Today, Shelby and Spencer are discussing Young Avengers 9, originally released August 28th , 2013.
Shelby: There is nothing more fraught with drama, angst, and confusion than teen-aged relationships. The same goes for adult relationships, but when you’re a teen, pumped full of hormones and generally lacking life-experience, everything is amplified to outstanding proportions. It’s really no surprise, then, that if you’re a teen-aged all-powerful superhero, everything is amplified even further. Instead of focusing on the actual events surrounding the Young Avengers, Kieron Gillen hones in on the evolving relationships of these kids; for them, negotiating their feelings towards each other is proving to be more fraught with danger (and embarrassment) than any quest they could embark on.
First things first: let’s deal with that kiss. According to David, there is a simple and confusing reason. Simply put, since he assumed they were going to die in Mother’s dimension, he just had to know what it was like to kiss Teddy. Turns out, David is bi, a realization he had after his powers went wonky and he learned everything about everything. I mean, everything. Teddy admits his worries about dating a reality warper, and David understands, suggesting that (should they survive) maybe Teddy should get some space and think things through. Speaking of messed up relationships, Loki is strongly suggesting they bail in the face of Leah, who is patiently waiting her chance to be avenged. They do, and Loki comes up with a plan to rescue Teddy and David that Captain Mal would be proud of. They smash into Mother’s dimension with a pack of angry multi-dimensional dopplegangers hard on their heels. While Mother is distracted dealing with them, the team flees back to regular Earth, where the fake Patriot is waiting for them. With an admonishing “what took you so long?” attitude, he disappears. The team regroups over noodles, trying to figure out what exactly the point of all that was. As they leave, Billy is feeling optimistic about what they can do next, until Teddy breaks the news that he needs some space and some time away. Smash cut to Teddy talking about his troubles with a new friend: a more grown-up version of Leah.
The fact that the team fought Mother and escaped her dimension, rescuing Teddy and David from her clutches is small potatoes compared to the drama these kids are facing. Billy and Teddy are the biggest issue; not only were they completely adorable, they also relied very heavily on each other. Billy says he’s doing all right, but I honestly don’t know if he’ll be able to get by without Teddy. There’s also the fact that Lokibaby is taking Billy under his wing, so it seems Leah is just using Teddy and Billy’s current breakup to get back at Loki for what he did (by the way, I’m still not totally clear on what exactly that is; reading Leah’s wiki makes me feel like I need to go lie down). I would call that a shame-on-her situation, except there’s a very real chance that Loki is doing the exact same thing to the whole team for whatever reasons he’s got.
I think the biggest problem everyone has right now (besides being lead by the nose through a horror show of parallel universes for seemingly no reason) is just spending too much time together. Noh-Varr and Kate are on the rocks because he’s reminiscing about an ex, Billy and Teddy are through, and even America’s surly attitude is taking a keener edge.
Billy raises a good point, here. Why exactly is America playing along? We know Loki asked her to help him kill Billy, and she decided to protect him instead, but what does she know that the others don’t? Don’t get me wrong, I love Ms. America, but I don’t think she’s decided to keep Billy alive out of the goodness of her heart. It could be as simple as her wanting to oppose anything Loki wants, which is perfectly legitimate, but I think there’s something more, and it all hinges on the Demiurge universe. Billy has the potential to become so powerful, his affect on all magic can reverberate through all of time; the Demiurge universe is most probably a reflection of that. Is Loki trying to help Billy get to that point, or keep him from attaining it? What does America know that she’s not telling? Why did Kate look so sad when Mother asked her about her birthday? If Patriot was working with Mother to lead the team to her, why take them on such a merry chase? Is he actually working for Leah, trying to break the team up so she can be avenged? With that deluge of questions, I turn things over to my fine friend Spencer, whom I hope has both insight and further speculation to offer.
Spencer: I think I can offer further speculation on at least some of those questions, Shelby; others, not so much. First of all, Leah is a bit of a enigma to me too. Kieron Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery (which introduced Leah and told the tale of her relationship with Kid Loki) is on my “To-Read” list, but until then, I’m having a hard time grasping who exactly Leah is. I suppose “She’s someone who feels betrayed by Loki” is probably all we need to know, but I do feel like there’s some important context I’m missing; maybe that’s just my fault for not having read her adventures.
