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She Has No Head! – Why ‘Young Avengers’ Is The Future Of Superhero Comics

Young Avengers #1 variant cover by Bryan Lee O'Malley

I reviewed Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers for CBR this week and gave it an – apparently controversial for some – 5 stars. Given the title of this post I’m sure you can guess that I’m standing by that rating. But as I’ve said before, you have a limited word count (rightly so) on reviews, and I have lot more to say about this book, the ideas behind it, its nearly perfect execution, and how excited it makes me for the future of comics when I read a book like this. Because lists are so damn effective, I’m doing a list again…so let’s start by ticking off the boxes of what this book gets oh-so-right.

1. PERFECT A-LIST* CREATIVE TEAM ON “THE RIGHT” BOOK

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are not only incredibly talented, but they’re well matched, in part just because they clearly enjoy working together. They have a rapport obvious in everything they do from comics to interviews. You can’t hide that kind of chemistry. Add to that they have both a strong indie fan base thanks to indie darlings like Phonogram, and their mainstream pairings have been strong as well (their collaborations on Generation Hope were some of the best issues of that series). In addition to being a perfect collaborative pair, this is a great book to put them on. While I would absolutely pick up any book that the two were doing together (for Marvel or otherwise) this is exactly the right book for them. McKelvie excels at fashion, style, and character design, which a book about young heroes (and a book that feels like the future!) should be all about. And we’re already getting that in spades from haircuts to clothing and jewelry choices. Additionally, McKelvie is known for his clean effortless storytelling. He’s not afraid of simple panel layouts, but he also knows how and when to break all the rules and be innovative. Again, we’re seeing absolutely proof of that in just the first issue. For Gillen’s part he’s got a great ear for the teenage voice. It feels fresh and young without feeling forced, or alternately being filled with so much weird stuff that olds like myself can’t even follow it. It’s a great blend. The best thing about these creators on this book thought? They clearly love it. It FEELS like where they want to be. It doesn’t feel like creators that have been assigned a book randomly. I don’t know how it got assigned but the love and care going into the creation feels like they said “We’re interested in Young Avengers” and Marvel said “Okay, do it.”

These are wonderful things (even the ones I’m kind of making up – like conversations that happened between creators and Marvel editorial).

2. MODERN & FRESH

The fact that Gillen and McKelvie matter-of-factly has their gay couple kissing on page 11 is huge. It’s huge because it doesn’t feel like a big deal AT ALL. Hulking and Wiccan are being treated just like any other couple in comics. This is progress. This is the future. Bring it!

Hulking & Wiccan from Young Avengers #1

Though I don’t want to link the two together, because I don’t want to imply in any way that a serious gay relationship has anything to do with nameless hookups – the fact that Kate Bishop is matter-of-factly waking up in a strange place and not remembering the name of the guy she slept with is also modern and updated. I don’t think Gillen & McKelvie are necessarily advocating Kate’s behavior, they’re just acknowledging its existence. And that feels real, that feels modern. That is reality for a lot of people, if not currently, then at least at one time in their past. It’s incredibly relatable. And I love it for that. I also appreciate that there is NO judgment of Kate for this act. She’s not punished for this behavior and she’s not shamed. She’s just a girl that had a good time with a guy, the same way we see guys behaving without judgment all the time. The fact that Gillen and McKelvie can present such real and relatable behavior and it’s just simply part of the story and not something to make a huge deal of is a great thing. PROGRESS, HO!

Kate Bishop and Norman...er Noh-Varr from Young Avengers #1

3. SUPERHERO JOY

I enjoy seeing the mental anguish of being a superhero. The tough choices and the constant battle of trying to balance a normal life and superhero responsibility. That angst is a cornerstone of superhero comics. And rightly so. It belongs in comics. But it’s also nice to see some superheroes that just love being superheroes. There’s both in this comic already, but the focus definitely skews more toward the joy of superheroing. And that’s great – because right now, things are pretty damn good for these kids. They’re not always going to be, and we’re going to see that back up on them I’m sure. But it’s good to see that when things are good, these characters can see it, appreciate it, and actually revel in it. They get that they are living magnificent special lives that few will ever know. And that joy makes for incredibly infectious reading.

Click to englarge

There is, however, one box that Young Avengers doesn’t manage to check (yet): RACIAL DIVERSITYis that box. So let’s talk about that a little.

Right off the bat this reminds me of something else I love that had problems with racial diversity. Buffy The Vampire Slayer (and for this piece I’m referencing the television show, not comics).

[Beware of Buffy The Vampire Slayer television show spoilers as well as potential The West Wing spoilers from here on out!]

While we should acknowledge right up front that Young Avengers is already doing better than Buffy – since it has at least one main character of color while Buffy began – and nearly ended – with none. In many ways Buffy had the same problem with diversity that Young Avengers could have in that it had no problem with gender diversity, and over time it developed really well in regard to sexual identity and LGBT diversity, but it never really managed to deal with racial diversity (sure in Season 7 we finally got a smart sexy black dude in the form of D.B. Woodside’s Principal Wood, but it really was too little, too late). Despite that flaw, I think it’s fair to say Buffy was still a brilliant and important cult show that has had a lasting impact on media and culture, and dealt with a lot of crucial issues that a lot of others shows of its time (and well beyond) missed and/or continue to ignore.

I think there are a few things at issue here and first and foremost is that sometimes it’s just not possible to do EVERYTHING you want to do. And maybe that’s okay. Ironically, and this is me putting on my assumption pants (for which I JUST chastised Greg Burgas) I imagine that Whedon & Co.’s answer to the diversity issue would be not dissimilar to Gillen’s answer in their great Comics Alliance interview:

Miss America from Young Avengers #1

 Gillen: “[The balance of the team is] not ideal, but also a creature of mathematics. I can’t use Eli. I’m left with four original Young Avengers, of whom I have to surely include some, yeah? Three men and one woman. I include the only remaining woman and two more white guys (That was another reason not to include Tommy — it’d have skewed the team even more male). I include Loki as he’s the story I want to tell. I add Marvel Boy as Kate needs a romantic interest. I add Miss America. Marvel Boy is about the only one which is even possible to go another way, but I really couldn’t think of anyone else in the MU who fit the role.”

“The male/female ratio isn’t that bad, unless you’re going to take a hard line on 50:50. I could have expanded the team, but — as I said — I don’t want to dilute the story. When you’ve got the medium’s most prominent gay love story and it features two white guys, it limits the amount of room you have to maneuver unless you actually are going to lose them. But the member I’m adding down the line is another minority. I’ll be happier when we reach that.”

“[…] Sexuality is important to the book. And it’s important to give space for the characters to explore theirs.”

These comments impress me to no end. They strike me as intelligent and incredibly well-considered. They acknowledge the flaws and obstacles in putting something like this together. But they show a consideration for all aspects and also an intention to keep trying. I think the comment about doing this kind of thing being a “creature of mathematics” is very true. While in comics Gillen has to contend with limitations like what characters he’s allowed to use, what characters already exist and make sense, as well as what characters he’ll be able to tell the stories he wants to tell. Whedon & Co. didn’t have those problems, but they did have the issue of having to cast real and “the right” people for a role they’d created. It always struck me that in Season 4 Tara would have been a good character to have be a woman of color. But perhaps Amber Benson just nailed that role. You have to give the role to the best person…and maybe in this case Benson was it. Fans certainly do love her. Also, if Whedon knew he was eventually going to kill Tara (and he has said he knew he was going to kill Willow’s partner at some point – whoever that was – whether Seth Green or Amber Benson) how much worse would things have been in Season 6 if the show killed off the only woman of color on the show and an LGBT character to boot? Many fans were up in arms anyway, but it would have been so much worse. Similarly, on the face of things, Faith would have been a good character of color, as it’s nice to see non-white slayers. But given her intended character trajectory, that would have been a HUGE error and drawn a ton of legitimate criticism. This actually reminds me of another really smart and influential show with a too white cast and an interesting admission by creator Aaron Sorkin – The West Wing.

