Young Avengers Vol 1: Style > Substance graphic novel review

Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen’s Young Avengers is fresh, fun and progressive

Smashing into the 21st century comes this reincarnation of the Young Avengers – Wiccan, Hulkling, Kate ‘Hawkeye’ Bishop, Noh-Varr, Ms America and Kid Loki – from the Phonographic indie minds of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Young Avengers is seven pages in before it lists the credits – not that we notice after being ripped from our reality and transplanted into theirs – where we see the song title that a gorgeous hero started dancing to on page three. The Ronettes are suddenly blasting in our minds, replaying the previous cute Kate Bishop and Noh-Varr interaction and hyperkinetic action sequence with that drum beat and those hip swinging harmonies.

It’s humming away in the background as we read through dramatic scenes and emotional smooching between Billy and Teddy (“be my, be my baby”), looping around again as fan-favourite Kid Loki appears (“oh since the day I saw you, I have been waiting for you”) and the frankly awesome Ms America bursts on to the scene (“you know I will adore you ’til eternity”). And finally, completely disarming us moments before a shock (“whoah oh oh… wtf?!”).

It’s not the song itself that matters, but the fact that it’s an immediately recognisable component that enhances what is already on the page. The reader sees that track and can’t avoid it playing in their head, even dancing around, book in hand.

In a world of comics that are often impenetrable to outsiders and confusing to anyone other than the most hardened fan, this comic jumps out at the reader and demands to be enjoyed. The youth and freshness of the cast infects the entire book, and the creators’ knowledge of young popular culture is utterly refreshing. Nods to The Lord Of The Rings and Game Of Thrones are sprinkled throughout, as are little tumblr tics and other fun references.

Sure there are some minor stumbling blocks for the true newcomer – Loki’s current child incarnation, the presence of the unpowered Kate Bishop – but none impede the story or experience in any way. This is a comic you can present to anyone, assured that they will enjoy it with no prior knowledge.

Not only that, but it is both beautiful and a stunning example of visual storytelling. McKelvie’s grasp of the medium is obvious in his thrill at stretching the boundaries of what the page can hold, as well as huge splash pages with action broken across several jagged panels, or with cut out boxes and even numbered diagrams. The book contains some fantastic experimentation that both stands out – like a Hendrix solo – and absorbs you deeper into Gillen and McKelvie’s world.

The Young Avengers themselves are beautiful young things; a diverse cast of characters with progressive views. Young Avengers may be causing some commotion by daring to focus on the young and holding them up as equal to their elders, but damn if it isn’t a much-needed change for superhero comics. Forget who their parents are, it’s not important how they inherited their powers; the day needs saving and they are our heroes.