Seven years after the end of their first series, the Young Avengers are back. Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen launched in January 2013 a new volume of the Young Avengers, which ended with its fifteenth issue on January 2014. Unlike the previous series like Civil War : Young Avengers/Runaways, or Siege : Young Avengers, this one is not a mini-series linked to any major event, it’s a real series. Both Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen have worked for Marvel before : the first drew some issues of Cable in 2012 (with Duane Swierczynksi), of the Defenders in 2013 (with Matt Fraction), but he is best-known for his work with Image Comics on series such as the ongoing Phonogram or The Wicked + The Divine. Kieron Gillen has worked on X-Men (Origins : Sabretooth, Uncanny X-Men, Generation Hope) and Avengers titles (Iron-Man), and he’s actually the successful author of Darth Vador. It isn’t the first time Jamie McKelvie and Kierron Gillen are working together : both the series Phonogram and The Wicked + The Divine are the result of their collaboration.
Unlike the previous volume, by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, this one tells the story of a team already composed, who’s been through a lot of adventures and has fought many battles, from the Skrulls invasion (Secret Invasion) to an enhanced Dr. Doom (Avengers : The Children’s Crusade). The duo McKelvie–Gillen chose to open the team to empowered teenagers like America Chavez, David Alleyne or Noh-Varr (who was fighting against the young Avengers during Civil War due to a brainwashing), and to focus on one enemy : the entity named Mother, who turned every one of the adults against the young Avengers, against every teenagers.
Mother entered in the young Avengers’ life because of Billy. His boyfriend – and since the last issue of Avengers : The Children’s Crusade his fiance – has been leaving with him and his parents since a long time now, because Teddy’s mother died (see Jim Cheung – Young Avengers vol.1 #9-12 for more details). Teddy broke his promise not to be a hero again, because he’s been missing this life, and he’s been missing this side of Billy. In order to make it up to him, Billy decided to conjure Teddy’s mom. Unfortunately for him, and later for both the young Avengers, this wasn’t Teddy’s mom who showed up, but an alien entity named Mother. We’re not there yet : Billy and Teddy are kissing to bury the hatchet. There has been a great progress since the beginning of the series in 2005 : whereas on the first series a kiss between Billy and Teddy never appeared, in the first issue of this second volume they are already seen making out. Of course this isn’t the first time they’re represented kissing, but it’s enough rare to be noted. I think Northstar’s wedding in Astonishing X-Men #51 (June 2012) has contributed immensely to the representation of gay characters kissing in the comic-books. Like any other kiss, this one is the symbol of two people in love. Jamie McKelvie‘s style, pure and simple, without any useless details, enhances this act of love.
Mother – like any mother who punishs his disobedient son – punished Billy and Teddy, by sending them into a prison dimension. The way Jamie McKelvie represented this dimension is pretty bold : on a blank page, he drew eight panels using only lines. The character aren’t in these panels, but are walking on them, climbing down them like if they were material elements of the page. It’s like if Mother has trapped them inside the panels of a comic-book, from which only a god like Loki could free them. The teenagers are like chaos, a disruption, in Mother’s new order. They don’t bend to the rule, represented by the panels, but try to break it.
Once free, Wiccan, Hulkling and Loki must defeat Mother and the young heroes’ parents. Fortunately for them, old and new allies appear : Kate Bishop aka Hawkeye, Noh-Varr and Miss America. Soon David Alleyne, a former mutant and student of the Charles Xavier School, joins them on their adventures, with a new purpose : finding what happened to Tommy, Billy’s twin brother. Thanks to Miss America’s powers, the team is able to travel across the dimension, and follows a mysterious character dressed as Patriot. Like the previous page, Jamie McKelvie is audacious in his drawing. The journey into a new dimension is represented like a rain of glass pieces, on which are depicted every characters. Rather than showing us a regular dimensional travel, the artist chose this graphic solution. This is a good idea, thanks to which we can see the characters’ emotions : Hulkling seems worry, Noh-Varr is happy and America Chavez determined. This rain of glass pieces is the graphic link between the top and the bottom panel. I’d like to draw your attention on the characters : they land in the same order that they fall inside Miss America’s star.
An other fight against Mother got the team separated. While Wiccan, Loki, Miss America, Hawkeye and Noh-Varr managed to escape from this trap, Hulkling and Prodigy got themselves jailed. And that is the perfect moment for Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen to spice things up a little between the heir of the Skrull empire and the former mutant : David Alleyne, in a desperate attempt to die without any regret, rushed himself towards Teddy’s mouth and kissed him. If David’s eyes are closed, Teddy’s are widely open under the surprise of this kiss. This page was the last of the eighth issue, so a lot of question appeared at the end of the issue : how will Teddy react ? Is Prodigy gay, or just testing something new ? If he’s actually gay, the Young Avengers would be the most gay-friendly series of the Marvel editions. But let’s get back on the page itself. I’m very found of the drawings of Jamie McKelvie – as I already told – but this time especially. Look at Prodigy’s glasses : they’re shaded with benday points, just like Chris Bachalo do sometimes, and just like the old comic-books did – which inspired Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) for his well-known masterpieces such as the Nurse (1964).
If David and Teddy’s kiss didn’t break up Billy and Teddy’s couple, the assumption that Wiccan’s powers might be the reason why Teddy lives at all might. For the last time the most touching couple of all the Marvel couples hugs under the rain, before Teddy leaves Billy, both crying. Their happy time kissing in the first issue is long gone, now they’re apart, afraid that Billy’s powers might have created Teddy. It’s hard for them, because they still love each other, Protected by his hood, Billy is like shielding a little bit from Teddy’s departure, while he walks away without any protection, bent under the weight of the sadness, of his tears. Maybe the rain falling from the sky is a manifestation of Billy’s powers : the clouds are as downcast as he truly feels, but doesn’t show.
It’s because of Teddy that Mother was finally vanquished. Helped by Prodigy, Teddy finally realized that nothing in the world, even Billy’s powers – despite the assumption that he is the Demiurge (see Young Avengers #8 p.14), might cause such unconditional love. Rising in the sky, surrounded by a magical star-shaped halo, Billy and Teddy are kissing in a magical embrace. Like in a fairytale, love finally saved all of the young Avengers from Mother. The cutting of the page is once again very original, and it allows us to enjoy the magical kiss and the young Avengers’ reactions.
In fifteen issues, Jamie McKelvie and Kierron Gillen drew and wrote a fantastic story, for which they clearly had fun. The characters are well-used, and I just love the fact that so many of them are gay or bi : it shows us that the world evolves, even now. I was sad after finishing reading it, but now that Wiccan and Hulkling are back with the New Avengers, I can’t wait to see their new adventures. And maybe Jamie McKelvie will get back with his characters ? His fantastic style and audacious choices in some pages’ composition made him a great artist that I can’t wait to see in action soon.