Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Young Avengers 4, originally released April 24th, 2013.
Spencer: Tricksters are a common archetype in most works. They spread chaos, disregard authority, and cheat, con, and lie in whatever ways they can to get what they want. We all feel like we know better than to trust them, and so do our protagonists, but the best tricksters find a way to get past our defenses and bend us to their whims anyway. Kieron Gillen knows exactly how to write an effective trickster, and his Loki — one of the oldest and greatest — somehow manages to keep surprising both the Young Avengers and the readers; he might just be proving himself a greater threat than even that pesky interdimensional parasite.
Our issue opens with Kate — I mean, Hawkeye — and Marvel Boy — I mean, Noh-Varr — tracking down the rest of the Young Avengers; Kate realized they were in trouble when Billy didn’t answer her texts within a few seconds. Noh-Varr rescues the team, but they’re quickly pursued by the Amerimoms, Noh-Varr’s revived parents, and a constantly growing hoard of brainwashed adults. They crash-land in Central Park, prepare for their last stand. Meanwhile, Loki continues to manipulate Wiccan and Hulkling, and with seemingly no other choice, Billy lends Loki his powers. Loki promptly disappears, leaving the team stranded and helpless in a very profanity-worthy situation.
Loki running off with Wiccan’s powers isn’t any surprise, and I highly doubt he’s going to leave the Young Avengers high and dry; Loki’s got too much invested in them to let them die. That’s what has me worried. Teddy points out that Loki knows too much about them, which Loki brushes off, but Loki has been meddling in the affairs and forming of the team since day one. Loki has an agenda, and I’m worried about what else he’ll do with Billy’s powers in that ten minutes and what it will mean for our heroes in the long run.
The Young Avengers really have no reason to trust Loki besides desperation. Last issue they even acknowledged that “he’s Loki” was a valid enough reason not to trust him. Yet Loki knows this and has developed an entirely new persona to work around it, which is what really fascinates me. Being reborn in a young, adorable body is probably the best tool in his arsenal, but Loki combines that with a childlike personality, fawning over breakfast food and making pop culture jokes and basically acting like a harmless, slightly out of it child. I mean, just look at the kid:
Despite “Loki”, despite everything he’s done in the past, it’s hard not to forgive and trust that face. Yet just four pages later, when he’s ready to manipulate, its like Loki’s another person entirely. I was startled by the difference.
That’s the “wham” line, right there; I think I audibly gasped when I read it. Billy and Teddy’s relationship is the heart of the Young Avengers, and just the possibility of it being based off manipulation could tear the team asunder. Even if there’s no truth to it, Loki is sowing seeds of dissent that will only end badly in the future. What does he possibly have to gain by creating a rift between Billy and Teddy? Mother the parasite is an immediate, life-or-death situation, but heroes overcome those all the time; Loki’s machinations seem to be poised to leave a much more permanent mark on the team.
The other driving scene of this issue is Noh-Varr’s thrilling rescue of the team at the nightclub. It leads to an innovative spread where the rescue is laid out in a series of panels that are numbered like a chart. It’s a real testament to this book’s entire creative team that they can pull off consistently inventive feats like this issue after issue. That said, my favorite page actually comes at the end of this sequence.
The title page is pure class; this book’s sure got style and flare (much like Fran Fine). This whole 7 page opening sequence is excellently paced as well; it feels like the cold opening to an especially thrilling TV show. After Noh-Varr’s one-liner, I half expected him to put on some sunglasses and cut to the CSI: Miami theme song (“YEAAHHHH!!!”). I can’t think of a more exciting way to kick off a comic book.
[NOTE: For anyone reading this comic digitally, it appears that the above title page may have been cut out of some versions. It’s a shame, and you’re missing out. Go back and reread the issue and insert that title page between pages 6 and 7.]
Meanwhile, the rest of the art is as gorgeous as always. Jamie McKelvie draws the prettiest characters in comics, and possibly the most expressive faces as well. The style is bright and fun and an absolutely perfect fit for this book.
From Issue #1 Young Avengers quickly found its way into my favorites, and I look forward to it more and more with each passing month. What about you, Patrick? Are you as enamored with this issue as I am? What do you think Loki’s got up his sleeve? And how much do you think a vintage Kree Composite Soul Bow goes for anyway? Answer these questions if you want to be awesome!
Patrick: Oh, I hate being awesome. But I’ll still answer some of your questions. But not all! You can’t make me answer all!
I like how aggressively Gillen and McKelvie court these wow-moment in their layouts. You mentioned the carefully diagrammed action sequence up-top, my favorite part of it being that individual moments of kick-assery are labeled on the main spread, but then detailed in panels around the border. It’s just fucking awesome, and absolutely worth the price of admission. The spread is tagged with an AR icon, which will lead you to a video that shows a how that scene was built. It’s an exercise in making magic, make no mistake:
What I love even more than the sheer cleverness of that page is the way it sets up Marvel Boy as a dispassionately good shot – just as Katie and Clint are in Hawkeye. I was actually reading this issue on the plane on my way back from C2E2 and was amazed by how instructional it seemed – a dead ringer for the In Case of Crash instructions in the seat back in front of me. Just as David Aja’s covers for Hawkeye have been dead ringers for instructional cards, so too is this exciting layout. I’m always wary of spectacle for spectacle’s sake, but this actually makes a lot of sense thematically.
Here’s another example of a page that might be too clever for it’s own good: this scene from the mundane perspective of the Avengers proper.
The battle plays out just outside their window, but Thor and Captain America can’t be bothered with the struggles of the Young Avengers. Which actually brings up an interesting question: why don’t the Avengers give a shit about this? In the previous issue, our heroes brought the whole mother-parasite issue to the Avengers, but were promptly brushed off with a “you should respect your elders.” At the time, we debated the virtues of young adult fiction depicting grown-ups as the oppressors to our teenage heroes. But this page suggests that Thor and Cap actually don’t see what’s going on outside. I mean, come on: it’s Thor – he’d love to fly out there and bash something with a hammer. They can’t possibly be holding back because they think the Young Avengers are exaggerating, right? Maybe they literally can’t see the parasite? Maybe there is no parasite and the whole thing is happening in their minds?
Hey, here’s a thing about me: I always trust fictional con-men to do the right thing. I mean, if they’re just going to con people over and over again, what’s the fun in that? The reason we’re reading about them (or watching them) is that today is the day they’re going to change. Plus, I can’t really see what Loki hopes to gain from wielding Wiccan’s powers for 10 minutes. The fact that he uses very Loki-esque techniques to get the power is fascinating, though – tiger don’t change his stripes, I guess.
But then again, Loki did suggest just killing Wiccan… maybe I am too quick to trust.
Hey, so what’s up with Loki’s realization before he gets the idea to steal Billy’s powers for just ten minutes? He realizes that there’s some quality about Laufey — his ice-giant father — that is unlike everyone else’s parents. Is he realizing that his father is from a different realm and maybe not subject to the same rules? Whatever magical math Loki’s working out, I feel like I’m just one well-remembered fact away from working it out too. That makes for the best kind of mystery: one that we can almost play along with, but really have no hope of solving. Well, we’ve got one of the most civil comment sections on-line, let’s toss some theories around. I start: Loki’s hoping to lure his Frost Giant father to Earth, thus finally attracting the attention of Thor, and — by extension — the rest of the Avengers.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?