The british artist Jim Cheung (1972 -) is best-known for his work with the Marvel editions, but he also drew several issues of Scion (2000-2004), an american comic-book published by GrossGen about Ethan, the prince of the Heron Dynasty. As a Marvel artist, Jim Cheung has worked on both interiors and covers of comic-books, such as the New Avengers, X-Force and of course the series Young Avengers and its mini-series, Avengers : the Children’s crusade. Jim Cheung‘s most recent work is the cover of the first issue of the Guardian of Infinity series.
Crashing a wedding in St. Patrick’s cathedral, a group of gunmen is holding everybody hostages – among whom we recognize the future Hawkeye/Kate Bishop, until the young Avengers arise through the rose window. Falling alongside the broken colored glass, four young men – the young version of Iron-Man, Thor and Hulk, and a teenager costumed like Bucky – arrived to rescue the hostages and save what can be saved of the wedding. Their big splash through the rose window is very theatrical : just live movies heroes, their entrance is delayed until page twelve, the half of the comic-book. Before that, we just heard Jonah Jameson, Jessica Jones and Captain America talk about them. Hulkling, his mouth wide-opened, seems eager to start fighting against the bad guy – unfortunately, he and Patriot didn’t land as gracefully as Iron-Lad and Asgardian, so they’ve to regain their senses before kicking anyone. Asgardian used his godlike powers to land, and Iron-Lad the technology of his armor. Costumed like that, with his winged helmet and his lightning stick, Asgardian really looks like a younger version of Thor. The visual comic effect of Patriot’s and Hulkling’s missed landing rejoins the comic dialog on the top panel.
The young Avengers isn’t a comic version of the Avengers, and their problems and enemies are just as frightening and dangerous : their first opponent is none other than Kang the Conqueror himself. But it turns out that Iron-Lad, the one that put the young Avengers together, is Kang himself – at least a younger version of Kang, before he became the Conqueror. He came in our time after the adult Kang rescued him from 30th century’s bullies and showed him his future. Surprisingly, the young Nathaniel Richards refused to embrace his future, and fled away in time, where he thought he could find the help of Kang’s arch enemies, the Avengers. Unfortunately for him, they were disbanded, and it’s only thanks to the departed Vision’s failsafe program that he put together a new team of Avengers, the Young Avengers. If Jessica Jones, Cap and Iron Man seemed skeptical at first, they soon are amazed – and worried – by Nathaniel’s story. He actually is a young Kang. But in Kang’s costume and helmet, we can see how sad he is – sad about his lies to his team, but also about his future. He’s destined to become a worldwide threat, while all he wants is to be a heroes, an Avengers. His sadness is so touching, that we only can feel bad for him.
Unfortunately for Nathaniel, the older Kang arrived and convinced the Avengers what a threat for the reality and the timestream his younger self is. Started a battle between the Avengers and the young ones, in solidary with their teammates even if he’s the future Conqueror of time. That revelation isn’t as dramatic as it could have been : the young Avengers accepted it too easily, like if it wasn’t a world-changing revelation. Did they already know ? During the battle, Hulkling got hurt by Iron-Man who was chasing after a fleeing Iron-Lad and crashed on the ground, revealing his true powers. He is a shape-shifter. I just love the top panel of this page, with Hulkling in the arms of Asgardian who’s worrying about him. Quietly, Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung are leaving us clues about the true nature of Hulkling’s and Asgardian’s relationship. For now it’s just little concern, but soon it will be more tangible as Marvel get less shy about gay couples.
Kang apparently defeated every one of the young Avengers, and Iron-Lad accepted reluctantly to come back to his own time. But it seems that Kang forgot about Stature, who grew back to her real size to prevent Kang to bring back Nathaniel. Like a movie’s storyboard, this page is very precise and detailed about the characters’ expressions and moves. Worried about Iron-Lad, Stature stands between him and Kang, despite the open portal that could aspirate her. Like a true hero, Iron-Lad rescued Stature from the portal, after she pushed Kang through said portal. Stature was willing to sacrifice herself to save Nathaniel from his dark future. By acting like this, both Stature and Iron-Lad showed that they were the Avengers’ equals.
After defeating Kang, Nathaniel has changed the world, maybe irremediably : all of the Avengers are dead, but Steve Lang’s grave is nowhere to be found. Is he alive in this new world created by Nathaniel ? It’s what Cassie Lang believes, and she’s ready to risk everything to prove it. Everything, even the lives of the Avengers. She’s on Nathaniel side, but she’s the only one : the others four are decided to send back Iron-Lad to his proper time. Asgardian even started to cast a spell, before Nathaniel took him by the throat, crying and punching at the same time. He’s desperate and game for anything to stay in this time, to stay good and not becoming Kang the Conqueror. On this third panel, Asgardian is drawn only in silhouette, which places him between the foreground and our space. Therefore we are the privileged witnesses of Iron Lad despair, who doesn’t hesitate to punch a teammate, even if it means being punched in return by said teammate’s boyfriend. Furthermore, because of his own presence Asgardian is slowly fading away, like if he didn’t even existed.
Nathaniel Richards finally sacrificed himself, his happiness and his team, to get back to the 30th century and embrace his future as Kang. Resurrected thanks to this sacrifice and by the young Avengers’ actions, the Avengers yet does not acknowledge the young Avengers’ team. They have no other choice than to go dark, changing both their names and their costumes : a new version of the team is born, without their founder Iron-Lad. In the dark, this penultimate page shows us the five young Avengers trying on their new costumes. Wiccan is removing his winged helmet, while Hulkling’s accepting his shape-shifter powers ; Kate’s fist is clenched, as if she was decided to take over the team ; Cassie’s putting on her glove, which maybe was his father’s, and Patriot is putting on a mask. Therefore he looks less like Bucky with his hood, but he stays masked and his identity remains a secret, just as the others’.
I would have liked to talk about a lot more of Jim Cheung‘s pages on Young Avengers, but every post has to end at some point. Iron-Lad is maybe the most intense and heroic characters of all of the young Avengers. Despite his dark future to come, Nathaniel accepted to get back to it, leaving behind him his team and his friends, his love to Cassie Lang. Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung did an amazing job for these six first issues of Young Avengers, with an enemy such as Kang the Conqueror, but the sequel (Family Matters) is just as amazing.