Jim Cheung – Young Avengers vol. 1 #9-12

We’re lucky, Jim Cheung is back on Young Avengers for the end of his run with Allan Heinberg. After talking about the team’s legitimacy, then the reality about Patriot’s powers – which he doesn’t have, they were just a consequence of MGH (Mutant Growth Hormone) – Allan Heinberg reveals the origins of the shape-shifter Hulkling and the warlock Wiccan. According to the Vision’s failsafe program, saved in the memory of the young Vision, Iron-Lad reunited these specific teenagers because they were connected to the real Avengers (see Jim Cheung – Young Avengers vol.1 #1-6). We now are on the verge to discover these links thanks to the story of Allan Heinberg.

Attacked by the Super-Skrull, Kl’rt, the young Avengers are forced to replicate by using their powers. Kl’rt’s target is Hulkling, aka Teddy Altman, who is supposed to be a Skrull according to him, and whose destiny is to return in the Skrull’s empire. Picking on Billy who got to Teddy’s rescue, the Super-Skrull threatened Hulkling to turn Wiccan against his friends. In order to save Wiccan, Hulkling was even willing to accompany Kl’rt in the Skrull empire. He rushed towards Billy despite all wit or wisdom, guided only by his love for the young hostage. His furor, impersonated in his punch, is a visible sign of his crush on Billy Kaplan. Metamorphosing his fist into the Thing’s, he punched the Super-Skrull so hard he smashed into a building. Hulkling’s entire body is tense : his veins on his formidable arm, on his bull neck, he is a true force of nature. The only time we already saw Hulkling get angry was in Young Avengers #6, just after Wiccan disappeared because – apparently – of Iron-Lad.

Jim Cheung - Young Avengers #9 p.15
Jim Cheung – Young Avengers #9 p.15 © Jim Cheung / Marvel

Unfortunately for Teddy, the Super-Skrull is right, he is alien, and the woman who was impersonating his mother turned out to be a Skrull herself. Her job was to watch over Teddy, what she did until her last breast. Protecting Teddy from a Kl’rt’s attack, she burst into flames and died, despite Wiccan’s effort to magically heal her. Powerless to save her, Wiccan collapsed in front of Hulkling bodyguard/surrogate mother, without seeing that his boyfriend himself has disappeared. Jim Cheung‘s drawings are powerfull. We  can feel Mrs Altman’s pain, Wiccan’s powerlessness and his sorrow, but first of all Hulkling’s fear and panic. How can he be a Skrull, while he always thought he was a mutant ? How can he be an alien ? How can his mother – now dead – could not be his mother like the Super-Skrull said ? His world just collapsed, he’s losing his bearings and not even Wiccan can help him this time. How alone must he feel …

Jim Cheung - Young Avengers #9 p.22
Jim Cheung – Young Avengers #9 p.22 © Jim Cheung / Marvel

With two members missing, the young Avengers doesn’t have a choice but to recruit the young Vision and an other member of Vision’s failsafe program, Tommy Shepherd. What a surprise when a young boy emerges from the smoke of the explosion, looking exactly like Billy/Wiccan. The dramatic and theatrical effect is well-done, and the surprise complete at Tommy’s first glimpse. Just like Billy, Tommy was in the Vision’s files because he had a link with one of the Avengers, the Red Scarlet herself. He and Billy are the reincarnate souls of Wanda and Vision’s twins boys, who first appeared in Vision and the Scarlet Witch #12 in September 1986. Turns out that Vision being an Android, Wanda couldn’t really got pregnant, so she magically impregnated herself and created their twin boys with missing shards of Mephisto’s soul. Sadly for her, Mephisto came claiming the missing pieces of his souls, and as she lost her sons, Wanda erased her memory of them as well, until Avengers #500 in September 2004 : trying to get pregnant again, she asked for the help of Dr Doom, who conjured a cosmic entity to merge with Wanda, leading her in a path of chaos and destruction towards the Avengers. She’s the reason why the Avengers dismantled and Iron-Lad had to reunite a new team of young Avengers. But the Scarlet Witch wasn’t finished : manipulated by her twin brother Quicksilver, she recreates the world as House of M, then decimated over than 90% of the mutant population. These events took place after the end of Young Avengers vol. 1.

Jim Cheung - Young Avengers #10 p.11
Jim Cheung – Young Avengers #10 p.11 © Jim Cheung / Marvel

Let’s get back on Hulkling, whose origins are about to be revealed. Beside being Skrull, he’s also Kree : he is a halfling, a Skrull-Kree hybrid that both the alien races claimed to be their own. He is the son of the Skrull princess Anelle and the Kree heroe, Mar-Vell aka Captain Marvel, therefore he is the heir of the Skrull empire under the name of Dorrek VIII. But as Mar-Vell’s son, Hulkling is also a soldier in the Kree army, and the Captain Av-Rom is ready to do anything to enlist him and prevent him to claim the Skrull’s throne. Even to shot at Captain America, who’s been protected by Patriot. He then got shot to death, and fall into Cap’s arms. This double-page spread marks the beginning of the war for Hulkling against the Krees. If Billy is quick to react, Kate, Cap and Hulkling are still under the shock of Patriot getting shot. How guilty must Cap feel. Once again, a child protected him and – almost – died. And once again, the kid was wearing a Bucky suit. Despite all he has tried to do, Cap couldn’t prevent an other Bucky to get shot. Cap on his knee and Patriot in his arm look like a catholic Pieta, Cap being the Virgin Mary and Patriot the dying Christ.

Jim Cheung - Young Avengers #11 p.21-22
Jim Cheung – Young Avengers #11 p.21-22 © Jim Cheung / Marvel

The war for Hulkling cost the live of anyone on Earth but Mrs. Kaplan’s, who was loved like a mother by Teddy. It is because of him that she’s dead, because she protected him from the Super-Skrull’s attack. But it was her duty as his bodyguard, and she was following Anelle’s orders. Teddy is now really an orphan, from both his biological and adoptive parents. All he’s got is Billy and his family. That’s why this page is so touching and moving, especially the second panel. Both tearful, Billy finds the right words to comfort Billy, his hand on Billy’s cheek. Jim Cheung‘s drawings are not whimpering, but powerful and touching. Under his pencils, the sorrow is transfigured as a noble feeling. Look at Billy’s hand on the fourth panel, scattering his mother’s ashes. With just a hand, Jim Cheung gives Billy the closure he needs.

Jim Cheung - Young Avengers #12 p.21
Jim Cheung – Young Avengers #12 p.21 © Jim Cheung / Marvel

If the first arc of Young Avengers by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung was great, this one is even further that great. They finally reveals all the mysteries surrounding Billy’s and Teddy’s origins, and fetched on a 1990s story about Wanda’s and Vision’s twins. The first young Avengers reunited by Iron-Lad not only looked like the Avengers, but were linked to them. The relationship between Billy and Teddy is more explicit than before, and I’m thankful for Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung for having make this possible.

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