Let’s talk about Young Avengers (2005) #1-6

I want to talk about a series that I have been meaning to read ever since I jumped into comics in the mid-2000’s: Young Avengers. The only thing that held me back from reading them at first was finding issues and trades. It wasn’t exactly easy at the time and as such they slowly drifted to the back burner. After all, Young Avengers were a neat idea that struggled to catch on at Marvel in the mid-2000’s. As an avid “IMPORTANT COMIC READER” I only bought and read comics that were relevant to continuity. That was dumb.

Either way a multitude of factors finally encouraged me to check the series out on Marvel Unlimited. First one being Billy and Tommy Maximoff (Minimoffs from this point on) both being featured in the wonderful WandaVision. Second one being the real push for Young Avengers in Marvel Media with Kate Bishop (aka Hawkeye) and the aforementioned Minimoffs. Last reason being my ongoing push to read through Marvel Events from the 2000’s (Civil War coverage is coming, I promise. Still exploring formats. I mean it is a big event.). All these forces finally got me to check out Marvel’s youngest mightiest heroes.


Young Avengers (2005) #1-6

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“Sidekicks”
Written by Allan Heinberg
Pencils by Jim Cheung
Inks by John Dell
Colors by Justin Ponsor
Letters by VC’s Cory Petit

The Story

The first arc of Young Avengers deals with the core of the team already in action. This takes place shortly after the events of Avengers Disassembled with the Avengers being disbanded and the Avengers Mansion in ruins. The Young Avengers, as the Daily Bugle, the Fictional New York Post of the Marvel universe, takes to calling them, begin to get attention for their style and line up.

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Each member of the team is modeled after an Avenger:  Hulkling: Hulk, Patriot: Captain America/Bucky, Iron Lad: Iron Man, and Asgardian (Later, Wiccan): Thor.

The line-up designs are intentional. As we learn during the events that the team was formed by Iron Lad with help of The Vision’s operating system. The team was gathered by Iron Lad utilizing the Avengers Emergency Protocols. Each member of the team was related to the Avengers somehow, but also the team intentionally models their powers to be like those they are imitating.

During the duration of the first arc, the media attention begins to draw new potential recruits to the team in Kate Bishop and Cassie Lang (daughter of Scott Lang, the Ant-man that died due to Wanda Maximoff’s machinations). They both wish to join the team for varying reasons but ultimately want to help out for the common good. This is met with push back from the Young Avengers, but over the event of the first arc they are welcomed in full. 

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The media buzz draws the attention of Jessica Jones and the Avengers. Jessica being a former child superhero is fitting for the role of investigative journalist and does a wonderful job advocating for the Young Avengers. The Avengers are less understanding. One thing Heinberg does in the story is draws attention to the teen sidekick hero problem. Early on we see J Jonah Jameson (head of the Daily Bugle) talk about wanting to be like Bucky as a kid. That is until Captain America led Bucky into The War and got him killed. Quickly, kids didn’t want to be Bucky.

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It has been said that Stan Lee mandated “No Teen Sidekicks” at Marvel for this very reason. It was dangerous and may no sense. Sure, teens could be heroes but often of their own volition and desire (unless you’re the X-men). Either way, Heinberg takes this further by giving Captain America a motivation to not allow for Teen Heroes. He cannot live with the guilt of another kid dying playing superhero. In giving Captain America this justified characterization, Heinberg cast Cap and the other Avengers characters as antagonist of the series. It is less menace but out of actual concern.

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When Cap and Iron Man finally confront the team including Iron Lad, we learn the truth. Iron Lad recruited and prepared this team of young heroes in attempt to stop Kang the Conqueror. The twist though is that Iron Lad is actually a young Kang, fearful of the future he will hold and resentful towards his destiny. Iron Lad learns of his dark fate from his future self and flees the future.

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He came to the present Marvel universe in attempt to recruit the Avengers to his cause, but only to find the team Disassembled.

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With the heroes gone, Iron Lad find the Vision and carries out the emergency protocols. Assembling the next generation.

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Unfortunately for the heroes Kang from the future does arrive and he is looking to fix the problem of his younger self has caused on the timestream.

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With Kang\’s arrival Captain America, Iron Man, and Jessica Jones debate what they need to do. They know and understand that the timeline is at risk. Meanwhile the Young Avengers were tricked into training room shortly before the arrival of Kang and plot their escape.

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The Avengers reluctantly agree to send Iron Lad back to the future to save the timestream, which is obviously met with objection by the teens. The Young Avengers attempt to do battle with Kang, but with not much luck. Iron Lad intends to return but fears doing so will revert the time stream before his arrival. In doing so the Young Avengers would never happen and the group would have never met.

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Though through hijinks, Iron Lad does return but keeps the present intact as it was. By hijinks, I mean murdering your future self.

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The first arc ends one a bittersweet note with the rebirth of The Vision in Iron Lad’s armor and the team left mourning their loss of their friend.

