To start out the blog, this week I'm looking at one of Marvel's most recent series, a part of the Marvel NOW! initiative. In fact, it was one of five series to end last month, with its final #15 after a solid year of issues (or, more specifically, 11 months and 2 weeks.) Its writer, Kieron Gillen, always intended it to remain current to 2013. It picked up on pop culture, introduced new storytelling methods - telling a single, extended narrative of the battle against the parasitic Mother through several short arcs, with particular focus on the characters rather than solely situation - and gave the series a musical background similar to what the team had previously employed on the Image series Phonogram.
Young Avengers has had an interesting history with Marvel. Having begun in early 2005, it picked up on strands from the Avengers-shattering Avengers Disassembled and formed a new group of teen heroes. Since the initial 12 issue ongoing, it has spawned limited series, such as Young Avengers Presents and The Children's Crusade, crossovers with events Civil War, Secret Invasion and Dark Reign, but has largely been left to its original creators, Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung.
After 22 issues by Heinberg and Cheung, and only a few character cameos in other books, Gillen and McKelvie represent a radical change in the story of the Young Avengers. Key characters - Wiccan, Hulking and Hawkeye - are brought over from the previous book, but Gillen adds Kid Loki from his acclaimed Journey Into Mystery series, Miss America from the limited series Vengeance, Marvel Boy from Grant Morrison's series of the same name and Bendis' work on Dark Avengers and depowered mutant Prodigy from New X-Men: Academy X. Characters have grown, a year or two having passed since the original series; as Gillen describes it, volume 1 was about "being 16," whilst volume 2 is about "being 18." But this doesn't leave out further development, with growth in relationships, sexuality, places on the team, etc. Wiccan, Hulkling, Prodigy, Loki, Marvel Boy, Hawkeye and Miss America all leave the series as different characters than they were when they were introduced. Maybe some don't change as much as others (Loki's change into physical adulthood is the most obvious), but there is still some sort of identifiable change in them.
Oh, and a British creative team. That's a pretty big difference to Heinberg and Cheung, right?
It's been the most enjoyable series I've read in the past year. It's the series which made me try to get to my comic shop as close to Wednesday as possible; an afterschool trip to buy Young Avengers became a repeated thing. Perhaps it isn't fitting with social protocol to do so, but there was an instance where I briefly forsook the boy I was with on a date - a non-comics fan - to read #9 because I really couldn't wait any longer to do so. It's that good of a series.
Along with Hawkeye, Young Avengers shows just how original Marvel can be. Even after 50 years of comics, and the darker storylines of the 2000s, Marvel can still show a whole lot of originality in what it produces. Marvel hasn't been stagnated; if anything it has grown stronger, at least in quality of content. Heroes Reborn/Return, this is not.
For those who haven't read the individual issues, it's collected in three trade paperbacks: Style > Substance, which was released last September, Alternative Culture, released this month, and a final volume, Mic-Drop at the Edge of Time and Space, which is released later this year. (And damn do I recommend you check it out!) It's not split into three storylines per se, and actually comprises seven different stories, although each issue works on its own. If you want to get the most out of it, though, read the whole three volume/15 issue series, because it really is worth it.