In Sorkin’s introduction to the West Wing Script Book (yes, I own this, and I have no regrets!) he talks about the lack of racial diversity in casting:

“There was a problem. We’d all fallen in love with Allison Janney. Married men were ready to leave their wives. The problem was that Allison’s Caucasian and so was the rest of the cast so far. This was making us nervous. The network too. It also wasn’t right. There was a wonderfully talented Jamaican actress who was reading very well for it. Still, when we closed our eyes at night we wanted Allison. So we cast Allison.”

Any fans of The West Wing know that Allison Janney was one of the best things about it. Just try to imagine The West Wing without her. IMPOSSIBLE! And so a simple story like this reminds me of how complicated all of this can be. It also reminds me to keep my faith in creators that I trust. I trust them for good reason. I trust them because they’ve proven to me that care about these things and think about them and will continue to do their best. I would never say The West Wing was the most diverse of shows, but it did bring us the excellent Dule Hill in a role I adored, a complicated and incredibly well-explored black/white relationship (Dule Hill and actress Elizabeth Moss) that suffered (and triumphed) despite the constant scrutiny of the public eye. It also brought us the wonderful Michael Hyatt in a great role in later seasons (and the same Jamacian actress that might have been C.J. Cregg?), and eventually the slightly prophetic casting of Jimmy Smits as Matthew Santos – the first potential President of color.

I guess all I’m trying to say is that Gillen and McKelvie’s comments and consideration of this issue are incredibly reassuring. They haven’t done a great job of checking the diversity box as yet, but I feel in good hands. I feel in such good hands that I don’t even think I need to worry about it…and that helps me to just sit back and enjoy some damn fine comics.

Creators keep giving interviews like this and I am going to be in serious money trouble. For the second week in a row, Marvel, I promise you more of my money. Good for you.

Now I’m not saying that DC isn’t doing some good books, I’m still loving Snyder’s Batman, I’m still enjoying Dial H, Justice League: Dark, Animal Man, and Swamp Thing, and when J.H. Williams III draws Batwoman it’s impossible to ignore that we’re seeing the best illustrated comic currently on stands. And I’m all about Vertigo as much as I ever have been – even though I feel like they seem to be allowed to do less and less and really cool stuff (like Hellblazer) is taken from them too often). But for various reasons – story issues, creative team machinations, etc., almost all of the female led titles in the New 52 have failed me. I have dropped Wonder Woman and Birds of Prey and despite repeated efforts have never been able to get on board with Catwoman. Sword of Sorcery and Batgirl are not for me and I have doubts about Katana (though I’ll try it). And in addition to all these specific misses there is a darkness and lack of joy almost across the board at DC that is weighing me down. At the end of the day I simply cannot look at even ONE book in DC’s line and see what I’m seeing here in Young Avengers.

And for my money, what Young Avengers is doing is exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for.

It’s what I hope the future looks like.

.

*I put a star by A-List because I know “A-List” is a bit subjective. I also admit to having trouble trying to identify “technically A-List” from what I consider “A-List”…so yeah, mileage may vary there. Deal with it.

 

 

110 Comments

[…] A new She Has No Head! is up – one in which I explore why Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers #1 is the future of superhero comics – and the future is indeed, bright! […]

I agree with all of this.

As much as I enjoy Gillen and McKelvie’s work together, I don’t know that I would have bought any other Marvel book by them but this simply because it does have the potential to be ground breaking. They have the freedom to really cut loose with this book and you can tell right away.

It’s also helps that Marvel decided not to price people away from the book, as I’ve already passed on some interesting new books from them because they’re $4.

Saying that a book about young superheroes should be about fashion, design, jewelry, and haircuts excludes a lot of other good books. It seems like a weak point to start your list.

Will Young Avengers be to superhero comics what Girls is to tv? Reading this blog seems to indicate so.

This was a great write-up and I agree that this book IS the future! It more than deserves all of the good publicity it has been receiving so far. Plus, Gillen writes the most amazing character spotlights on his blog, complete with embedded YouTube videos of great music which symbolizes or characterizes each of the YA in some manner or the other. That lone gesture, which showed the amount of thought and care put behind fleshing out each character and giving them individualistic three-dimensional traits, completely bowled me over!

Oh and the dream team of McKelvie, Wilson and Norton is crazy inventive! All in all, title which is practically a steal at $2.99.

Is it not enough that the comic is good – must it tick off a bunch of demographic boxes as well?
I’m not trying to be argumentative here – it just feels like the championing of diversity in new comics is getting to that point where where it can become toxic if you can’t enjoy a book thats well written, well drawn, celebrates a young female character’s sexual freedom and that of two young gay men and whose strongest character is a latino woman, without feeling the need to point out that it doesn’t have a black character.
Obviously diversity is a good thing but when will the brief be satisfied? When every book features one character each of a different skin colour, sexual orientation and is gender and transgender neutral?
To my mind, good writing is about problems that are universal to all humans, not representing them all, all the time.

Gods. I’m all for good comics but when we start heralding them as GREAT based on dudes kissing and “Racial Diversity”, you start jumping hip-deep into the cold waters of Political Correctness Lake.
Just like what politicians don’t seem to understand, “It’s the Economy, stupid!”, the same pitch seems to be getting by this batter (Kelly); “It’s about the STORY, stupid”.
In comics, yes, you’re free to try new things out on the readers and subject them to socially questionable characters but when it’s “forced” down the collective throat as “normal” or “as it should be”, then we’re WAY deep into square hole, round peg, land. And NO, you don’t HAVE to read the book but what’s really the goal here? READERSHIP. And probably even MORE important; NEW READERSHIP.
If STORY works with the characters already in it, fine. But putting in “Racial Diversity” for the sake of Racial Diversity is just dumb, pandering and insulting to the reader. Would you be saying the same thing if this were an all black, mexican, asian team of heroes? I’ll answer that. The silence would be deafening.
The track record for Spider-Man sings a chorus to this with Ultimate Spider-Man being just ONE title in this group. The 616 Spider-Man change may not be racially-driven but it’s a stupid move nonetheless. Who identifies with Super-villain-turned-Super-hero? This is a neat What If? story, not a Direction for the book.
It was bad enough that the World was out to get Peter Parker. Did the creators have to try and kill him too?

: /

Well… I have mixed feelings both about the article and comic book itself. I’d wait with presenting my opinions until the first arc is done. I think it’s too early to call it the future of superhero comics. It seems like a good step forward, though.

Style > Substance indeed.

This hipster book will be dated in 3 years.

And just to be clear, I enjoyed the original Young Avengers volume and Children’s Crusade but this wasn’t very good at all, despite how “progressive” you think it was.

TA #1 was OK

A new reader would absolutely have no idea who these people are, or what is going on. This fact cannot be argued, so thats a major failure, inmyopinion.

SO, no this isn’t the future of superhero comics.

the conversation between hulkling and wiccan was god awful, too.

” And just to be clear, I enjoyed the original Young Avengers volume and Children’s Crusade but this wasn’t very good at all, despite how “progressive” you think it was. ”

Both of which were less about the Young Avengers themselves, and more about the convoluted Marvel history surrounding them. Especially the latter, which was punted away from the kids so that Marvel could clean up the mess with the Scarlet Witch.

This looks like it’ll do what the original Young Avengers could and should have done, had it focused more on the actual Young Avengers and not on how they fit into the status quo of the previous generation.

” To my mind, good writing is about problems that are universal to all humans, not representing them all, all the time. ”

And here’s the perspective that’s securely lived in the majority, has had the majority of pop culture written for their group, hasn’t bothered to look outside their majority, and sees the overt promotion of anything else as a threat to their comfort.

