YOUNG AVENGERS | Comic Review

Marvel’s final Disney+ show of the year has finally hit streaming, and with it, another youthful hero has joined the MCU. It’s clearly all leading to something, so let’s look at what that something is!

Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Allan Heinberg
Art by: Jim Cheung & Andrea DiVitto
Year: 2006

Collects: Young Avengers #1 – 12

CONTENTS
– Background
– Plot
– Review


WHAT’s THE STORY?

So, so far we’ve had four live-action Marvel Disney+ shows this year, plus What If..?

Each of the live-action shows, almost certainly by design, has introduced a character that is in some way involved with the superhero group known as the Young Avengers, with further Young Avengers set to make their potential debuts in upcoming movies.

First, we had WandaVision, wherein the Scarlet Witch gave birth to twin boys, each of whom had their own powers. Of the two, the character of Billy often gets a lot more play in the comics under his superhero guise of…

WICCAN

Real Name: William Kaplan
Affiliation: The Young Avengers
First Appearance: Young Avengers #1 (February 2005)

Years ago, Wanda Maximoff – the Scarlet Witch – fell in love with the Vision. Unable to have children the conventional way due to Vision’s robotic physiology, Wanda used her magic powers to create life, birthing twin boys, Billy and Tommy.
But in creating her children, Wanda unknowingly channeled the power of the devil Mephisto, who took back what was his and wiped the twins from existence, driving their mother to madness. But unbeknownst to Wanda, life would find a way, as the souls of Billy and Tommy were born anew to different mothers.
In his new life, Billy was the Avengers-fanboy son of Doctors Jeff and Rebecca Kaplan. Bullied due to his sexuality, Billy was inspired by the Avengers to stand up for himself, and in doing so, awakened his own magic powers. Deciding to use his abilities as a hero, Billy was recruited by the Time-Travelling Iron Lad to join the Young Avengers, where he found life-long friends who accepted him for who he was, and the love of his life in Hulkling.

Then, in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, we met Isaiah Bradley, the aged black super-soldier, who lived with his grandson Elijah. His role in the show was minimal, but in the comics, he follows in his grandfather’s heroic footsteps as…

PATRIOT

Real Name: Elijah Bradley
Affiliation: The Young Avengers
First Appearance: Young Avengers #1 (February 2005)

In the early days of America’s participation in World War II, after the assassination of the Super-Soldier Serum’s creator Dr. Abraham Erskine, the American government began attempting to recreate the elixir that had turned the weakly Steven Rogers into their nation’s greatest hero. 
But unsure of the newer serums stability, they opted to test it on African-American soldiers. The majority of these soldiers died, but a select few managed to survive and were sent overseas to undertake black-ops missions. One of these men, Isaiah Bradley, recovered an old uniform and shield designed for Steve Rogers and was dubbed the ‘Black Captain America’, becoming an urban legend among the black community. 
Decades later, after being recruited by Iron Lad to help form the Young Avengers, Isaiah’s grandson Elijah was given an emergency blood transfusion by his grandfather, gaining similar super-soldier abilities. Carrying on his grandfather and idol’s legacy, Elijah now fights among like-minded teenage heroes as Patriot. 

In Loki, we actually got two, in a way. First, we got ‘Kid Loki’, who in the comics is just real Loki in the body of a child, as opposed to an alternate reality version. However, he’s a later addition to the Young Avengers, so we’ll come back to him another time.

