Sunday, April 17, 2005

Spotlight: Marvel Next - Runaways & Young Avengers

On December 24, 2004 Marvel Comics announced Marvel Next. A group of titles set in the Marvel Universe focusing on the young heroes of the future. These titles included X23, Arana: Heart of the Spider, Young Avengers, Runaways, Livewires, Spellbinders and Amazing Fantasy.

Runaways Volume 1 at this point had already received critical acclaim by fans. Despite the low sales of the single issues Marvel decided to continue the series in another volume. I imagine that the digest versions performed well enough to merit this. I was very impressed with the first volume and was very much looking forward to the new issues.

Young Avengers was a different matter. At first look I thought that Marvel was ripping off the Teen Titans. Let’s be honest, sidekicks to the companies greatest heroes forming their own team. Sounds familiar… Needless to say I saw some preview pages and fell in love with the art so I bit the bullet and decided to give it a try.

So without further ado here is why Runaways and Young Avengers are worth checking out.

Runaways v2

Writer: Brian K. Vaughn
Penciler: Adrian Alphona
Inker: Craig Yeung
Colorist: Christina Strain
Letterer: Randy Gentile
Cover Artist: Jo Chen
Associate Editor: Mackenzie Cadenhead
Editor: C.B. Cebluski

This picks up after the conclusion of the first series. It seems like only a few months have gone by since then, but we are never flat out told how long. The kids have lucked out and found their parents secret base and have taken up root there.

Meanwhile another group has been organized, one made up of familiar faces if you were around in the 90’s. It is an outreach group started to help former teenage super heroes who are trying to find their place in the world. It is appropriately called Excelsior (after Stan Lee’s catchphrase) and it was started by Michiko Musashi (formerly known as Turbo of the New Warriors) and Phil Urich (formerly the good Green Goblin). They run the program out of the Holy Trinity Church’s basement. Those that showed up to the first meeting include: Chris Powell (formerly known as Darkhawk), Julie Power (formerly of the Power Pack), Johnny Gallo (Ricochet from the Slingers) and Jono Starsmore (Chamber from GenX). It is great seeing these heroes back in comics, especially Darkhawk who is a personal favorite of mine. It is also good to see BKV writing Chamber again.

All of these people are in their later teens and are trying to fit into the world. Michiko and Phil’s program ran out of church basements and garages seems like it is doomed though, since some are just there for the free pizza. Excelsior will soon find out that their days of being heroes aren’t over just yet.

On top of Excelsior another new character is introduced into the Runaway’s title. His name is Victor Mancha. He is the son of a major villain the Marvel Universe whose identity remains a secret. Needless to say he is someone worth keeping an eye on.

If any of this sounds even remotely interesting to you I urge you to start picking this book up. Brian K. Vaughn is at his best on this title and the dialogue is spot on. If you are in a mood for some comedy, again this is your book. Reading this book brings me back to my days in high school, that’s how accurately teenagers are depicted. The first series is available in digests from Marvel as well. I would suggest reading those first and stashing away the new issues until you get caught up.

Young Avengers

Writer: Allan Heinberg
Penciler: Jim Cheung
Inker: John Dell
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: Cory Petit
Associate Editors: Nicole Wiley and Molly Lazer
Associate Editor: Andy Schmidt
Editor: Tom Brevoort

A team of costumed teenagers appears out of nowhere saving the lives of the occupants of an Upper East Side apartment complex. These young heroes look strikingly familiar to Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and The Hulk, but who exactly are they?

Luckily, Daily Bugle reporter Kat Farrell dubs them the Young Avengers in her feature article. Publisher, J. Jonah Jameson enlists Jessica Jones, formerly known as Jewel to investigate these new heroes. Jessica is married to Hero for Hire and New Avenger, Luke Cage. She has connections throughout the super hero community, if any one can uncover the secrets of the Young Avengers, she can.

So who are these costumed crime fighters? Right now we only know their codenames: The Patriot, Iron Lad, Hulkling, and Asgardian.

We see them in action for the first time when they breakup a robbery at a wedding. It is obvious that they are very new to this to say the least. The Patriot is a lot like Captain America, but more headstrong. He doesn’t like to take orders, but he loves to give them. Iron Lad is the eldest of the group and therefore the wisest. He tries to give them some direction, but the Patriot doesn’t seem to take it very well. Hulkling is a very gentle giant unlike his counterpart. He also appears to be in complete control of his emotions and strength. The Asgardian is still the cool guy who seems to go with the flow of things.

Apart from the Young Avengers and the Daily Bugle staff, two more main characters have been introduced by the second issue. One is a direct byproduct of the teams attempted rescue at the church. The other is the daughter of a former Avenger.

This title is written by Allan Heinberg of the O.C. I never watched the show, but it is obvious from the first two issues that this guy can write. He has a JLA arc with Geoff Johns coming up in a few months too, so he is making his way through the comic world fast. Jimmy Cheung and the art team are fantastic as well. This is one of the few books out there were the writing doesn’t outshine the art or vice versa. They are equal grounds in my eyes and they’re fantastic. This is one monthly title that is definitely worth your money.

It is interesting that both Runaways and Young Avengers main plots right now focus on a threat from the future. One threat is from about 10 years into the future, while the other is from the 30th century. I think this should make for some interesting reading in the months to come. Any teenagers out there wanting to start fresh on Marvel Universe titles these are for you.

Resources -

Runaways Fansite - A great website devoted to the comic. Has information, art as well as downloadable wallpaper and buddy icons.


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