This column reminds me of a “Bloom County” comic from the 80s when Bill the Cat was running a presidential campaign ad:

“Finally. A candidate every American can call their own. He’s been a handicapped unionist minority farmer. He’s been a right-wing, pro-choice, born-again Southern elderly protectionist pacifist. He’s been a redneck Northern liberal ethnic pro-life Jewish fixed-income no-nukes gun nut. And he’s been a woman named Frieda. Bill the Cat for President. He’s been one of us. ”

The point being that trying to hit every cultural checkbox is going to drive you crazy and eventually become diversity gratia diversity…and the story may suffer as a result. I can either sit her and pout because there’s no Asians, Pacific Islanders, Muslims, or Catholics represented in this book…or I can sit down and enjoy a good story. (As it is, I’m personally reading this for Loki and only Loki.)

I love the “racial diversity for racial diversity’s sake” cop out…because it’s so difficult toinclude and write a character who happens to not be a white person; and you need a “valid story reason” to include people who happen to not be caucasian and heterosexual.

“To my mind, good writing is about problems that are universal to all humans, not representing them all, all the time.”

100% correct.

” The point being that trying to hit every cultural checkbox is going to drive you crazy and eventually become diversity gratia diversity…and the story may suffer as a result. I can either sit her and pout because there’s no Asians, Pacific Islanders, Muslims, or Catholics represented in this book…or I can sit down and enjoy a good story. (As it is, I’m personally reading this for Loki and only Loki.) ”

Ahhhh…the “Can’t win, don’t bother” argument against diversity in media.

It’s tough. I really wanted to love Young Avengers–and it definitely feels like a very progressive comic–but the ending also felt profoundly dated in a different way. It felt like it’s spinning towards being an “issue” book, which is important but not as interesting as all these things happening matter of factly. If it becomes a book about homosexuality, then a lot of these understated but definitely present things take on a very different context. The book becomes about whether this is alright rather than it being alright and going from there.

I concur with Trey: this was the epitome of Style > Substance. Fluffy and designed to make a very specific segment of the comic audience squeal with fanboy/fangirl delight. It was hip for the sake of being hip.

And the praise for the book because of the diversity? Please. Is the blogger saying that if every gender and race and sexuality was represented in a book about superheroes reading books at the library, then that would be the greatest book ever? That would solve all comic readership conundrums? It is about the story. Who cares if one ethnicity isn’t represented? There are no Asians and only one woman in Shawshank Redemption, but that is a great story. Diversity and inclusion for inclusion’s sake defeats the purpose and is insulting.

I saw a comment somewhere that this was the “getting the band together” issue. But it wasn’t even that. No team was formed with this issue.

” Fluffy and designed to make a very specific segment of the comic audience squeal with fanboy/fangirl delight. ”

That differentiates it from 99% of Marvel and DC comics….how? At least this capitalizes on the comparatively larger demographics of sites like Tumblr.

I don’t know where best to respond…this doesn’t fit in a tweet, Kelly. You mentioned to me, we would disagree on this past weeks comics. I read your reviews for the ones we both read. It is rare that we get that many in one week. So this is kind of fun for me, sharing our thoughts, almost in the moment.

Anyway, I actually agree with most of your thoughts on the latest Young Avengers, Batwomen (on the money), Batman, Wolverine & The X-Men and Uncanny X-Force (which you didn’t review, but mentioned…I had the same out of order reading problem). So lets assume I agree unless I mention it beyond this point. And I won’t go into star ratings…that will never be agreed on.

I think you went into Young Avengers with high hopes and an ability to channel the demographic that it is intended for. I have had the experience you discribed many times with comics. A euforic feeling after expectations are exceeded. You and Sue also had that with Saga. I do think it is warranted, but also see why I am not sharing in the experience. Which I did when it came to Hawkeye last year. I am just to much of an old-half-Jewish-man. Which is shocking to me, given my general satisfaction with diversity. For some reason aesthetically and in terms of the themes…I just am not that into it. Which is totally fine. Actually, it is great news. Comics are headed in places I don’t care to go, but others do. Not minimizing their quality, just diversifying the market place.

As to Batman, I love what they are doing, and Yes, the Joker is also not my favorite (Scarcrow). Snyder is great, but his villians so far are caught Monologing way to much. Which takes away from the often brilliant plot he creates.

I found I really liked, the Soap aspect to Wolverine & X-Men. I was about to drop it, but then…well, maybe am an old softy or young at hart. It worked well enough…and I really want Storm and Black Panther back together.

That’s it…I guess. Much a do about nothing.

When I bought Young Avengers on Saturday, the guy at my comic shop said he wanted to check it out since it got five stars on CBR. You’re influential, Kelly!

And despite not knowing most of the characters in the book, I thoroughly enjoyed it; it was a great introduction to the cast.

Dammit Marvel, why you so expensive?!?!! :)

I know Generation Hope was supposed to be the Generation X comic of this decade, but I think this will end up being that instead. For one, Generation Hope was trying too hard (just look at the title), while this feels a lot more natural. Plus, while I do think the X-Men are on the beginings of an upswing (Bendis aside…. fuckin’ hate that guy…), this is probably still going to be the decade of the Avengers, so there’s that going for this book too. Plus all of your reasons. So yeah, while I’ll probably always prefer the original Lobdell/Bachalo recipe, I think I’ll check this out. I mean, I’ve given muuuuuuuch worse Now! books a try (like All new X-Men. Seriously, how is this the flagship book of the franchise?!?!?)

Great book, great review, gross comments. It’s the internet!

Race is a trickier issue than gender to me.

For example, the lack of racial diversity in Buffy never felt false to me. In the ’90s at least, the type of affluent kids who had encyclopedic pop cultural knowledge and an easy tolerance toward female bi-sexuality tended to be suburban whites. The question in my mind was less “why isn’t Joss Wheedon casting more actors of color” and more “why don’t kids like these hang out with racial minorities”. That is a lot to ask of a show that was already very, very smart about how women were being depicted in pop culture.

Unlike High School peer groups, superhero teams do not actually exist. YOUNG AVENGERS was conceived as a pretty meta exercise to begin with. Expecting some racial diversity to be baked into the cake is not totally unreasonable. However, it does beg the question of why Marvel would launch a YA title without making all the YA members available.

I mean, this is a B-list franchise at best. The odds of it making 24 issues in the current market are not great. The odds of it going a year without a change of artist are even lower. What are they waiting for exactly?

@Trey – I’ve never read Young Avengers before and I bought this because I’m a massive Phonogram fan. I could follow it just fine.

(If if I need to know the minutiae of Hulking and Wiccan’s relationship – which I don’t – Wikipedia is just a click or two away)

” I’m all for good comics but when we start heralding them as GREAT based on dudes kissing and “Racial Diversity”, you start jumping hip-deep into the cold waters of Political Correctness Lake.”

This is not the argument that she is putting forth. I mean, I’m sure it’s really really difficult to read the title (“the future of comics”) or the full sentences in the section you’re talking about (“This is progress. This is the future. Bring it!”, “And that feels real, that feels modern.”, “PROGRESS, HO!”), so I don’t blame you for forming a knee-jerk opinion based on nothing, but still, just so you know, people are going to leap to the conclusion that you’re stupid when you do things like that. I don’t see a single place in the diversity where she says “This is why the book is great” and I see a whole lot of examples where she says “This is why the book represents the future of the medium.” So you sure destroyed the shit out of that straw man argument, but it has nothing to do with anything that the author wrote.

Everything you described was done perfectly by Giffen & The Bierbaums back in 1989, by the way. So the future of comics was done in 1989, by all accounts.

