Friday, August 1, 2008

Comic Report Card: Young Avengers Presents

Welcome to the first ever Comic Report Card! I will warn you, I’m a big fan of Vision so I go a bit “fanboy” on my review of #4. Sorry about that, but hey, we all have our inner fanboys.

Comic Report Card is basically me looking at a series, or arc of a series, that may have recently ended or is a few years old. By a few years, I will stretch that statement to meaning start of the new millennium.

But to keep with the few years’ part, our first Report Card is on Young Avengers Presents.

Issue #1: presenting Patriot

Written: Ed Brubaker

Art: Paco Medina

This issue shows and defines for us the idea of the series, showing us each member of the team and updating us on them. Unfortunately, unlike later issues, this one doesn’t advance them as characters so much. Patriot is having trouble still calling himself a Patriot when he, as a young African American, sees so much racism and hate in America. He finds it hard to stand up for a nation he has no faith in.

It’s an interesting concept, but because this is a one-shot story, it doesn’t have enough time to really develop well. Though it would be nice if the second volume of the series picks this up and develops it more into something better, I have my doubts. This issue just doesn’t finish the story on the right foot.

Granted, Brubaker does a great job at defining patriotism and making it hard not to like Steve Rogers all over again. Too bad he’s dead, eh? The point is, despite that, he doesn’t give us a clear ending to Eli’s problem. That coupled with a lackluster fight that means absolutely nothing, really spoils a fairly enjoyable story.

Art: Paco Medina is one of my favorite artists, unfortunately, he’s also one of the most underrated artists Marvel has under it’s belt. Often his art has tended to resemble Skottie Young’s art a little too much, though lately he’s done a good job of making himself stand out. Here he really cleans up his art and we see some really tight penciling. We can tell he put a lot of effort into this single issue. While there’s still a few “eh” moments, it’s all great.

Score: 8 out of 10

Grade: B

Issue #2: presenting Hulkling

Written: Brian Reed

Art: Harvey Talibao

Hulkling is one of the more interesting of the YA. I won’t go into his origin completely, but simply put, it’s wacky. One of the ties to his origin is Captain Marvel, his father, who is currently deceased. Well, a few months ago, we where lead to think otherwise. Truthfully, this issue feels like something that could have easily been covered in the recent Captain Marvel mini, also written by Reed.

Once again we are “treated” to a boring slug-fest in the middle of what is an actually interesting story. Overall, the execution of this story fails to really make me care in the end. It’s obviously important that Hulkling finally meet his real father, but Reed doesn’t emphasize enough on their actual interaction and has but one or two good moments here. Though I will admit that the final scene is heartwarming.

Another problem with this issue is the revelation that Captain Marvel is actual a sleeper agent of the alien Skrulls, and not the real Captain Marvel. While I liked the reveal, it makes this story turn sour in my opinion. Too bad.

The Art: Talibao is a talented artist who, like Medina, is more a rising star. He’s got some obvious influences from Steve McNiven, which isn’t actually bad, but he’s got a bit of a way to go. He does a fairly good job here, but overall, it’s not much to talk about.

Score: 6 out of 10

Grade: C-

Issue #3: presenting Wiccan and Speed

Written: Roberto Acquire-Sacasa

Art: Alina Urusov

Similar to the Hulkling issue, this features little to know real character development. However, it should be noted for two things done amazingly right. The relationship of Wiccan and Hulking, and Wiccan and Speed’s interaction as they are brothers. Up until now, but things are rarely even mentioned by other writers, even Reed failed to mention last issue that Hulking and Wiccan are boyfriends.

It features the two twin brothers search out for their mother, the Scarlet Witch. Not surprisingly, they don’t find her. Despite this, #3 is a great example of why the series exists. Sure, there’s absolutely no progression story wise, but we finally get to see some great character moments. The entire issue is brimming with great and memorable moments for YA history.

I would expect no lose from Acquire-Sacasa, one of the most underrated, and best writers of our time. I’ll admit, I was certainly hesitant thanks to Speed. Often he is shown as pompous, air-headed and rather arrogant about life. He’s the kind of guy who lets other people know he’s cool, because he can. Luckily it seems his brother affects him differently and ground him in reality more.

Speed has some great comedic moments, mostly when he’s in Hell, or talking to Wiccan. Wiccan is the main narrator of the story, which was smart since I really like Wiccan and find him a good character. It was also great to finally see some development on the Wiccan/Hulking relationship. They actually have an interment moment (god forbid, right Homophobes?). And it was actually well done and heart-warming.

Art: Urusov was an interesting choice. I have no knowledge of past works, this is my first time seeing his art. Overall, it looks good. A little odd at times, most notably the big stuffed animal like Hulkling, but he does a pretty good job here.

