Avengers: The Children's Crusade #1
Written by Allan Heinberg
Art by Jim Cheung, Mark Morales and Justin Ponsor
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
Comics fact: There are some properties that seem to become synonymous with a single creator, and they never really seem to succeed in the same way without them.
Case in point: Allan Heinberg and the Young Avengers.
People have tried to take on his creations while he was on other projects -- Chris Yost, Paul Cornell, Zeb Wells, none of them have caught that spark that Heinberg did in his 12-issue run. For a lot of fans, it almost seemed like the Young Avengers property was in danger of fading away, without Heinberg and his master plan to guide them. So reading Avengers: The Children's Crusade #1 was a welcome relief in that regard, seeing these obviously viable characters succeed again -- but at the same time, this issue makes you wonder if end product will justify the bimonthly waits.
What do I mean? Heinberg gets you in the game early, giving some quick character descriptions for our heroes -- yet part of me feels that it's so fast, particularly with the House of M exposition, it might give unprepared readers a little bit of whiplash. Where Heinberg does succeed, however, is through his character work, particularly with Wiccan and Hulkling -- the boys make for a cute couple, and their reactions to Wiccan's potentially serious status quo change are the highlights of the book. Considering comics' occasional blind spot when it comes to convoluted morality, it's nice to see an examination of good and evil that calls out even the Earth's Mightiest Heroes when they're being self-righteous jerks.
Artist Jim Cheung, meanwhile, succeeds best when Heinberg gives him room to maneuver. There are some pages that feel a little cramped near the beginning -- Heinberg does try to pack in a little too much dialogue sometimes, and the word balloons can sometimes be a little overwhelming against the art -- but Cheung makes up for it later, with some nice emotion particularly in a scene where Wiccan and Captain America go flying through the skies of New York, or a quiet, poignant scene where one of Wiccan's worst nightmares comes true. In a lot of ways, Cheung is like a scratchier Olivier Coipel, with his characters having a real angular strength to them -- the opening splash in particular is just a great image, and in a way it's too bad that the numerous guest characters prevent Cheung from really focusing on the Young Avengers.
Still, the big issue here is the fact that this story feels episodic in its structure -- eight pages here, six pages there, three pages here -- and it leaves all these side stories feeling a bit light. If this was a monthly, I would just chalk this up to first-issue set-up syndrome -- but if this series is going to go bimonthly, like Marvel's superb S.H.I.E.L.D. and Ultimate X series, you have to really be sure to have bang for your buck. It's just a shame, because it's clear that the Young Avengers are one of those concepts that only Heinberg can really play up to the hilt -- yet as far as first issues go, this one doesn't quite make as strong of an impression as you'd expect. That's not to say this is a bad book by any stretch of the imagination -- if you're a friend of the Young Avengers, this will be a welcome reunion with some old friends. You just might feel, however, that it's too bad they haven't done some growing up.
What'd you think of this first issue?