As much as I understand the importance of sexual and racial diversity (I’m gay and Mexican/Native-American), I also think that characters shouldn’t be shoehorned in a book to meet some kind of PC quota. Take Falcon in The Avengers, for example. When he first joined, he found out that he was only put in because the government was suggested the group needed an African-American. This pissed him off enough to quit the team.

Eli belongs in the group, not because he is black, but because he was a founding member and worked so well in the group’s dynamic. On the other side of the coin, Speed shouldn’t have been omitted because he is a white male. His own brother is on the team and their connection with Scarlet Witch could have been explored more. Plus, what was the whole point of replacing one white-haired male attracted to Kate Bishop only to replace him with another white-haired male that’s attracted to Kate Bishop?

Maybe i’ll go read my old issues of Perez and Wolfman’s run on Teen Titans and bemoan the poor quality of the comic due to the lack of amputee transsexual Asian midgets.

BTW – please don’t bother with the “racial diversity for racial diversity’s sake” and “Can’t win, don’t bother” retorts, OK?

If you make a character that’s is a Hispanic female but don’t actually do anything with her character, then what’s the point? The prime example of this is Silverclaw in the Avengers. So underused, so undeveloped, the poor girl was reduced to a token.

If you wanted a Hispanic woman done right on the Avengers, look to Firebird, especially when she was with The West Coast team during the Cross Time Caper (issues 17 – 23, IIRC). Her Mexican roots and her Catholic beliefs were key to the story and treated with respect. It was her character that saved Henry Pym from killing himself and finding a new purpose in life. Firebird also essential to convincing Thor not to quit the team and give up on humanity in the aftermath of the Kang Dynasty storyline.

Long story short, adding a diversity character only matters if you actually do something worthwhile with the character and develop them outside of wearing spandex and punching bad guys.

I just picked this up, and yeah, it’s Generation X 2.0. Loved the art, loved the dialogue, all except one small spot. The page where they talk about 60s music, god that was a pain to get through. I know what Gillen was going for, but I hate pretentious music people who talk about how great music that existed before they were born is. Seriously, I make fun of those douches. It’s not the height of douchebaggery, but it’s high. I just wanted to be like, “Hey, Noh-Varr – you think 60s music is cool? Well, Maynard James Keenan bands trump everything from that decade, and the immediate decades before and after it.” I know, I know, it’s not fair to be like that, but that’s how I feel.

@ Fury of Firestorm

I think the point behind having diverse characters and then doing the typical superhero stuff with them instead of focusing on how they’re different is to show that people don’t give a shit about someone being different. the point is to get society to that point, where people don’t give a fuck about your race/gender/religion/sexuality, it’s more about if you’re a decent person. Gillen is showing teenagers doing “normal teenager things,” instead of showing Miss America doing the “normal hispanic teenager thing” and then Hulking and Wiccan doing the “normal gay teenager thing;” what’s important about them is that they’re teenagers, not that Miss America is Hispanic, or that Hulking and Wiccan are gay. That’s superficial shit that in the end doesn’t define you, so trying to define these kids by what specific demographic they fit into and trying to have them doing stuff stereotypical of that demographic is really just harmful to the progress of society. So props to Gillen.

I checked this out solely because Matt Fraction made me fall in love with Kate Bishop over in Hawkguy. Everything was outstanding and I’m on board as long as Gillen is.

That quote really doesn’t work for me. Kate Bishop doesn’t need a love interest, she’s awesome just the way she is. And as far as I know, nobody told Gillen that he could only use established characters. So if he really cared about racial diversity he could have just created his own non-white-male character. Just admit you wanted to use Noh-Var, don’t pretend you had no choice but to add another white boy to the cast.

” I think the point behind having diverse characters and then doing the typical superhero stuff with them instead of focusing on how they’re different is to show that people don’t give a shit about someone being different. the point is to get society to that point, where people don’t give a fuck about your race/gender/religion/sexuality, it’s more about if you’re a decent person. Gillen is showing teenagers doing “normal teenager things,” instead of showing Miss America doing the “normal hispanic teenager thing” and then Hulking and Wiccan doing the “normal gay teenager thing;” what’s important about them is that they’re teenagers, not that Miss America is Hispanic, or that Hulking and Wiccan are gay. That’s superficial shit that in the end doesn’t define you, so trying to define these kids by what specific demographic they fit into and trying to have them doing stuff stereotypical of that demographic is really just harmful to the progress of society. So props to Gillen. ”

It’s simultaneously of no importance and paramount importance. Characters, like people, should be judged based on their individual personalities and merits above their outer trappings. At the same time, those cultural identities shape who they are. Hulking and Wicca would not be Hulkling and Wicca if they weren’t two young men in a homosexual relationship. Their respective outlooks on the world were just as shaped by growing up gay in a culture that’s uncomfortable-to-outright-hostile towards them, just for the way they naturally feel attraction. That experience adds as much to their characters as being a Skrull and the son of an unstable Omega mutant, respectively.

Drawing from different backgrounds of race, gender, orientation, ability, culture, and others helps create more complex characters. Tokenism is the result of bad writing, not the inherent desire for diversity.

@ Neil

I’m not saying something shouldn’t be said about their backgrounds EVER, but sometimes it helps to show them doing the same things you’d expect from a straight-white-male character and not making a big deal about a character being black or gay because I’m pretty sure someone who is gay or black doesn’t want that to be the only thing you take away from them.

Sometimes, a black superhero should be able to punch a supervillain without him having to have at the same time some inner commentary about how he gets treated differently because he’s black. Doing nothing but focusing on what makes a “diversity” character different from a straight-white-male character doesn’t do squat for the medium and makes it seem like it hasn’t progressed anywhere from the ham-fisted 60s and 70s, where these characters would have to constantly remind you that they’re different and damnit, that’s important!

“And here’s the perspective that’s securely lived in the majority, has had the majority of pop culture written for their group, hasn’t bothered to look outside their majority, and sees the overt promotion of anything else as a threat to their comfort.”

100% correct.

Hulkling is a shapeshifter, right? How about if he rebels against his blond white father Mar-Vell and adopts an ethnic appearance? Am I missing a reason why being white and blond is integral to the character?

@Rob: I have no idea if being white/blonde is integral to the Hulkling character, but I do think having a shapeshifter that chooses to be a person of color, while interesting, is not really the same thing as having a person of color who cannot change that at will.

Runaways had Xavin, who identified as male, but wanted to be with Karolina, who was gay, so Xavin, not feeling particularly attached to his gender (at least initially) changed to female for Karolina. This was interesting, and had a lot of layers in how it was handled, but one of the reasons I think it worked (and would not work here) was because the team was already loaded with interesting female characters. Had the team been all male and they’re changed Xavin to female and been all “hey! look, now we have a female character!” I think people would have been right to call bullshit on that. Right?

@Kelly

Bravo, bravisimo on this column. More than anything, from what you described, this new volume of YA could be this decade’s answer to the Marv Wolfman/George Perez New Teen Titans run. There’s only one other hurdle Gillen and McKelvie should jump over if they want to keep this book successful–STAY on the book and keep it from getting tied in to big events. THAT is the key to avoiding one of modern comics’s biggest problems.

On another note, if the majority of DC’s current output does nothing for you, I have a suggestion for replacing those titles you mentioned dropping–look to IDW. Instead of the gods and monsters of Wonder Woman, why not try the just plain monsters in Godzilla? Instead of the confused, ever-shifting state of Catwoman, why not give the timely shape-shifting of Transformers a ‘test-drive’? Instead of the (according to some) uncoordinated stumbling of Birds of Prey, how about the COORDINATED (for comedic effect) stumbling of Ghostbusters–especially when they relaunch next month with a mostly-female team? If Batgirl did nothing for you, try G.I. Joe, a series that has had a history of stronger portrayals of characters with multiple backgrounds (like their female operatives, Spirit (their Native American tracker), Stalker (the team’s first ranger and African-American member), and plenty of others). (And I believe, on one level, Scarlett could take Babs in a battle of redheads.) If Sword of Sorcery was unimpressive to you, how about ‘shelling out’ some dough for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

True, Kelly, but I wasn’t thinking of a particular ethnicity such as Chinese, Nigerian, or Brazilian. The guy is a Kree-Skrull hybrid who was raised by a human mother. Like many multiracial people, he should have issues about who he is and where he belongs. Not only race issues but species issues as well.