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In Review: Story

As for the first arc of a series, Sidekicks does a wonderful job establishing a new team. The team created by Heinberg and Cheung is an interesting one. Going with the obvious parallels to the Avengers was surprisingly novel. Yet, the twist that the team is largely playing the role of the Avengers member despite having different powers. Such as Hulking being a shapeshifter and Billy being an overall witch instead of just a lightning mage. The addition of Cassie Lang and Kate Bishop provide an interesting dynamic.

Kate is the strongest character early on. She commands the scenes she is in and speaks frankly to the team. She will eventually take on the moniker Hawkeye, but she largely functions like Iron Man in bankrolling the team’s operation using her family’s wealth. She is willing to stand up to anyone and takes no grief from anyone. Kata Bishop is the best Hawkeye. I can’t wait to do a retrospective on Fraction’s Hawkeye because she is wonderful there.

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Hawkeye #3 W: Matt Fraction A: David Aja/Matt Hollingworth

Meanwhile, Cassie is the only obvious legacy character and direct connections to the Avengers. She is the youngest of the team, implied to be a freshman in high school at best. She is one of the last to join the team in the arc, but she fits right in with the team. Her relationship with Iron Lad is rushed but that aside, I think she does provide an air of legitimacy to the Young Avengers.

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Of the founding Young Avengers, Iron Lad is such an interesting character here on his own. The conflict of destiny and the fate of the timestream is a tough challenge to make for him, but the sacrifice he is willing to make saves the time stream. Also, he kills his future self. It’s like that episode of Steven Universe with time travel.

Don’t mess with time travel, kids. Still his send off to the future and sacrifice is well done and despite being briefly in the comics, you hate to see him leave and face his own future.

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The first arc focuses a lot on Iron Lad, Cassie Lang, and Kate Bishop’s backstories, but subsequent arcs cover the stories of the remaining founding members, but that’s a story for another day.

The chemistry between the heroes is darn good. Heinberg and Cheung’s idea for introducing the team in res gives the impression they know each other for some time. Each character plays a niche and interact with each other in engaging ways even when they are in different pairings. Teddy and Billy are obviously the strongest pairing. Hulking and Wiccan are the highest profile same-sex couple in the Marvel Universe, but early on that isn’t explicitly stated.

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It is hard to believe that even in 2005 when this comic was being released it was considered taboo to have a gay couple in comics, especially teenage gay couple. I recall the comic discourse on MySpace (yeah, I’m old) and it centered a lot on a teen gay couple and if that was correct. The fact that was even the discussion was disgusting. It is even more disgusting that it took until 2010 for them to kiss on panel.

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The Young Avengers: Children\’s Crusade #9 W: Alan Heinberg A: Jim Cheung

LGBTQ+ were deprived of meaningful representation for so long because of some pitiful debate on validity. I know a lot of these discussions still happen to this day. It is a damn shame that people are still fighting about it. The couple has come a long way and recently in Empyre #4, we see their wedding.

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Empyre #4 W: Al Ewing A: Valerio Schiti

It is amazing how many of these characters would go on to become larger parts of the Marvel Universe. The Young Avengers are very much one of the most successful new characters of the mid-2000\’s. It\’s even more amazing considering this team couldn\’t maintain an ongoing series for too long. What we get though is splendid.


In Review: The Art

Jim Cheung’s art is wonderful. The characters are well designed, and the detail work is spending. The characters get a revamp in the subsequent arcs, but I love the visual call backs to the Avengers in their designs. My favorite of the team is Wiccan’s. It is a relatively simple design and there’s a reason I surprisingly marked out when Billy Maximoff rocked the costume on WandaVision. It is oddly iconic for a modern comic design.

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Cheung\’s figure work is just astounding to look at. The art fits the story here really well. The kids manage to look like kids. This is a rare feat in comics. Most kids look like mini adults or complete moppets. The following arc has a fill in and you can tell the difference in the story. When Cheung is off the art, the feel of the story doesn\’t work. That arc will be discussed in due time.

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Young Avengers #7 W: Alan Heinberg A:Andrea Devito

The colors and line work is really clean here. In comics from 2005, there was a lot of chunky inks and digital coloring was still getting figured out but the inks by Dell and Colors by Ponsor buck that trend. Everyone looks stunning and the comic has this really rich look to it that helps it feel A-list. It feels like an Avenger comic proper. Often these young teen books will get the mid-tier artist, or the effort is lacking and as such the quality of the book looks rough. Not here in the first arc of Young Avengers. Later issues of the run, that changes some. The next two issues have a fill-in team and the final arc is a real rush job with a fleet of inkers on each issue.


Conclusion

I came into Young Avengers as someone who had interest in them at one point but largely let the book stay on the back burner. I wish I didn’t. I wish I check out to see what the buzz was all about those years ago. Should have bought the trades instead of buying Trinity or whatever trash I was grabbing. That said I am glad WandaVision and this event re-read got me to check out this series.  I will speak about the final six issues another time, but the first six issues are a tight heroes introduction story. It is one of the better modern team book introductions I’ve read.  Team books are a real struggle to hit, but this one does it well.

Jordan Jennings

Jordan has written for wide array of comic review sites over the years including Comicosity, Comicon, and Comic Book Revolution. He has been reviewing and discussing comics for over 10 years. In addition to comics, Jordan enjoys various types of games be it video games or trading card games.

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