Regardless, there is one connection that ties Teddy, Leah, and Loki together, and while I don’t know whether it will become significant later on or not, it’s certainly worth pointing out. Basically, Loki is the one who “caused” Billy and Teddy’s break-up (technically they’re not broken up—they’re “on a break”—but for brevity’s sake, it’s a break-up). Loki is the one who planted the idea that Billy could be unknowingly manipulating their relationship into Teddy’s head back in issue four, and we still don’t know the reason why. If Leah is indeed using her position as Teddy’s therapist to get back at Loki—a position she could only attain because Loki helped to break Billy and Teddy up in the first place—well then, that’s certainly some karma at work, isn’t it?
Anyway, Shelby, all your questions are good ones, and I think we’ll see them all answered soon enough, but the most interesting one to me is your question about Kate and her birthday.
This isn’t just birthday blues; Mother is implying that, on Kate’s birthday, she’ll reach an age that will officially make her an “adult” and thus bring Kate under Mother’s control. That’s scary (although it’s also a bit confusing to start applying hard and fast age rules to Mother’s control over adults, especially when we’re currently unsure of Kate’s age. I’d have guessed that Kate was turning 18, but the title page informs us that Teddy is already 18 and he’s obviously not under Mother’s thrall, so just what is this official adult age? 21? If so, why? I have the feeling that this aspect of Mother might fall apart if we think about it too much, so I’ll stop; hopefully we just need more information).
The most important implication of this reveal, though, is that the Young Avengers’ mission now has a time limit. While I’m sure the team wants to take down Mother as soon as possible, in theory they could have bided their time for years before confronting her. Now, though, their window is limited. If they wait too long, the team will start growing up and fall under Mother’s control. The Young Avengers’ only option for taking down Mother and Patri-not right now is waiting, but they can only wait so long. Things aren’t looking up, are they?
You were right though, Shelby, to point out that this issue was more about its characters and their relationships than the ongoing plot. In fact, the plot itself felt a little choppy to me, quickly pushing aside the resolutions to last issue’s cliffhangers, speeding through the confrontation with Mother, and essentially leaving the team right back where they started. Perhaps it’s all a metaphor—adolescence is full of failed attempts that leave us right back where we started, but now with new knowledge we can use to take on our problem from a new angle, after all—but regardless, it allows us to focus on these characters’ relationships, and that’s where this issue excels. My favorite bit of relationship drama was Billy and Teddy’s break-up scene.
This spread is wonderfully handled in every way. Gillen mentions in his writer notes for this issue that he didn’t want to get into the specifics on what Billy and Teddy said to each other, and that he approached it more from the angle that what we take away from break-ups isn’t so much specifics as it is feelings and maybe a devastating statement or two. Gillen gives us that, but this decision is also wise because it lets Jamie McKelvie’s art and outstanding acting carry the scene.
You can basically understand everything going on in this scene just by following Billy. At first Billy is happy—perhaps happier than I can ever remember seeing the angsty, emo, occasionally suicidal Billy—and obviously that can’t last. By the end of the spread, with his hood up and his features obscured by the shadows and rain and cloak, I can barely recognize Billy. It’s a fitting visual representation of the (sadly necessary) pain and sadness this break-up is causing.
While we’re at it, poor Billy and Teddy, right? I don’t think Teddy’s wrong to look for some distance when this has been so obviously bothering him, and Billy handled it with such maturity, but these two still just rely on each other so much. Billy is just about all Teddy has, and with Mother preventing the Young Avengers from seeing their family, Teddy is about all Billy has too. What will they do without each other?
Maybe that’s what Loki wanted all along when he planted that seed of doubt in Teddy’s mind? Maybe he knew getting Teddy out of the picture would make Billy more susceptible to his manipulation? Or maybe I’m entirely off; I rarely feel clever enough to guess where Gillen’s going, but half the fun of reading Young Avengers is letting him surprise me month after month. Some of his twists may be devastating, but I still can’t wait to see where Gillen takes these characters next.
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