Score: 8.5 out of 10

Grade: A –

Issue #4: presenting Vision

Written: Paul Cornell

Art: Mark Brooks

Let me start this review by saying that I am a huge fan of classic Vision, classic Vision tales and comics, and was one of the saddest comics fans the day he died. I was happy at his resurrection in Young Avengers, but like so many, confused if this was the classic Vision or someone new. These last couple of years, the question has stewed if this is Vision, Iron Lad, or someone new.

Another factor, making this Vision almost as interesting as his predecessor, is his feelings for teammate Stature. It’s not the first time the Android has fallen in love for a human, and It’s as always, a more interesting aspect to him. This was another thing that has yet to really develop into a full relationship. While in the CW tie in with Runaways, we saw an obvious jealousy from Vision over Stature’s flirtation with one of the Runaways members who is also an Android.

Finally, both of those questions are answered here. And it is done absolutely brilliantly. Vision meets up with Stature, in a diner, he tells her how his traveling around the world, from Darfur to Australia, have helped him know who he is. He is neither Iron Lad nor the original Vision; he is Jonas, a new being.

After a long (and somewhat dragging) rant from Stature about the aftermath of Civil War, we’re given yet another slug-fest with A.I.M this time. What joy! Seriously, the fight scene this time around is actually better than the 3 previous boring fights, and is better connected to the overall story.

After some pretty funny moments, which I won’t spoil, Cassie and Jonas go out to the country and soon Jonas confesses his love for her. It’s a great scene and makes me nostalgic of previous romances such as Vision/Scarlet Witch. While it ends with somewhat of a cliff-hanger no doubt to be picked up in Young Avengers volume 2, that makes it even better.

Cornell really makes me like the newer Vision, almost even more than I enjoy the classic Vision. Now, looking back, the original Vision had an issue of Avengers called “Even and Android can cry”. Which was one of the best moments in Avengers history, in my opinion. This issue of Young Avengers Presents easily matches that greatness.

Overall, I love how this issue blended things like great dialogue (issue 3) while making a real milestone in the character.

The Art: Mark Brooks does an amazing job on capturing an array of emotions, body compositions, and poses. His issue is the best looking of the series, which isn’t too surprising when his art meshes well with Cornell’s script. I’ll say it now, these two should take over for the next Young Avengers volume.

Score: 9 out of 10

Grade A

Issue #5: presenting Stature

Written: Kevin Grevioux

Art: Mitch Breitweiser

There honestly isn’t much to say about this lackluster attempt at an interesting story. That one sentence really describes my feelings on it. It was Grvioux’ attempt at a teen movie meets super hero story. Of course, plagued with yet another boring and stupid fight, that leads to Cassie Lang, one of the more boring of the Young Avengers, nearly killing her step dad, who’s a jerk. This follows yet another boring attempt to draw me in, by having Patriot talk to her. Probably the worst choice of people to give a pep talk.

The ending is a cheesy happy ending and honestly left me yawning. Grevioux was a poor choice for one thing, that, and Cassie was incredibly well portrayed in the previous issue. Here, she’s just freaking out. Great spotlight. Maybe next time we could have her spending an entire issue watching TV and bitching about politics?

The art: I’ve seen this guy’s previous stuff on Captain America: the Chosen, he did an amazing job there. Here, his art just doesn’t work. Where as all previous artists where smart choices, this felt like more of a last minute decision. It’s scratchy, more dark and realistic, not something that works with the Young Avengers. Too bad because he actually does do a good job, it just doesn’t fit at all with the story or the tone of it.

Score: 3 out of 10

Grade: D

Issue#6 presenting: Hawkeye

Written: Matt Fraction

Art: Alan Davis

I think Fraction, Cornell and Sacasa are the only ones who get these characters. Who understand their teenagers and they need to think and act like them, damnit. Whereas the previous writers failed, these 3 have shined, and with YAP #6 just out and ending the series, it’s quite a sendoff to a half great comic.

What makes this issue work so well is that Fraction stuffs so much into it, without feeling he had to shorten any. He realized that this is a story, not a 10 page update back of the comic preview. He uses characters as they should to further the story and then has a definite beginning, middle and then end.

The opening is something that fans of the series like myself have been waiting for, Eli finally asks Kate out on a date…but as others figured, it goes horribly wrong. Not only does Kate not want to complicate things, but a ninja attacks in the middle of it. Damn, don’t you hate it when ninjas ruin your dates? Damn ninjas. Go back to Australia!

After this, she meets up with the original Hawkeye, Clint Barton, after a pep talk, which drags a bit, Kate loses a bet and has to give Clint back his bow, and loses the title of Hawkeye.

