Page 45 Review by Stephen
Before there was THE WICKED + THE DIVING, there was YOUNG AVENGERS.
I wouldnt describe much here as wicked, but it was absolutely divine from start to finish!
I dont have time to edit my three original reviews, but here they are, and Ive even managed to dig up all the interior art we used, which you click on and blow up. Well, enlarge. We dont want any explosions here.
Young Avengers vol 1: Style > Substance
I fell in love with a superhero.
And I fell in love with this series: sharp, chic and oh, so sexy! Contemporary too.
Goddam, Noh-Varrs black pants as his hips grind and fingers snaps in synch to a sixties beat. In fact the book wakes up in bed, just like HAWKEYEs Kate Bishop whos listening to her new lover enthuse about close-harmony girl groups.
I lie in the strange bed and watch this beautiful alien boy dance to the music my parents love and think
This is everything I always hoped for. At which point, the Skrulls attack.
Haha! Cue blistering NEXTWAVE flourish: a double-page spread crammed with kinetic panels of a spaceship dogfight and four big, bold statements. Oh, these two are in orbit!
I do mean Kate Bishop and Kree kid Noh-Varr but also Gillen and McKelvie, the creators of PHONOGRAM: RUE BRITANNIA and PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB in which music is magic, and magic is what we have here. The magic of teenage romance and, well, magic itself. New readers start here (and you can):
Hulking (half-Kree, half-Skrull shapeshifter) and Wiccan (the son of the Scarlet Witch), are in love. Wiccans adoptive parents are letting them both lodge under their roof, if not quite in the same bed. For Wiccan that means keeping a low profile to avoid scaring the horses or at least alerting the neighbours. But Hulkling cant help himself: helping others is part of who he is. Hes not ashamed of his heritage any more than hes ashamed of his sexuality.
Im not going to spend the rest of my life in the phone booth. Im not living a lie.
Its during this outburst that Hulking AKA Teddy mentions his mother whos dead, and how lucky Wiccan is to have two sets of parents. And Wiccan AKA Billy takes that to heart. Hes here to help others too and, if he cant help his own boyf, then what even is the point? Plus you know I mentioned Billy was the son of the Scarlet Witch, she of the reality-altering powers
? In a panel which winkingly references another from PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB Billy starts scanning alternate realities to see if he cant make things better.
Meanwhile magic attracts magic, and thats where kid-Loki comes in. From the word go in his first JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY volume, Kieron Gillens young Loki has been fascinated by modern Earth technology and social idiosyncrasies. Its no surprise then, having spent thousands of years feasting in an opulent Asgardian refectory, that Loki now spends so much time in an urban diner, in this instance arranging sausages, fried eggs and baked beans into a scrying sigil.
Time to pay for the food youve spread on the table, cosplay boy.
Please, sir. Im the actual God of Mischief! Asgard variation! Havent you heard of me? My brothers terribly famous. Big strapping blond fellow. Fond of his hammer. If you knew me even slightly, youd know that I never pay for what Ive done.
No, this time all of them will pay for what Wiccan is doing. Fortunately kid Loki is here on the side of the angels; unfortunately Miss America doesnt believe him.
The first story arc is called Style > Substance which, for those failing algebra, is an equation wherein Style Is Greater Than Substance. Thats just typical of Team Phonogram: oh so clever, self-denigratory yet at the same time irrepressibly mischievous, for there is plenty of substance and, boy, is it delivered with style! It is a beautiful and nimble thing to behold. Dance, this does: McKelvies art is bursting with energy without once risking accessibility and perfectly controlled for the quiet, tender moments where there is so much heart and humanity. Yes, there is canoodling!
Mike Norton also plays his part with the ridiculously clean and detailed city-scapes, while Kelvies eye for fashion gives us the upwards flicks on the end of Wiccans floppy hair and his two-tone t-shirt. The single panel in which he takes hold of his boyfriends hand, three fingers between Teddys thumb and fore, was exquisitely delicate. Because, yes, hes fucked up badly leaving his boyfriend in particular in a world of trouble.
It is a very modern superhero comic: just gawp at the covers! Rarely has Marvel attracted such design sense outside of the recent HAWKEYE. The colours by Matthew Wilson both within and without are so fresh and fruity you can almost taste them. Seriously: black currant, lemon, strawberry, lime. Its like a stained glass window, both breathing and breathless, arranged out of Opal Fruits which were made to make your mouth water.
In addition there two of the most ingenious pages, from conception to execution, to have graced a comic since CEREBUS. (It was a regular occurrence there: almost every issue brought with it yet another visual innovation.) For superhero readers, think John Byrnes SHE-HULK. Gillen and McKelvie use small panels as a claustrophobic prison and the broader-than-usual gutters as its escape route
including the edges of the paper! Even the climax to that sequence brought with it beauty.
Finally, I loved this tucked-in tribute to the late, great Jack Kirby whose mad designs for machines of all shapes and sizes were part of what made 1960s Marvel Comics fizz. Were on board Nor-Varrs spaceship:
Problem! That hit got the Kirby Engines. Its venting. Were losing 4.2 epiphanies a second!
