Drew: I used to think jobs were for grownups. Now I understand that jobs are for everybody — careers are for grownups. That may sound like a stupid distinction, but anyone who’s heard twenty-somethings ask each other about their jobs will understand that young people aren’t as ready to be defined by their jobs as teachers, mailmen, bakers, or any other characters from Richard Scarry books. This is just as true in the superhero world; Clark Kent might be happy to call himself a reporter, but his younger counterparts are still questioning their course in life — hell, many of them can’t even stick with a single name (I’m looking at you, former Robins). I’m used to seeing that uncertainty addressed in the overt angstiness we often associate with narratives featuring teens, but Kieron Gillen gets a great deal of mileage by toning it down to a more relatable level in Young Avengers 6.
The issue opens with David Alleyne, Prodigy, working at some kind of call center for superheroes (and/or villains…it’s not entirely clear). He meets Tommy Shepherd, Speed, who is also working for the company as a one-man factory. The two bond over being young, disenfranchised heroes (with an emphasis on the young). When their office is apparently burglarized by Patriot, Tommy insists on investigating — he suspects that this burglar is an impostor. Turns out, Tommy’s right, but that doesn’t much help — the burglar spirits him away with some kind of magic touch.
I have to confess, I’m not really familiar with any of the characters here, so any references to their histories is lost on me, but I never feel left out. Gillen has been great at treating this series as a jumping-on point, and I love the move to expand the cast by basically starting from scratch with a new group in this issue. It feels like another jumping-on point, though it seems clear that David and Tommy will meet up with our other Young Avengers soon. Perhaps to figure out what the hell just happened to Tommy?
Speaking of which: what the hell just happened to Tommy? I specifically avoided saying where he might have been sent, but it sure seems like Wiccan might be the one to save him, right? Gillen helpfully reminds us that the two are brothers and that Wiccan’s powerset might be particularly helpful in this situation.
The issue is drawn by Kate Brown, and she doesn’t miss a beat, picking up on the sense of experimentation Jamie McKelvie employed in the first few issues. The obvious examples are the flashy layouts (the sequence where Tommy is assembling a bunch of electronics is laid-out to resemble a circuit board), but that experimentation also applies to the sense of humor on display throughout this issue. I’m particularly enamored of the way Brown draws motion lines around Tommy in every single panel. That also speaks to just how well Gillen writes the character — there’s never a moment where he isn’t in motion. Well, except for the very end, but that helps makes that sequence more effective.
We all know the feeling of trying to run in a dream, but not being able to go anywhere — this sequence taps into that beautifully. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on with the imposter Patriot — Why is he dressed like Patriot? Why does he lurch around like a zombie? Why is he apparently invisible under his clothes? — but I can’t wait to find out more.
This series is steadily working its way up my favorites list, and this issue is a great example why — it’s incredibly character focused, and Gillen always manages to end it with and exciting cliffhanger to bring me back. Julien, what did you think of this issue? I know you were particularly excited to talk about this series, but I wonder if the total shift in focus in this issue threw you for a loop. Was this an exciting diversion, or an unwelcome detour?
Julien: I am indeed particularly excited to talk about this series simply because, other than Matt Fraction and David Aja’s brilliant work over on Hawkeye, there’s no other book quite like this at Marvel. The pseudo-“hipster” (hipster in this sense meaning indie, out-of-the-norm, and just overall different from the prototypical superhero comic) experimentation between comics like Young Avengers and the aforementioned comic.
This really shows in the slightly experimental, slightly standard art that Brown provides. She clearly knows how to put the young in Young Avengers, and captures facial emotion and the stylization of hair and clothing quite well. What she really excels at though is the interpretation of movement via sequential, movement-by-movement paneling of actions and expressions, such as the look of utter annoyance on display from Alleyne as he consults a ninja on how to fight Elektra of all people.
This is where I found your anecdote on jobs vs. careers to be quite interesting. At the forefront throughout the issue, you see how younger people work their jobs, and in the background of scenes how older people work their careers. The younger folk (in this case Speedy and Prodigy) work maniacally and under constant fear of getting fired. It’s all pressure for them. You see the others in the background working casually and relaxed, not worried about the disruption of their careers because they know how the system works. You see this in the above spread where Speedy is constantly moving, eager to get his job done and done right. It’s a brilliant visual and literary showcase by Brown and Gillen.
Before I run out of room, I’d like to mention that I too have quite the unfamiliarity with these specific characters as well. This is where Gillen’s knack for characterization comes into play. He immediately familiarizes you with the characters and sparks a growing interest. I’d like to say it is both an unwelcome detour and an exciting diversion because Gillen is obviously building at something by focusing on these two characters, but it detracts from getting more of his brilliant work on Kid Loki (Something I am utterly grateful to Marvel for letting him work on after Journey into Mystery). It reflexively hurts the story yet it provides us with opportunistic growth for the cast and the chance to turn these characters into something special. Gillen’s strengths (humorous dialogue, humanization of fictional characters, being up to speed on pop cultural references, etc.) really allow for us as readers to grow and love these characters and to welcome them into the fray of Young Avengers-dom. In all honesty the only thing that threw me for a loop was the stochastically-placed villain at the end. I had to reread the issue a few times before I could completely work my way through why Patriot was there and it was such an obvious mistake on my part that I felt silly. Other than that, I had no problem whatsoever with it.
While I hope Young Avengers gets back to being about, you know, the Young Avengers, I like diversions like this. Imagine it as a healthy diversion from the clockwork-like schedule of a job, say a day-off or an incidental moment that changes how that day went. One-shots like this are especially nice when they foreshadow future plot elements, and this one certainly does. If I were to recommend a newbie/neophyte/etc. (and I mean those in the least offensive way possible) a comic to read, it would be the experimental pop-art of Young Avengers and Hawkeye. I heard somewhere once that any issue of a comic can be a starting point, and I’d recommend definitely hopping on here.
Here’s a cool piece of stylish paneling below:
Julien Loeper likes to write essays, short fiction, and reviews. I also have recently gained an affinity for writing and performing slam poetry. I dig comics of all kinds. If you have any writing jobs for me, hit me up at email@example.com or at https://www.facebook.com/julienloeper?ref=tn_tnmn.
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