Because alongside Loki, we were also introduced to Nathaniel Richards. Richards is a pretty big character in the comics, and as Iron Lad he’s the founder of the Young Avengers. However, in the show, we see a variant of him, played by Jonathan Majors, who will also go on to play Richards’ most well-known persona, and the threat Iron Lad brings the Young Avengers together to fight…

KANG, THE CONQUEROR

Real Name: Nathaniel Richards
Affiliation:
 N/A
First Appearance: Avengers #8 (September 1964)

In the far future of the 31st century, a young man named Nathaniel Richards became fascinated by the time-travelling technology created by Doctor Doom during the Heroic Age. After experimenting with said technology, Richards took his maiden voyage through time, and in the process started a legacy which would see him become infamous throughout the time-stream under numerous different aliases. 
In Ancient Egypt, his superior technology led the locals to worship him as a God and name him their Pharoah Rama-Tut. In the 21st century, he fought against heroes such as the Fantastic Four and the Avengers as the Scarlet Centurian. In his far future, he watches over the time-stream as Immortus. His younger self, fearing the brutal destiny, fled to the past to team up with the Avengers as Iron Lad
But his most infamous incarnation came about when he was stranded a thousand years after his own time and was forced to conquer the Earth in order to survive. Gaining a taste for warfare, he became Kang the Conqueror and decided to take his armies and technology back down the timestream, conquering younger Earth’s not ravaged by war, cementing his ‘Kang Dynasty’ across time. 

Finally, we reach Hawkeye, which introduces us to Kate Bishop, who’s also manage to snag some extra screentime this past year as the first hero to be added to Marvel’s Avengers game…

HAWKEYE

Real Name: Katherine Elizabeth Bishop
Affiliation: The Young Avengers
First Appearance: Young Avengers #1 (February 2005)

Despite being born into high society and wanting for nothing, Kate Bishop‘s strained relationships with her family taught her that she could only rely on herself.
After being sexually assaulted, Kate took up self-defence classes, becoming proficient in archery, martial arts and swordplay, much like her role model, Hawkeye. These skills came in handy when her family were held hostage at her sister’s wedding. Though the ‘Young Avengers’ arrived to save the day, it was Kate who was instrumental in stopping the armed gunmen, and as a result, she convinced the new team to take her on as a member.
Since then, Kate has grown through the ranks of the superhero community, earning the Hawkeye name and teaming up with the original Hawkeye himself. Cool and capable, Hawkeye now patrols the West Coast as a private investigator, proving that even without powers, no job is too big for Kate Bishop.

Other Young Avengers are also set to make their debut in future films. America Chavez, the dimension-hopping Ms America, for one, will be a supporting player in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, no doubt alongside Wiccan.

Similarly, the character of Cassie Lang, who we’ve seen several times in the movies at this point, has been recast and is returning, alongside Jonathan Majors’ Kang, in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, where, if I had to guess, she would suit up as…

Stature

Real Name: Cassandra Eleanor Lang
Affiliation: The Young Avengers
First Appearance: Marvel Premiere #47 (January 1979)

As a kid, Cassie Lang’s heart defect pushed her father Scott to steal Hank Pym’s Ant-Man equipment to save her. After Scott proved himself as a hero, Cassie’s life saw an influx of colourful characters, as she grew up living alongside the Fantastic Four and, later, the Avengers.
It was here, driven by her desire to join her father as a superhero, that Cassie began stealing and dosing herself with Pym Particles, seemingly to no effect. Thus, powerless, Cassie was unable to save her father when the Scarlet Witch went mad and tore the Avengers apart.
So when the Young Avengers made their debut, Cassie saw a second chance to honour her fathers legacy. Confronting the group, the high stress level of the situation caused her powers to finally activate, as she displayed the ability to grow and shrink like her father. Becoming Stature, Cassie continued to live among superheroes, now as one of them, hoping to find a way to one day bring her Dad back to life.