His Wikipedia picture shows him with ear piercings, which suggests he’s acting out a little to differentiate himself. But again, he’s a shapeshifter. He should try becoming different species, races, and genders to see what they’re like. The idea that someone in his situation would settle for being a blue-eyed blond is faintly ridiculous.

And if he tried, say, an African American identity, that could be part of the story. Real African Americans could say, “You don’t know anything about our experiences. You haven’t lived our lives.” And he could counter, “I’m the product of two interstellar species that have fought each other for eons. I think I know something about prejudice.”

If Hulking was raised considering himself white, “taking on” another ethnicity could very well feel pretty gross to him, like blackface. This is America, where race IS a big issue whether we want it to be or not.

Exactly. Yes, he is a biracial alien, but he was raised as a white kid. That is the default appearance he feels comfortable with. It’s not the same as if he were a full blooded Skrull who was raised as such like Xavin.
@Ricardo Amaral: But GIffen and the Bierbaums were literally writing about the future. These stories are happening right now in something close to our world.

” Sometimes, a black superhero should be able to punch a supervillain without him having to have at the same time some inner commentary about how he gets treated differently because he’s black. Doing nothing but focusing on what makes a “diversity” character different from a straight-white-male character doesn’t do squat for the medium and makes it seem like it hasn’t progressed anywhere from the ham-fisted 60s and 70s, where these characters would have to constantly remind you that they’re different and damnit, that’s important! ”

See the “of no importance and paramount importance” line. Race/culture is a major factor in shaping who a person becomes, but it’s not the only factor, and a complex character will be able to do a lot of different things.

Jamie Mckelvie’s very good at drawing clothing, backgrounds, and bodies(he posses the rare talent of making characters sexy but not in an overt Ed Benes/Frank Cho kind of way), but I felt like his characters all had the same stock-face, and it kept pulling me out of the story. Steve Dillion only has half a dozen faces too, but he’s a wonderful storyteller, always with the perfect reaction to match the dialog, completely in sync with the writer. McKelvie doesn’t have that(yet), and it’s distracting. The parents near the end look like they’re reacting to a fart in the room, or Kate Bishop after the line “this is everything I’ve ever wanted”. Her face doesn’t match that at all; she looks bored, befuddled even. A lot of odd visual expressions that don’t match up entirely with the dialog, but not everybody can be Alan Davis, I suppose.

The strongest scenes involve Miss America Chavez and Loki. Gillen obviously has quite an entertaining handle on Loki by now, even post-JiM he’ss charming and smarmy in all the right ways(I did kinda roll my eyes at “terribad” though). I translated his teleportation spells. “Elsewhere” and “cooks in the broth”(I guess he means too many cooks spoiling the broth when Teddy runs up on the roof?). Miss America Chavez might be my favorite though; she has some a wonderfully unique design, and the way she carries herself gives her such presence. She totally takes over the book whenever she shows up. More Miss America Chavez, please.

Easily the weakest scene has got to be Bill and Ted’s Excellent Domestic issues, however. Way too much unnatural sounding exposition in it for me to believe they were a real couple. In between their thirty second conflict/resolution, they neatly managed to go over every single bullet point concerning what’s been happening in their lives since the original young Avengers. The smirk on Wiccan’s face as he marched out of Ted’s room made me want to punch him. Ted’s evolution from uninvolved alien guy to the greatest boyfriend ever, didn’t feel right. So earnest it makes your teeth ache. “We’re sickening, Yeah?” Yes. Yes, you are.

This thing was tailormade for tumblr/scans_daily, so maybe I’m not the target audience for that, but I’m enjoying this anyway. I think this book could gel into something special, as this creative team has produced before, and I’m definitely on board with this series.

“It always struck me that in Season 4 Tara would have been a good character to have be a woman of color. But perhaps Amber Benson just nailed that role. You have to give the role to the best person…and maybe in this case Benson was it. Fans certainly do love her.”

reading this, all i can think is “firefly”. that show (which i love) had a serious diversity problem regarding people of asian heritage, given that its fictional universe was supposed to be dominated by america and china. but each and every main role was so perfectly cast, its impossible for me to imagine that crew with different actors. but i can do both: love the show, as it exists, with all my heart… but also critisize it, on a intellectual level, for the way it handled diversity.

love the column, love this article!

From what I’ve read the cast could/will eventually change/grow so characters that some feel may be missing and should be included may still show up. As for Young Avengers itself I found it rather unimpressive more style then substance.

I explained why someone who grew up and was comfortable as a white boy might start questioning his identity. A good writer could make it work without the “it’s so unnatural to talk about race in a comic book” awkwardness.

The DC title that comes closest to that sense of joy you mentioned is the team up of Power Girl and Huntress in World’s Finest. It had some teething troubles but over all has been surprisingly fun considering the characters are refugees from their own dimension forced to watch alternate world duplicates of their loved ones from afar.

Okay, the book was good, but wasn’t THAT good.

Information Geek

January 30, 2013 at 12:08 pm

The future of superhero comics? I hope not! Way too much exposition that is very boring, unnatural dialogue, no clear direction with a story, killing characters’ loved ones untop of a predictable and cliche ending, dull artwork with generic looking characters, and unevening pacing & tone. This really shouldn’t be the future for superhero comics at all with such medicore/bad storytelling.

You can be as progressive as you want, but if the story isn’t good and you don’t know why you should like the characters, then it is all for nothing! As a person who is using this comic as way to be introduced to the characters for the first time, I find nothing worth my time here.

Glad you liked it, but I have no interest in a comic this bad where the positives you list are completely wasted.

I need to remember not to click on links to this column in the future. It feels like you’re continuously judging a comic based on how it fulfills your agenda, and not on the story itself.

If this is the future of comics, I’ll be getting back into video games.

Oh, and if this is a glimpse of modern society, it’s no wonder we’re all doomed.

It was engaging and fun and introduced the characters and set the stage for the future. What’s not to love in the story? (Wondering if the last three posts aren’t really from the same person…)

I thought the art was terrific! And I totally agree with the reviewer that the book ticked the popular boxes of the moment, while setting up a story that’s been done to death, but might possibly get some sort of fresh gimmick. In terms of quotas (which seems to be what the series is really about), how is Miss America’s ‘diversity’ not a positive? How is Billy Kaplan’s Jewishness not ‘diverse enough”? Why add Marvel Boy when Speed would have done the job, while also having history and connection to the team? What race/gender combination would be acceptable, and how many? What restrictions would there be to writing those characters so as not to offend (see the Buffy section of the review as regards Faith and Tara, with no mention of Kendra, by the way)? How do we know how Teddy was raised? We see a blond kid, but we’ve in the past seen him take on multiple looks. His ‘mother’ might be the guise we see put on for those who know blond Teddy, pursuing a consistency that wouldn’t arouse suspicion. And while we’re comparing and contrasting, why is a chaste kiss and a retreat to separate rooms celebrated for the long term gay couple, rather than the all out copulating permitted the heteros? Just to get Billy alone? That’s weak. As is the writer’s grasp of Billy’s powers. He’s overpowering the kid just as Bendis did his mother, in order to achieve a dramatic effect and fallout, even though neither has displayed such a degree of power previously.

