Young Avengers both is and isn’t exactly like every other comic out there right now. It’s an absolutely fascinating comic that tries to have its cake and eat it, in front of a crowd of people, whilst yelling at the top of its voice, ‘Seriously guys, what cake?’ I mean all of this in a good way, mostly. Spinning out of a ton of different titles (the non-canonical-or-is-it Marvel Boy, Children’s Crusade, Hawkeye, Journey into Mystery, Avengers and the amazing Joe Casey series Vengeance) this iteration of the oft-cancelled series finds a group of disparate teen superheroes forced into working together to fight an interdimensional being called Mother who, through a confluence of events, will kill any of the main cast, should they return to their parents. That cast includes holdovers from previous Young Avengers series Wiccan, Kate Bishop and Hulkling, as well as new arrivals Noh-Varr, Miss America Chavez and Loki. The tone of the comic starts off brilliantly, it’s irreverent, funny and easy to get into. Writer Kieron Gillen’s talents lie in making the teens talk like teens. Their relationships (especially between Wiccan and Hulkling, the most realistic depiction of a gay relationship I’ve ever seen in comics) are spot on, and the dialogue is stellar.
“Kate, I come from a dimension where there is transcendental peace and universal enlightenment. But there are no close harmony girl groups. How could anyone leave a world that makes things as wonderful as this?” says Noh-Varr by way of explaining why he hasn’t gone off to explore the galaxy.
It’s this freewheeling attitude that makes the title work, and yet, frustratingly, this starts to become second place to the series’ growing story of the team’s fight against Mother, which has now stretched to a gloriously overwrought twelve issues. With the news that the series will be ending with issue 15, it seems clear that this saga will take up the entire storyline. It’s a shame really, because there’s still much to recommend about the series.
Long-term planning comes to play quite frequently in our other Marvel title this month, as Mark Waid’s run on Daredevil begins to shut up shop. As with Young Avengers, this is another run which has only three issues left, but in quite a different manner; Daredevil has been consistently the finest superhero title on the stands. Month after month Waid, and artist Chris Samnee (both are actually credited as ‘storytellers’ which seems apt) deliver big, bombastic superhero stories, often done-in-one tales, whilst also balancing that with compelling characters and beautifully done emotional beats.
This month’s issue #33 is a perfect example. Matt Murdock’s (Daredevil’s alter-ago) law firm partner, Foggy Nelson is undergoing cancer treatment and it’s not looking good. The issue opens with a dream sequence, with Matt and Foggy standing on a beach, talking about how worried Murdock is about Nelson’s future. Because he’s blind, Murdock doesn’t see his best friend (how can he? He’s never seen him before) so instead, he talks to an old family friend. It’s an incredibly bittersweet opening. The fact that the issue does this, and then dives head first into a story about the legion of monsters, just makes it all the more impressive. The art this month, whilst not by Samnee (it’s by Jason Copland) manages to keep the same tone the comic has seemingly always had, and is utterly beautiful to look at.
Playing the long game as well, is possibly the breakout comic of the year, Saga by Brian K Vaughan (writer of the best post-apocalyptic comic of all time, Y: The Last Man) and Fiona Staples. A quick aside, I went to a signing at my local comic book store (Travelling Man in Manchester) for a bunch of artists and writers, and the queue for Fiona Staples, just for her mind, was around three hours long. That tells you something about the impact that this title has had. And it’s completely deserved. A space opera first and foremost, it tells the story of a young couple, from opposing sides in a war that threatens to take over the galaxy. In the first few pages of the first issue they have a baby, Hazel, who narrates the entire story (in stunning handwritten captions). Each side of the war sends assassins out to retrieve one half of the couple, there’s a foul mouthed writer who lives on an island that wouldn’t look out of place in a Studio Ghibli film, oh and there’s sex. There’s a ton of sex. For a book narrated by a baby, it’s utterly filthy. So much so that earlier in the year, an issue was banned by Apple (for showing an erect penis on the TV screen that forms the head of a robot prince named Prince Robot IV). It’s also often hilarious, sad, romantic, adventurous and, like all of Vaughan’s work, ridiculously compelling.
Not many independent comics get a chance to be as successful as Saga is becoming (the last one was probably The Walking Dead, and look where that is now), so my advice? Get on this series now.
Next month, I will be taking a look back on some of the best series (and single issues of the year), including some titles that I haven’t discussed yet in this column (probably Hawkeye).