Avengers: The Children's Crusade #8
Written by Allan Heinberg
Art by Jim Cheung, Mark Morales, Livesay Cheung, Justin Ponsor, and Paul Mounts
Letters by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by George Marston
'Rama Rating: 8/10
Avengers: The Children's Crusade has once again proven that it is the unsung anchor of the Marvel Universe right now. About halfway through this mini-series, four or five long running plot lines of the Marvel universe collided, and, in this penultimate issue, are coalescing into something cohesive. As inessential as "X-Sanction" feels, this is the flip side of that coin; the real vehicle for the next era of the Marvel Universe meta-story. Like it or not, there's a direction in place, and how we get there is as important as the destination. It's one thing to be told that what you're looking at is building to something bigger, but it's quite another to feel it for yourself. Children's Crusade has a suitably widescreen feel, thanks in large part to the machinations of Dr. Doom, whose involvement in the proceedings climaxes this issue, and to the presence of the Scarlet Witch, a character not used with impunity. Add to that a sense of dread cultivated by one of the most honestly surprising end pages of recent events, and the weight of this issue can actually be felt by the reader.
Allan Heinberg and Jimmy Cheung's long awaited return to the Young Avengers started a little slow, a feeling perhaps made more prevalent by the bi-monthly schedule, but by now, the team is in full swing. The fact that it took reaching the halfway point of the series to find the right footing makes the fact that this is the penultimate issue kind of a shame. Heinberg writes a Scarlet Witch that carries the weight of what she's done like an albatross, and her penitence makes for a nice counterpoint to the wide-eyed innocence that has always been Wanda's hallmark. There's a sadness to her resolution that's almost gutwrenching. For his part, Cheung shows again and again why he's one of the top artists in the industry. His linework is almost unparalleled, and when it comes to Marvel's characters, his mastery of the style is apparent. My one complaint is that his Scarlet Witch often looks a little more stolid than she ought to, but that's easily outweighed by the angry power that his Doom commands, even when attempting to appear benevolent.
This issue sees Dr. Doom in command of the Life Force power that he seized from Scarlet Witch at the end of the last issue, while the Avengers and X-Men unite to defy his seemingly all-encompassing power. There's a little bit of a bait and switch in the climactic scene, but in a way that builds the tension appropriately. Despite the presence of two of the largest super-teams in Marvel's pantheon, this story remains squarely about the Young Avengers. All of the major moments come down to these characters, and it's a good move. Speed and Wiccan's dressing down of the Avengers and X-Men stands out as a particularly strong moment, showcasing the power of not just the characters, but the creative team as well.
With only one issue left, there are still some unanswered questions raised by Children's Crusade, and now the fate of at least one fan-favorite character hangs in the balance. It seems unlikely that Heinberg will let a character that stands at the center of the team he created and cultivated die, but for once, the tension of not knowing actually hangs over the scene. While the Avengers and X-Men seem a little chummy by the end of this issue, there's still time to break that tenuous truce back down by the end of the story. I'm still unsure of the value in telegraphing the ending, or at least the result of a major event months and months ahead of time, but there's enough drama inherent in this story to keep it moving through the last issue.