CBR reviews on a whole seem to toss out really high ratings for most of the books I look at. I love this site and its contributors (heck, I loved reading this article and the ensuing comments) but the reviews are the one thing I now skip because I don’t find them helpful. Regardless, 5 stars means perfect (or at least perfect to the reviewer) and the fact that this is a first issue that isn’t new reader friendly should knock it down to at least 4.5 or 4.77 or 4.99 or something other than utter perfection. When reviewing comics for the masses and not just the reviewer’s self or own personal blog flaws like that should be reflected in the rating. Reading the review for this book it looks like it hit a lot of personal high points but the review wasn’t subjective enough for the broader audience reading it.

Great article. Great book. I want more diversity in my books. I want creators to be more cognizant of this. I don’t avoid books because they are not diverse. I gravitate to books because they are more diverse. Why are folks so up in arms about the “diversity” issue? As soon as it gets brought up, folks harp negatively about it. I don’t think anyone who wants more diversity in their books argues that books that are less diverse are inferior or should be avoided. I enjoy Batman, especially the scenes when he is working with his “family.” And guess what, his family consists of five straight white guys and a straight white girl. A diverse book is not going to be automatically good, but it is a point to take notice– at least for some of us.

How about Rage? I don’t know if anyone has mentioned him, but he was one of the youngest of the New Warriors AND an Avenger until he was kicked out for being too young. They need a little more diversity and he’s an interesting character just left out there, he’s not bad… dunno how old he is concidered now tho…

And yeah, his name implies “Black Anger”… I’m not sure if Elvin really still needs that name, cos it was so 70s done 90s-style… but he is a really cool character…

For me, this article provided the final nudge I needed to check out YA #1, and I gotta say I agree completely with Kelly. This is exactly what a book called “Young Avengers” should be — honest, fresh and forward-looking. I can’t over the fact that Gillen actually had the gall to title the story “Style > Substance”. This book has “it”.

The first issue also managed the balancing act of re-introducing these characters while picking up established plot threads. I did read the original volume YA, and although I still have a few questions after reading this #1, I never once felt lost. Not knowing why Loki is a) a kid and b) involved in this story didn’t hamper my enjoyment of it in the slightest. I’m sure these lingering questions will be addressed in time.

Dear doubters, just stop with the griping and go get the book. Then judge for yourself.

P.S. It’s awesome.

Just a notion about diversity and causes:

I my community I work in the arts, I run an arts business that features local/national artists and local/national musicians.
Being in the arts, I deal with a lot of people who have progressive forward looking goals/mindsets/ideas.
I share them for the most part.
We get asked to do benefit shows a lot, all the time a lot, “give us all the money raised” a lot.
—follow me, I’m going somewhere with this–
I love my community and the individuals in it, but where my heart lives is The Arts. I care about social justice, about climate change, about bike lanes. I do–but when push comes to shove what I really care about is The Arts, and helping the people I know turn their dream into a living career.

In order to do that I prioritize the things in my business, first is keeping the doors open, second is paying the people who exhibit/perform at it. After that, the left over cash (HA) goes into improvements, advertising, and saving for emergencies–and there’s always emergencies.

So, to bring this back around to [one of] the subjects at hand, the lack of racial diversity in YA, look at it this way: Gillen & McKelvie are making a great book (haven’t read it, just assume based on evidence) that is going to address some of the topics they and their fans care about, while at the same time putting cash in their banks, and allowing them to build their name/clout in the comics industry in a way that will (hopefully) allow them greater freedom/control to include more elements that deal with the topics they’re not now.

Pragmatically they have made compromises with which boarders to push against, some designed to draw in traditional readers, some to reach out to smaller subsets. We can’t blame them for this, in the sense that it isn’t right to put them under an accusing magnifying glass to ask ‘WHY this, this and this’ aren’t being included yet.
As Kelly said, she still watched/loved Buffy & WW despite the things both lacked. As a consuming public, we–like the creators–only have so many choices we can make now/today, and it isn’t a choice of take A to damn B, but really take A, C, and M because those are what are important here, while many other people are carrying the torch for B, D, and E through L.
N-Z to follow.

Writer is wrong. This book isn’t the future of anything.

I was with you until you said you dropped Wonder Woman.

If you want to talk about the perfect artist/writer collaborative team.

Young Avengers was fun though.

I think people are being needlessly defensive here. Nobody has called for less diversity! My original point at least, was that cast diversity isn’t a great way to judge a story.
When a story does pull off a diverse mix of characters, that’s great. Holding every other comic to the same standard can become tedious and ridiculous.

I’ve read the book and can’t understand why everyone thinks it’s so good… I just don’t get it. The Noh-Varr and Kate Bishop scene was interesting, but besides that it was the most boring comic I’ve read in some time. Is it getting all these rave reviews because it has 2 guys kissing? Or because all the characters seem to be having sex? And that multi-page, whiney dialogue between Hulking and Wiccan was excruciating. I’m worried if this the future of comics.

@Matt: I didn’t drop WW because of an issue with the creative team – which was and is wonderful. And WW#1 was a book I ALSO gave 5 stars to on CBR.

But after the developments in issue #7 I just couldn’t come along. Azzarello is still a strong writer, Cliff Chiang is still one of my favorite artists of all time, and they collaborate beautifully together, but that book is no longer for me.

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2012/03/26/she-has-no-head-is-the-destruction-of-the-amazons-the-destruction-of-feminism-in-dc-comics/

I was loving this comic for all the reasons mentioned – except that it didn’t…

— properly introduce the characters
— have an actual plot worth a damn that linked them together.

Also, the last segment was just “okay, say what?”

This strikes me as an example of “writing for the trade” and if that’s going to be the future of comics, comics are going to keep heading toward their slow death.

@PeterCSM730

My argument against CBR being biased on the positive side is that Wolverine and the X-Men just got 3 stars when I thought it was a great slow issue, very much in the vein of the better Scott Lobdell Uncanny issues and phenomenal art from David Lopez.

Meanwhile, I believe All New X-Men #6 just got like 4 or 4.5 stars, a book that wasted a lot of time with a cliche that didn’t have enough new elements to work (Wolverine and Cyclops arguing and then getting into a fight). It did pretty much nothing to advance the story, nobody’s dialogue felt unique or like their “voice” and is using copies of characters we already see too much of to tell a mediocre “mutants fighting to prevent a dark future” plot. And somehow that gets a better review than one of the strongest issues of Aaron’s run (which has been nothing BUT strong issues, Circus arc haters be damned).

Rarely does a book get a high review, but when it does, it either totally deserves it (like in this case), or it so clearly does not (like in the case of ANXM #6… and pretty much every other issue of that series). More often than not, though, good books are UNDERappreciated by the reviewers, I’d say.

@Anonymous:

You know I wrote both the CBR review for YA #1 AND the WATXM #24 review, right?

I think you just have to remember that thought reviewers try our best to be critical in the right ways and consistent across the board, a review is still just a subjective opinion, there’s no way around that. That’s the only way I can judge a book – what I consider good and bad, what speaks to me and what doesn’t. Reviewers are not a hive-mind, and we can only read a book and judge it on its merits to the best of our ability from week to week.

There were things I ADORED about WATXM #24, but ultimately the Storm/Wolverine relationship felt really forced and unnatural to me, dragging it down badly. Which is what I tried to say in the review.

Though I did not review ANXM #6, I did review #5, and gave it a very high rating because against all odds it’s impressing me and I’m intrigued about where it’s going (also the art is flawlessly beautiful).

@ Kelly

I guess I just don’t like Bendis’ writing, so I’ll never give him the benefit of the doubt; for me, he has to EARN it, and he has yet to do that. Plus, I feel like a lot of artists are wasted on his books because he makes them do shit that only hurts the flow of the narrative, and while Immonen was great at drawing those issues, the actual page layouts were either confusing or underwhelming, and this can be blamed on Bendis who I know specifies those kind of shit layouts. Overall, I feel like someone like Joe Casey could be doing a lot more with a premise that so heavily focuses on Silver Age era characters, since he’s shown that he can take stuff like that and inject a lot of “NEW!” into them.