Young Avengers vol 2: Alternative Culture
This is a book about breakfasts.
It really is.
These Avengers are young and they are hungry. For adventure, yes, but also breakfast. And lunch. And supper. Led there by Loki, Norse God of Mischief, they spend so long in that diner its virtually their secret HQ. Theyll be voting in new members there next new members like Prodigy. He knows stuff like where to find them: in the diner.
Its also a book about love: about current boyfriends and rejected, dejected ex-girlfriends: Hel hath no fury etc. Youll be meeting an awful lot of them, because the awful lot are in a meeting and Hulklings been invited. Hes in therapy, see.
He loves his boyfriend Billy very much indeed, but Billy is a reality warper. Such is his power that Billy/Wiccan brought Teddy/Hulklings mother back from the dead. More precisely, he swiped a version of Teddys mum from another dimension in which she hadnt died. Or at least he thought he had but it proved a mistake and now theyre in a great deal of trouble. My point, however, is that Teddys got the idea into his head that Billy could be warping reality to make Teddy love him. I wonder who could have put it there?
There are revelations galore in this second of three books, including who is manipulating whom and its not as obvious as it looks, I assure you. Youll have to read carefully, though; this is a series which demands and rewards it.
One revelation youll have to wait for is the identity and purpose of the new Patriot (the first Patriot used to lead this team), discovered by Prodigy in a warehouse where he works alongside Wiccans brother Speed. This ghostly manifestation appears hobbled and hunched like a zombie, yet he/she/it abducts lightning-fast Speed as if he were a tortoise in treacle. He leaves little more behind him than a puff of white smoke and a bunch of cryptic proclamations.
Which brings us full circle to Prodigy waiting for our friends in the diner. Its also what propels the second volume: the search for Speed. Its all connected, but how?
The art for that first chapter comes courtesy of FISH + CHOCOLATEs Kate Brown. Her gleeful body language is a hoot and she plays the dour and doubtful Prodigy off against the hyperactive, shouty-shouty, up-for-anything Speed to perfection. Her line is much softer than McKelvies, the resulting forms more malleable yet I couldnt imagine a more in-synch substitute, at least until Emma Viecelis oh-so sexy pages in volume three. The teenage proportions complement Jamies to perfection.
As to McKelvie himself, there are yet more innovative page layouts, a lot of glass shards, and Mothers own alien dimension is, as in YOUNG AVENGERS VOL 1, a feast of thrilling new special effects while Matthew Wilson contrasts the brightly coloured characters with the crisp, white vacuum of their surroundings. This suggests infinite space (up and down too), into which McKelvie has inserted artfully arranged, geometrical wonders which play with empty panels and some tentacles of doom. All still using white space. Youll see, but basically this: youre not in Kansas anymore.
The visual star of the show, however, remains young Lokis face. His expressions are to die for: gutted by a misordered plate of pancakes, furious at being proved right and whoops when it all goes wrong:
You probably shouldnt have seen that.
Just like Jamies fashion sense, Gillens wit is thoroughly contemporary, whether its the language or the circumstances in which that language is employed. One of the funniest pages is a one-page, nine-panel pastiche of a Facebook/Twitter hybrid which I cannot quote here for it requires a certain degree of context, but it involves the cast members taking time out (and thereby indicating the passage of time) to communicate through online social media. There is a great deal of pic-tweeting, unfriending and reporting each other for spam. Specifically there is smooching, and Loki dislikes that a lot. Like any seeming 9-year-old, he doesnt like anything icky, body fluids in particular.
Conversations about saliva are henceforth out of bounds until I have breakfast before me! Cant this spaceship go any faster? Breakfast! Give me breakfast! The Norse God of Mischief craves the congress of breakfast meat!
Vegetarians will cry.
Young Avengers vol 3: Mic-Drop At The Edge Of Time And Space
Happy families. Now theres a contradiction in terms.
Dont be cynical. It takes practice. Doesnt suit you, princess.
I really wish youd knock it off with the princess.
Im trying to be nice.
Dont be. It takes practice. Doesnt suit you, princess.
In which one of the freshest, funniest and most inventive series in any genre of comics in recent years comes to a perfect close.
Oh, you have wailed and wailed, for you wanted so much more and who can bloody well blame you?
But Team Phonogram, as they like to call themselves, will shortly be bringing you THE WICKED AND THE DIVINE.
Meanwhile Al Ewing and Lee Garbetts LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD continues Lokis journey with delicious mischief and Marvel have just reissued Kieron Gillen and Dougie Braithwaites JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY which is full of the young tykes tall tales and manipulative gameplay.
Ive little more to add to my previous reviews than that McKelvie delivers more of his eye-frazzling innovation and spectacle and that all of the carefully selected guest artists will have you squealing. Emma Viecelis spotlight on Wiccan and Hulking is particularly sexy, stylish and as glittery as all get-out without being for one second saccharine or effete.
Now, if youre anything like me youre going to get your moneys worth by starting again at the beginning to see just how cleverly Gillen and thereby some of his protagonists have played you.
If youre anything like Gillen, then you are probably going to want breakfast first.