-types and in comics they all know one another. It's daft, but convention, and as Heinberg likely wanted someone of stature (NPI) to take the blame for Wanda's Disassembled actions, he works better than many candidate, as a sorceror of sorts..

      As for the twins, yup, the connection to Wanda has always seemed a bit off, but that goes back years to the beginning of Young Avengers, Heinberg is simply keeping his conceit going.

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  3. Hulkling was hugging Jessica Jones.

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  4. Cheers Niki, so one of my wild guesses was correct. How very random!

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