Turn Back the Pages is a biweekly feature where I spotlight a comic that is not fresh and new. It may have come out a few months ago or even a few years ago. Maybe it was hyped and popular, or maybe it was an underappreciated gem. Whatever the case, it’ll be a great comic that’s well worth a read.
Superheroes save the world. Thanks goodness they’re around, or we’d all be dead, right? But the thing is, sometimes superheroes save us from a threat they created in the first place, and if it weren’t for the hero, we’d all be fine.
Think Avengers: Age of Ultron. Nice job inventing a killer robot, Iron Man.
This is what kicks off the plot in Young Avengers: Style > Substance. Billy Kaplan, formerly the teen hero Wiccan, uses his incredibly strong yet untrained magical powers to bring his boyfriend Teddy’s mother back from the dead, and he pulls it off with no negative consequences whatsoever.
Just kidding. There are awful, horrifying consequences. As Kid Loki puts it, it’s “terribad.”
Teddy’s mother doesn’t just come back wrong. She’s not his mother at all but an eldritch abomination with creepy putty flesh who’s unkillable and can possess everyone who’s a parent, turning them into gross goopy minions. What’s worse is that she can stop adults from perceiving her true form, so when Billy and Teddy do the rational thing and go to the Avengers for help, the Avengers can’t tell that anything’s wrong as the possessed parents imprison the two of them in a pocket dimension.
Luckily, Billy and Teddy get help. When the team assembles, the final roster includes:
- Billy Kaplan, AKA Wiccan: the reincarnated son of the Scarlet Witch and Vision (it’s complicated), he has the same ridiculously powerful reality-warping magic as his mother but doesn’t always have the focus or experience to properly use it
- Teddy Altman, AKA Hulkling: with no actual relation to the Hulk, he’s the shapeshifting son of two aliens, Kree superhero Mar-Vell and a Skrull princess (who are both dead). He was raised in ignorance of this by the woman he thought was his mother, in fact the princess’s servant (She’s dead, too)
- Kid Loki: according to the ads for this comic written by him, he’s a “mischievous and lovable godling who is not at all evil and definitely not manipulating everyone.” Take the Loki you know, kill him off and have him reincarnated as a preteen, and then have the spirit of OG Loki kill the kid and possess his body. (And it gets even more convoluted later)
- America Chavez, AKA Miss America: awesomeness incarnate, though her actual powers are flight and super-strength. Her wardrobe is the best example of a hero rocking themed casual clothes instead of a costume (much more stylish than Superboy just wearing jeans and a Superman t-shirt)
- Kate Bishop, AKA Hawkeye: has the best origin story ever. Under attack in Avengers Mansion, she ransacks the various rooms and grabs a bunch of random stuff to fight back, including one of Hawkeye’s bows. (He was dead at the time and not using it). No powers, but she’s cool enough not to need them.
- Noh-Varr, AKA Marvel Boy: formerly a soldier of the galactic-conquering alien race known as the Kree, he fell in love with Earth culture and now spends his time cruising around in his spaceship and picking up chicks
The team is on the run from “Mother,” only fighting when they get cornered because she’s so mind-bogglingly powerful. By the climax, the Young Avengers are making a last stand in Central Park as Mother possesses an army of people from all over New York, including the (dead) parents of some of the team members, who are superheroes, alien warriors, and a frost giant. It’s not a fight they can win by force.
The entire book is tense, and Mother is a really creepy villain. She’s calm and pleasant the entire time, scolding the kids for misbehaving and saying such gems as “Everyone agreed it’s best you and my lovely boy come home with me so I can feed on your souls until you’re nice and dead inside” with a smile. There’s something especially uncomfortable about seeing Captain America and the other Avengers stand by and do nothing as she assaults Billy and Teddy.
Plus, the way her skin turns to goop and smothers people is just wrong.
There’s no shortage of teenage drama and angst (I joke, but there are some really good character moments), and if you’re a fan of witty dialogue and banter, you’ll be a very happy reader. While this graphic novel has a bit too much character backstory to be a good book for new comic book readers, if you have at least a passing familiarity with Marvel Comics, I think you’ll enjoy it. The characters are awesome, the tone energetic and fun, and there are some really creative panels that make full use of comic books as a medium.
If you like sci-fi or YA fiction, grab a copy of the first volume. And let me know what phase of the MCU you think we’ll have to wait for to get a Young Avengers movie.