Again, there are other members, such as Speed, and even the Vision. But these are the majority of the major players of the original Young Avengers. At the moment, there’s just one core member missing with no actor hired to play them (that we know of), and that’s…

HULKLING

Real Name: Dorrek VIII
Affiliation: The Young Avengers
First Appearance: Young Avengers #1 (February 2005)

A million years ago, the Kree were invited to a test of worthiness by the space-faring Skrulls, which they subsequently lost. Outraged, the Kree chose to strike back, sparking a war between the two alien races that would rage on indefinitely.
Eventually, the Kree-Skrull War arrived on Earth, forcing the Avengers to intervene. During this particular conflict, the Kree Captain Mar-Vell was captured by the Skrulls. While imprisoned, Mar-Vell met the Skrull Princess Anelle, with whom he had an affair. Anelle fell pregnant, but realising the potential danger their child would be in if ever discovered, she dispatched him to to Earth with her nursemade to live in secret.
In time, this child, ‘Teddy Altman‘, would discover his superior Kree strength and Skrull shape-shifting abilities, and use them to emulate the Hulk as Hulkling. Joining up with the Young Avengers, Teddy made fast friends, fell in love, and discovered a great heritage as the Prince of two worlds. Now, alongside his partner Wiccan, Hulkling fights not only for justice on Earth but to unite his parents’ two warring empires.

Presumably, Hulkling will make his debut in The Marvels, but considering his comic-book-Dad is both dead and genderswapped in the movies, his origin will likely be a little different.

So that’s the Young Avengers, some of whom will no doubt be the stars of the MCU going forward. But is their debut story any good?


PLOT:

In the aftermath of the Avengers‘ disbanding, a time-travelling teenager named Nathaniel Richards has enlisted the help of three like-minded youths to form a new team, the Young Avengers!

Joined by wealthy socialite Kate Bishop and Cassie Lang, the daughter of the deceased Ant-Man, these teen heroes will have to endure the enquiries of reporter Jessica Jones and the rules of Captain America and Iron Man if they are to face the threat they united to face – Nathaniel’s future self, Kang the Conqueror.


REVIEW:

The first volume of Young Avengers is a fast-paced little romp.

It jumps straight into the action and barely lets up, taking place over the course of a day or two, and forgoing the usual civilian aspect of Marvel Comics in favour of just focusing on the teens in their superhero identities.

While we get some hints at the characters lives outside of the spandex (for instance, as an ‘origin’ for Hawkeye and Stature, we see them both before and after they don their respective costumes) for the most part, we learn who these characters are through how they approach superheroics, and the result is an enjoyable adventure not unlike something you’d see in more classic comics.

Even though the story also deals with a lot of built-in Marvel lore, it tackles it all with enough exposition and context that it’s never confusing, offering up juicy tidbits that may pique people’s interest like references to the secret ‘first Captain America’, as well as fleshing out of characters like Kang the Conqueror, of all people.

While Kang’s presence and the ensuing time travel shenanigans he brings don’t always make for events that make sense if you give them too much thought, the story manages to make a strong impression and has a poignant ending that makes you excited to see what’s next.

The mid-point of the series, Secret Identities, is perhaps the weakest part of the run.

The art swaps hands to Andrea DiVitto, and while it’s pretty good in and of itself, sandwiched between the work of Cheung, it does stand out, especially since it’s only around for two issues.

Furthermore, while the arc does its best to flesh out our heroes, it also doesn’t paint Patriot in the most flattering light. Although it all comes together in the end, it is a bit of a shame that the only black character of the main cast is a standoffish drug addict.

Fortunately, Patriot sees something of redemption in Family Matters, where we see the addition of two further Young Avengers: a younger variant of the Vision, and Wanda’s other sort-of-son, the speedster Speed.

Alongside these additions, we also get answers as to the origins of all the as of yet unaccounted for Young Avengers, and once again, everything is explained in a way that will satisfy new and old fans alike (for the most part anyway).

The way the story concludes and comes full circle, with the Young Avengers teaming up with the New Avengers to face off against the Kree and the Skrulls is immensely satisfying, even if there isn’t a ton of detail granted to the fight.

Narratively though, it’s a solid ending and one that is sure to convince people of the Young Avengers potential.

All-in-all, I give Young Avengers: Sidekicks a…

 

Thanks for reading! Who’s your favourite team of young heroes – Young Avengers?Champions? Runaways? Teen Titans? Young Justice? Let me know in the comments below!

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