And in my own way, I was trying to stand up for CBR by saying you guys aren’t all sycophants for the Big 2, but I guess that came out wrong.

Also, I had no idea you wrote that WatXM review, I just saw the 3 stars and was like “AW HELL NO!!”‘ To me, the Wolvy and Storm romance angle had a lot of basis in the hints that were dropped back in the day during Claremont’s subplots. I might be a little biased since a lot of those hints were dropped in MY FAV ERA EVEAH, the Outback years, but I always liked those hints and they felt natural then. I think the last hint came during the Davis/Claremont run precending the horrendous Brubaker period, which was a while ago, but not all that long ago. So I gave it a pass, since I saw his use of this old subplot as part of Aaron’s larger plan to do a Greatest Hits list of under-appreciated stuff as sort of a response to the way Morrison was doing a Greatist Hits list of the better known stuff (seriously, how is this not the flagship book? Apparently the ZOMG BENDIS! factor outweighs over a year of established quality. Fuck you, Marvel). In any event, I didn’t think it was enough to knock it down to 3 stars if you weren’t a fan.

And speaking of the X-Men, that’s probably why I liked this first issue of YA so much, because it feels like the spiritual successor to Generation X. It has its flaws (please Gillen, I don’t give a fuck about your musical tastes so quit trying to work in music BS about how under-appreciated older music is; as soon as I find a band from the 60s that’s better than Tool, I might give a fuck), but overall it was a solid first issue. I personally haven’t read a book that has featured these characters besides the recent New Mutants crossover that had Kid Loki, and I think I got a pretty good idea of who these characters are and why I should give a fuck about them, which is really hard to do. You know what other book did that? Generation X. Seriously, this site needs more Lobdell love is all I’m sayin’.

Also, ANXM #6 was significantly worse than the previous issues because while it was a killing-time issue like WatXM #24, it failed to do anything that didn’t feel like it had been done before, and overall didn’t do much with anybody. At least #1-5 seemed to be advancing the plot a bit, while this really spun its wheels. Meanwhile, WatXM #24 did A LOT of stuff with characters other than Wolvy and Storm, and I think did it with significantly better art, but that might be bias on my part considering I love David Lopez,. however I think Aaron freed up his guy to do more of his own thing instead of dictating page layouts that hinder the flow of the story.

I’m glad people liked it, but let’s not go overboard.

Frankly, I found it to be typically hipster and pretentious. When I got to the editorial page and saw that the same writer also did the hopelessly hipster and pretentious Phonogram for Image I saw why I disliked this book so much. I won’t be buying this book again, and of its indeed the future of comics, I’ll be buying fewer of those too.

Kelly Thompson you gave WATXM 3 star and Young Avengers 5 stars!? Seriously? Coming from a YA fan, I was disappointed with YA, it was okay, but it is no masterpiece. Hawkeye waking up to a man and she cant remember his name, but can recall they’ve fought in the past? How old is Hawkeye? Not a good example to young teen girls, bad enough we have to see teens portrayed with adult lifestyles in television, now we have to see it in comics?

I’ve heard that Joss actually had to be pushed into casting Amber Benson because of her size.

But as for casting Tara with a woman of color: that would have made her a minority, lesbian female, and later you could have added multi-racial(in a sense), because what I’ve also heard is that the whole part demon thing was going to be true.

Trying to hit to many marks bothers people too

“Is it not enough that the comic is good – must it tick off a bunch of demographic boxes as well?
I’m not trying to be argumentative here – it just feels like the championing of diversity in new comics is getting to that point where where it can become toxic if you can’t enjoy a book thats well written, well drawn, celebrates a young female character’s sexual freedom and that of two young gay men and whose strongest character is a latino woman, without feeling the need to point out that it doesn’t have a black character.
Obviously diversity is a good thing but when will the brief be satisfied? When every book features one character each of a different skin colour, sexual orientation and is gender and transgender neutral?
To my mind, good writing is about problems that are universal to all humans, not representing them all, all the time.”

Was going to post my own comment but it seems someone else already summed up everything I had to say. I haven’t read this comic so I don’t know if its the same as other titles have been but Lui’s Astonishing X-Men for example seems like its trying harder to be forward thinking than tell a decent story. Too often now we’re mandating the addition of *blank* minority to the story which is taking away from said story. It’s a rare case where someone delivers something creative that also is respectful to a wide array of cultures, the only real example I can think of was Vaughan’s Runaways which was spectacularly written.

“I have dropped Wonder Woman and Birds of Prey and despite repeated efforts have never been able to get on board with Catwoman. Sword of Sorcery and Batgirl are not for me and I have doubts about Katana”

Complaining about only female-lead books seems strange and out of place here. Did you accidentally remove a clause? DC has a lot of books that are worse than these.

I don’t believe checking a racial or gender diversity box is a necessary prerequisite to a great…anything.
Let whatever is BE. If there’s a gay character so what? if there’s a straight character, so what? Same goes for white, black, latino, asian, etc. It don’t matter.
Sounds cliché but let people be people, in your comics and in life. Fishing for this kind of thing usually creates the issue.
Pretty sure the last thing anyone wants to be is labeled.

(Didnt read any of the previous comments, so apologies if this has already been said)

I hope to see more minorities in the book.
In Gillen I trust

@Anonymous: Well, I appreciate the support for CBR reviewers in general. However, I guess this would be my point about there being no “hive mind” for reviewers. While it’s not so unfair to compare my review of YA #1 with my review of WATXM #24, since I reviewed them both I do think it’s pretty unfair to compare one person’s review of book X with another person’s review of book Y…as I said, we try to be consistent and we all have similar feelings about what each rating means, but we’re still all our own people with our own tastes and preferences.

@Jason: Hmm…I’d be surprised if Whedon was concerned about hiring a slightly larger actress given how he seems to feel about these types of things, but you never know I guess.

@Gabriel: So I have a question for you. Did you actually read the article? Because your argument would be a lot more valid if you quoted the part where I talked specifically about that, rather than not referencing what I said, because the latter makes it look like you didn’t bother to read something that you’re now commenting on.

For reference, this is the exact sentence where I addressed that plot point – whether you agree with it or not is another matter – but acting like I didn’t say anything about it is just willfully ignorant.

“I don’t think Gillen & McKelvie are necessarily advocating Kate’s behavior, they’re just acknowledging its existence. And that feels real, that feels modern. That is reality for a lot of people, if not currently, then at least at one time in their past. It’s incredibly relatable. And I love it for that. I also appreciate that there is NO judgment of Kate for this act. She’s not punished for this behavior and she’s not shamed. She’s just a girl that had a good time with a guy, the same way we see guys behaving without judgment all the time. The fact that Gillen and McKelvie can present such real and relatable behavior and it’s just simply part of the story and not something to make a huge deal of is a great thing.”

As for YA vs WATXM…I put the why for each of those books in their reviews, you are free to disagree, but I stand by both ratings, otherwise I wouldn’t have given them out.

@Skeets: The sentence 2 prior to the one you’re referencing talks about the good DC books I’m still reading:

“I’m still loving Snyder’s Batman, I’m still enjoying Dial H, Justice League: Dark, Animal Man, and Swamp Thing, and when J.H. Williams III draws Batwoman it’s impossible to ignore that we’re seeing the best illustrated comic currently on stands.”

But except for Batwoman and perhaps Dial H., none of those have really strong leading female characters – and as a woman interested in gender diversity, I’d like to see more of my superhero books with strong leading female characters – the way we have in YA – while DC female led books have let me down really consistently – which is why I mentioned it specifically.

