From Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie with Mike Norton, this is not the Young Avengers we all remember.
This is a different team, a different story, and a different part of their lives. This is about being an adult, which we quickly learn as Kate Bishop wakes up in Noh-Varr’s bed one morning, admiring the Earth from his ship far above it. She’s not the Kate we know from Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye. That’s another Kate for another day, because at this moment, this is everything she’s ever wanted: Watching Noh-Varr dance to 1960s music and talk about the philosophies of his home dimension. Until, of course, the Skrulls attack. What begins as a life-affirming moment in the strange bed of a beautiful boy ends in chaos as Skrull descend upon Noh-Varr’s ship. Kate is powerless and unprepared, especially compared to Noh-Varr who quickly dispenses a Skrull through his bedroom window, but it’s all systems go from there as she jumps into the cockpit and races out of the line of fire. She is, after all, a superhero. Meanwhile, in New York, life is far quieter for what remains of the Young Avengers.
Teddy is, more or less, on a quick errand. Ambushing some thugs about to rob a woman at gun-point, he takes Spider-Man’s form to beat them up before fleeing as the cops arrive. He goes home to Billy and his parents, sneaking in through the bedroom window and getting caught in the act. Having been discovered by one of the neighbors and their cellphone camera, the jig is up, and Billy is not happy. He wants for them to hang up the superheroics, having buried too many friends since becoming Avengers. Teddy, still dealing with his mother’s death, is tired of hiding what they are, and having to console Billy despite his own pain. They make up after their fight, and Billy agrees to come out of his self-imposed retirement and honor Teddy’s wishes. What he doesn’t tell Teddy is that he’s using his powers to search through all possible worlds in order to bring Teddy’s mother back. That would just complicate things.
Nearby, Loki is enjoying a milkshake at a greasy diner, and trying to convince the waiter that him not paying his tab his completely true to his character. When he senses Billy’s plan, Loki teleports to the roof of Billy’s apartment to stop him, only to have Miss America drop in as well. Still looking to pummel Loki after their last encounter, America and Loki scuffle, waking Teddy who runs out to stop them. Meanwhile, Billy, unaware, is browsing through the dimensions and pulling Billy’s mother into their time. Knowing this, Loki casts a spell. Caught in the act by Teddy, Loki teleports away and Miss America flies off, and returning downstairs Teddy is reunited with his mother. What should be, by all accounts, a happy ending, closes on a bit of a downer as Teddy’s mother turns out to be not quite what she seems, consuming Billy’s parents and liquefying them at the kitchen table.
I’m going to be honest: I unabashedly loved this book. Gillen’s writing is well-rounded and poignant, with each of these characters coming from an organic and fully realized place. McKelvie’s and Norton’s artwork is slick, engaging and a joy to see, the design work energetic and well-complemented by Matthew Wilson’s colors. Most of all, the theme of dealing with adulthood resonates so well throughout. This is a book is about the most pressing question most of us face when we turn 18: Now what? It’s about people making choices, facing consequences, and learning from the past, even when they stumble — because they will stumble. It makes for a compelling story, moved by action but balanced by a real sense of heart. On my second and third read of this issue, I still have no real complaints, and that hardly ever happens.
That said, this title may not jive with everyone. The panel formatting and some of the storytelling is very stylized, and unless you know these characters already you may not be able to jump in quickly. Casual readers may be a bit lost, especially with Miss America’s beef with Loki, which is kind of the opposite of most other titles under the Marvel NOW umbrella. For me, however, this issue is just joyous, and I can’t wait for more.