For nine months and nine issues, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have taken the Young Avengers across space, time, and multiple dimensions. But now in this month’s Young Avengers #10, they’re finally coming home to Mommy.
September 25th’s Young Avengers #10 brings Earth’s Mightiest (teenage) Heroes back to square one as they finally square off against the series’ primary threat, Mother Parasite. Described by Gillen as “evil Mary Poppins” in some ways, Mother is an unsettling and über-powerful villain that has a deep fascination with the team, especially Billy – aka Wiccan. This showdown is the capping off of nine issues of an extra-dimensional road trip in pursuit of a evil doppelganger taking the form of their former teammate Patriot; a trip that brings to mind Marvel’s previous dimensional jaunts in Exiles, Avengers, X-Men and elsewhere.
As we head into this final showdown and future events like the team facing off with itself in November and a Phonogram-style night-club trip in December, Newsarama spoke with Gillen about the series so far and what’s still to come.
Newsarama: Last month we saw the release of Young Avengers #9, seemingly wrapping up the multi-verse road trip. How would you describe how the team’s standing now?
Kieron Gillen: In a matter of some distress. In some ways, they're more of a team than ever. In others, they've got the two-valved heart of the team removed. Without Teddy, much of what made the team the actual team isn't there. There's an emptiness to them, which is pretty clear when we next see them.
Nrama: And that will be in Young Avengers #10 coming out on September 25th. What can readers expect with this team and this book with that Teddy-shaped hole?
Gillen: The team has, in their attempt to solve problems, pretty much only added to them. There's - oooh - four arguable antagonists now. Mother, obviously. The Lovecraftian Patriot creature. Leah's clearly leaning somewhat manipulative and up to something. And, well, just because Loki's on the team, the question is how much he's with the team.
Issue 10 is our villain issue, basically. It's called “Mother’s Day,” and is primarily from her perspective. It's about everything you don't know. Jamie and I kind of see it as a bookend with Siege: Loki, in terms of being a book about the quiet machinations of monsters. It's quite different for Young Avengers, but - in the same way Siege: Loki was important for everything I've done since then - it's pretty damn paramount.
Nrama: On first glance people expect Loki to be the scene-stealer in Young Avengers, but for my money it’s been the stocky and mysterious Miss America. How do you think she’s turned out from your original plans to now 9 issues in?
I think she's doing exactly what we wanted to do. She's a core part of what we're doing in ways which, I suspect, will only become 100% clear in retrospect. The fact she seems to naturally have found herself to the front in our cover designs says a lot. In some ways, she's the visual signifier of our run.
Nrama: The villain you’ve built up in this first year is quite a dangerous sort, Mother – Mother Parasite. This feels distinctly like an un-Marvel villain, almost something out of British sci-fi – maybe even Doctor Who. Where’d your inspiration come from for her?
Gillen: That's interesting you say that. At her core, she was a pure Marvel idea. She's very much to Billy as Ultron is to Hank Pym. In execution, she's miles away, if only as Billy is miles away from Hank Pym. Is Mother something British? A multidimensional parasite angler-fish that lures people in to feed on them, and takes the form of an archetypal parent figure given the choice, with a tendency to turn people into puppets? Hmm. I have to admit, I'm going to places like the Stepford Wives and Invasion of the Bodysnatchers just from her basic description, if you see what I mean. She'd fit perfectly in a film called Unpleasantville, if you see what I'm saying.
But bits of the execution are certainly British. She's evil Mary Poppins in some ways. The playfulness with her execution certainly speaks to that, I think.
She gets a bit more focus in Young Avengers #10. The opening is very much a "Here is Mother, and why she could unnerve as much as amuse" section.
Nrama: In Young Avengers #6 the team added a new recruit, the former New Mutant Prodigy. We never had a chance to ask you about his recruitment, so let’s do it now. I really enjoyed him during the early 2000s New Mutants series but he’s been off the table since then, besides an appearance at the end of Generation Hope. Out of the sea of other potential young heroes out there, what made Prodigy stand out?
Gillen: I first discovered David when I was reading all the teen-X-men books when researching Generation Hope. I immediately saw there was something there. He had the look of Eagles, in that there was an implied weight and depth to him. I used him a little in Generation Hope, pretty much for that reason. I had him written in the background of my plans in Uncanny X-Men, even. I sort of saw him as the head of the teen recruits on Utopia, in being a liaison to Cyclops. He's someone who basically searches for ways to prove himself... and, after all that, I could see him being burned out badly. He's been hurt time and time over at the X-men, and - as such - I saw that disillusionment mirror where the Young Avengers started.
I think I had my idea of him being Bi all the way back there as well. That was a plot that appealed, and also served the needs of Young Avengers. If you want a little more romantic tension in the team, you need three dudes-who-like-dudes.
Nrama: Recent issues have also brought about the return of Leah, last seen in Journey Into Mystery. Loki’s former BFF turned almost into a psycho ex, her appearance in Young Avengers opens up a lot of possibilities – even before we even think about her meeting with Hulkling. Was Leah’s unveiling here pretty much a given from issue #1 as part of your larger plan?
Gillen: Everything's part of the larger plan, in one way or another. The whole season was sort of designed as a larger entity, and I knew I wanted Leah in at some point, for certain purposes.
She's great. Anyone who scares Loki is great.
Nrama: And speaking of Hulking, we saw him break the news to Wiccan that he wanted to take some time off. Wiccan and Hulkling’s relationship was in many ways the emotional core of Young Avengers, like Reed and Sue in Fantastic Four. Why you gotta be so mean, Kieron?
Gillen: I think the kind of break is telling, really. I was proud of Billy in that final scene. You suspect even a couple of years ago, he'd have hit the roof. As it is, as much as he hurts it, he gets it. It's a horrible thing to worry about, and if space is what's needed to put it to rest (or not) then he understands it. But no, it doesn't make it any less painful.
Nrama: I’ve really enjoyed this dimension-hopping you’ve been doing here in the series so far, bringing to mind Exiles but also the great “Cross-Time Caper” in Excalibur back in the day. What led you two to one to jump out of the 616 and explore some new terrain?
Gillen: It's always good to stretch your legs and go for a run.
Part of the metaphor was just travelling. I wanted to take these kids on a road trip and have adventures together. Not just the road-trip that's a giggle and fun, but the sort of trip that pushes the team to the edge of their endurance. That kind of thing. The other part was that it us allowed us to expose the team to lots of things and introduce ideas to them. After all, it's not that they were exploring. They were being shown a guided tour every step of the way. Almost everything they saw was something the Patriot wanted them to see...
Nrama: And getting back to previous dimensional jaunts, did you look to any for reference, inspiration or just fun for these first nine issues?
Gillen: Heh. Well, when I've finished Young Avengers, I want to do a “Young Avengers Reading List” where I direct people to a bunch of books that, if they liked Young Avengers, they'd find pleasing. As some of those are semi-spoilers, I don't really want to say too much about them.
But The Best of Milligan & McCarthy collection that came out this month was so good, it may as well have folded itself back through time and space to me one year ago, and influenced everything.
Nrama: Looking ahead to Young Avengers #12, it promises the Young Avengers versus a team readers never thought they’d face – the Young Avengers. How does that work?
Gillen: By the magic of comics! Comic magic, my friend, of the likes you'll never see before or again. It's a big epic action conclusion to the season. I suspect the sentence will make much more sense when you've read issue 10.