Of course however, she simply can’t grieve in her sorrows and be left alone. No. That would be too normal. She’s a teenager you know, and when it comes to teenagers, things have a way of getting around. After a hilarious little moment of all her teammates talking behind her back, Eli seems to explode at her.

Before I continue, I should find it noteworthy to mention issue #4 is now canon. Kate mentions Vision being Cassie’s boyfriend, and 2 times she’s seen with her hand on his chest and his arm around her. So that was a bonus for me as a Vision fan only all we have to hope is that Bendis didn’t kill him off…

Now, back to the issue…well, Kate is pissed, so she decides to get her own revenge and goes on a date with…ugh…Speed. While #3 made me like Speed finally, #6 reminds me why I hate him. It seems that unless he’s alone with his brother, he just has to be a complete jackass. They get into a bar, get buzzed, and decide to steal her stuff back. While this was a fine idea, with Speed, nothing is ever a good idea.

Speed jumps her in the elevator into a kiss she doesn’t want, but still lets him because she needs him to escape. Just as they get into Clint’s room and start getting her bow and equipment, Luke and Clint walk in. Speed bales and leaves Hawkeye for dead. This follows a rather boring, but all right moment with Clint spotting her and talking to her though as if he’s talking to Luke.

In the end Kate finds Eli on the couch playing Xbox with Teddy and *pause for affect* snap! She kisses him. I’ll admit, that was rather confusing. My guess is that she realized that Speed was just trying to get in her pants, whereas Eli really cares for her. It was similar to #4’s ending, but not quite as heartwarming. Then again, Eli isn’t as compelling a character as Vision.

Overall, I really loved this story and how much Fraction jam-packed this with Young Avengers goodness. And as I said before, go Vision! Thank you Fraction, you rock.

The art: I was pretty surprised to hear Davis announced as the artist. He’s one of the more classic artists has under it’s belt, like with John Romita Jr. Though unlike Junior, Davis keeps getting better and better. But I was worried if he’d really fit with this cast and style of story. Luckily it seems he can do anything and kick total ass.

Most notable is his version of Kate, she looks great and you can tell he spent an extra amount of time to make her the best looking character in the story. There’s nothing wrong with that, this is her story, but it does take away when Vision looks way too much like his old self. Or when Cassie looks like Paris Hilton but nowhere near as ugly. It gets confusing, to say the least.

Overall, while it’s not perfect, and I still think Brooks was the best of all the artists, Davis comes in a close second place and still does a great job.

Score: 9 out of 10

Grad: A

Serious overview: Overall, Young Avengers Presents has had its ups and downs, but when looked at by a fan standpoint and not a reviewer, it was all great. Its obvious Heinberg, the creator of the series, isn’t coming back any time soon, so we really needed this. Some may complain that the format of a bunch of one-shots was a bad idea, but I’d have to disagree. Now, not only is the possibility for a sequel mini-series to happen, but future writers could return, or learn from previous mistakes.

Fraction and Cornell have proven that these one-shots can very much so advance these characters, as well as tells a serious and important story in their characters building history. Ironic that those 2 issues tie in somewhat, with Vision and Cassie. While the other issues weren’t bad, they just didn’t quite do what we’d hoped for. Sacasa did a great job and told some amazing character development. Mainly because he realized he can’t do anything epic or life altering, so he no doubt said to himself “okay, so I’ll just make sure that all the development comes from the characters themselves” and it worked out incredibly well.

While Brubaker, Reed and Grevioux should still get honorable mentions, they did fail on the level to both entertain me as the story went on. Brubaker did a good job of handling a serious issue like racism, but beyond that, not much more. Reed told a heartwarming story, but honestly, it failed to really make me care about it. Overall, while they didn’t epically fail or anything, it’s an undeniable step back compared to the original Young Avengers series.

When one looks at this from the perspective of a fan, you will probably better realize that this is not supposed to be some epic story. I mean, we’re not going to a get a second Kree/Skrull War here in one issue. The point is to further interest in the characters and entertain us while doing so, and for that, Marvel won me over with it.

The art was also a highlight of this series. Granted, no one was able to come close to the level of Jim Cheung, the original series artist, but then again, it’s hard to compete with someone amazing like him. Brooks came closest to that level of awesome, but no cigar. However, looked at on its own perspective, the art was pretty much all great.

In the end, while Young Avengers Presents wasn’t perfect, it was something that was sorely needed and should be noted and loved by all fans of the amazing Young Avengers comic. I highly recommend it, if you be new or old fans.

Score: 7 out of 10.

Grade: C+

Final word: Get someone like Cornell or Fraction on the next volume of Young Avengers!

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