Review: Young Avengers: The Children’s crusade by Allan Heinberg & Jim Cheung (2011)

Rating: ★★★★
Genre: Graphic Novel, Contemporary, Superheroes
Categories: M/M, Superheroes
Content Warnings: Highlight to read: Brief scenes of racism and homophobia from background characters towards our heroes. Major character death.
Buy it at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Description: Some years ago, Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, in grief over the loss of her children, used her reality-rewriting powers to kill a bunch of her teammates and remove the mutant powers from almost all mutants, then disappeared. But Billy and his teammate Tommy have strong reason to believe that they were the souls of her children, transmigrated into new infants in utero of other people, and born again onto this world. After all, he’s a reality-rewriting wizard and Tommy is a speedster and they look identical.

Nobody except Magneto wants Wanda back—both the X-men and the Avengers think they’d have to kill her—but only by finding her can they answer these questions, and perhaps save Mutantkind in the process. …

I’m rereading a bunch of the Young Avengers content, which has won several GLAAD awards for the queer content it introduced.  If you want to follow along, I made a Young Avengers reading guide over here to make it easier to understand the order, where to get the comics, and see my other Young Avengers reviews!

Impression: This book is part of resolving a bunch of outstanding storylines, so a lot of readers are going to be split on whether it works on its own merits, whether they wanted those storylines to continue, or whether they wanted them to end. I think this book does stand on its own merits, and unlike many of the event tie-in books, it does an excellent job explaining the ongoing situation to new readers. (I haven’t read Avengers Disassembled or House of M, but had no problem following the action).

The writing in this book is strong, and as always, Cheung’s art does a great job in expressing the intensity of the emotions the characters are feeling. There’s a lot of balls to keep up in the air with the Young Avengers, the Avengers, the X-Men, Magneto and Pietro (who are at odds), X-Factor Investigations getting a cameo, and an amnesiac Wanda about to marry Dr. Doom. But despite this, the pacing is solid, each moment given good explanation, and the story itself finding focus through Billy’s need to find his mother and understand his own origin.

It does, however, fall apart at the end. A lot of Wanda’s responsibility and guilt is swept under the rug at the last moment, and (whited out for spoilers) there are two teammates killed in something that… surely must have been intended to set up a new storyline, but that storyline never happened. Instead, we get a trade of lives (someone back from the dead only to immediately lose someone else), and another character killed off in a random brawl between two rivals for the dead character’s affection. It’s gratuitous, unnecessary, and fails to have the right emotional impact because it’s so sudden and disconnected from the main story. As well, in reading it after the fact, I know at least one of these characters has already been brought back, which is a relief but also helps reduce the impact. After this, the team largely falls apart — which sets the stage for the team to get reassembled with some new members in the next volumes I’ll be reading, but still isn’t a fun way to end a book.

That said, Billy and Teddy are both center stage in this story, with their relationship, love for each other, and support prioritized and given a sense of respect throughout. I have no complaints there, and Heinberg even brought in another mlm couple from elsewhere in comics (Shatterstar & Rictor) for a cameo. Teddy and Billy’s unwavering love for each other is a breath of fresh air in a comic series that frequently features teenage romantic squabbles and is lovely to read. Teddy’s rant to Pietro about Billy’s toxic family alone would get an extra star from me!

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