I’m sorry if that was unclear.

For everyone: I thought it was clear in my second paragraph when I discussed creative team and talked about Gillen’s excellent work with voice and McKelvie’s beautiful art and innovative but clear storytelling (as well as linking to my 5 star review) that I thought this book was wonderful before we got to things like “checking off boxes” to make things feel modern and “future-y” – but clearly that did not come across. For what it’s worth I think this comic is about as perfect as comics get these days in every way, before we get to checking boxes. This column was SUPPOSED to be about the ways in which this book is the future of comics (for me) – which is to say a brilliant nearly perfect comic that is also inclusive and feels modern and like what the future of comics should be aiming for.

I apologize that this wasn’t entirely clear to those of you that tried to understand and couldn’t/didn’t.

I do not apologize to those of you that this wasn’t entirely clear because you don’t bother to read the piece, or were unwilling to open your mind long enough to listen and think about what other people might be saying.

@Kelly Thompson, Trust me I read it, I’m not bashing her because she is a female and was illustrated conducting herself sexually like that, my point was that YOUNG TEENS are always being portrayed conducting themselves with adult lifestyle, bad enough whether male or female, young teens shouldn’t be portrayed like that in comics, and be a little realistic that she is a rape survivor who barely allowed Patriot or Speed to get near her, and it seems like you’re going EXTREMELY far to justify every aspect of this Issue as if its perfect…seriously?

@ Kelly

I was never WatXM vs. YA – that’s not a fair comparison to begin with considering they’re not only completely different franchises, but completely different styles of books. I was more saying… well basically, Bendis is overrated (and I know he already kind of has that reputation, but I personally think even those people cut him too much slack), but I like to think my argument was a little nuanced than “Bendis sucks.” I wouldn’t have even brought it up if someone hadn’t mentioned CBR being biased towards all the Big 2 books getting excessive praise all the time. In my mind, both books would be getting five stars.

“it feels real, that feels modern”, real and modern to who, not to the majority of teens and this is coming from a teen myself, why celebrate and constantly portray this lifestyle like this is the norm for ALL youth? I’m not all super abstinent. And Ted and Billy’s relationship has become to forced and cliche’, they’re love story is just one routine. Like come one the Im sure by now the audience can comprehend they’re emotional for one another, buy now Kellion run with Generation Xas far as portraying that cast as young teens is very good, but with YA its pretty much forced.

I’m glad that Gillen is on another book that involves young people. He does this well. Though when it comes to “minorities” (I personally hate this term as I don’t consider myself or my group minor in anyway… also there are more Chinese people on earth than anyone else so we may want to re-evaluate our use of this term in relation to ethnicity)… I’m glad the issue is being addressed in many comics now, but the truth is it always was and tended to be progressive, albeit slowly. As a person of African descent, I cringed when I read issues of Captain America that featured Battle Star as “Bucky”. The writer didn’t know black people were called “Bucks” in an ethnically offensive way, due to the fact that he was not in touch with the community. This was corrected and the company didn’t set out to be offensive.

That being said, this is good stuff but I long for the day that we have more writers of “color” in comics period. The depth of the loss of Dwayne McDuffie proves that there are too few and if you really want to get that sense of what it is like to be “other”, let “others” write books too. I think it is funny that X-men is about being different and treated poorly because of it but few women, “minorities” or people of the LGBT spectrum have ever written for it. I think there is a veil we have to break. Acceptance and understanding of people is different than us all being seen as the same. People have backgrounds and histories that are different and that should be embraced and celebrated. We shouldn’t be screaming “let’s be liberal THE SAME WAY together”. It just makes another group of people feel pressure to conform to that new status quo, not be unique or open.

I don’t know. I love that white male writers are taking steps to show how open their world view happens to be, but I’d like writers of color of both genders to get the same shot. Sadly this status quo is everywhere in our beloved forms of media. I think of Tarantino being lauded as brave for “Django” and it confuses me… I feel like his depictions showed some of the horrors of slavery, but most arguments about depiction and risk are between two groups of white people and the only official “minority” voice heard was Spike Lee who was a dick. I feel most of these things are a horse and pony show about a tough issue. “Django” was not actually about slavery, it is mostly a revenge/rescue narrative where “Django” is less interesting than Shultz… and the actor(s) that played the degraded titular character or slaves were awarded nothing for performance. This is fact. Also I’ve heard no buzz about “12 Years A Slave” which is helmed by an acclaimed black director and based on a memoir (Solomon Northup, born free but captured and enslaved)… Why there is such a skew in what narratives about diversity/race/sexuality issues are consumed? Honestly, I really am glad about the increased interest in diversity on the page… I just want to see more in the world of creators… By-the-by, the premiere same-sex duo of the Marvel universe is Rictor and Shatterstar. Best reveal, best kiss, best fights and best dynamic… way more interesting and incidentally more diverse as Rictor is Mexican Mutant and Star from another dimension!

I loved this book. After Phonogram: the Singles Club I will literally buy anything this creative does. And, frankly, I fail to see why anything resembling the hipster aesthetic is necessarily bad. I mean, what, these guys are in their late teens-early 20s? Do people really expect them to be dressed like Tim Allen and Patricia Heaton and listen to Bob Seger?

@Gabriel: FWIW I believe Kate is supposed to be 18 in this book and thus technically an adult.

@Kelly, not mad at you but I seriously wanna know what GIllen meant when he said “When you’ve got the medium’s most prominent gay love story and it features two white guys, it limits the amount of room you have to maneuver unless you actually are going to lose them.” So is he saying because we have to gay white guys, i had to another another TWO gay white guys to balance the minorities?

@Gabriel

I don’t think he’s saying that at all.

He’s saying that building a team like this is in large part a numbers game – in that you have certain stories you want to tell and only a certain number of slots open for your cast. And that when you’re starting with a base of two (technically) white guys who are in a relationship, to tell the story he wanted to tell he needed both those characters. So unless he was willing to drop both those characters simply because he didn’t want to start with two white male characters, then he has to deal with the fact that he just cast two white males right out of the gate. That may not have been where he thought he would start, but this is where he finds himself – the limitations he has on building what he needs. He obviously (thanks to JiM) wanted to work with Kid Loki, so now Gillen finds himself with three white males…and so then his problem is getting worse. And then he was planning to use Kate Bishop (a white woman) and he had an idea for a relationship story with her, but he wanted it to be with Noh-varr…another white guy. So now he looks up and finds that he’s only got one other opening for his team if he wants to give them all the page time they deserve and he’s inadvertently put four white guys on the team in order to tell the stories he wanted to tell. It wasn’t intentional, but it was organic to Gillen choosing who to use and why based on the story ideas he had.

All that said, my point on racial diversity is that the fact that he’s cognizant of the imbalance and that he intends to play with it in the future gives me confidence. I’m glad he used the characters he needed and wanted for his story – that’s the right way to build a team, a story, and a comic – but I also appreciate that he’s aware of these things and it might not always be four white guys on the team.

I only picked up this book because I enjoyed the characterisation of Kate Bishop in Fraction & Aja’s “Haweye”. Needless to say I wasn’t happy with the first page and it kind of went downhill from there….

The Hulking and Wiccan panels made me want to vomit… not because of the gay relationship but because the dialogue was so cliche, so sappy, so teenage girl sweet valley high fanfic.

Seriously ignore the fact the two characters are gay and read the dialogue in the context of any relationship -its just BAD.

Maybe I’m the wrong audience for this book, maybe this is indeed written for the teenage girl who are too young to recognise bad writing. Maybe “modern and fresh” really means shallow and superficial.

I think I will stick with Fraction & Aja’s “Haweye”

It is interesting to raise the question of racial diversity here, given that two of the characters are actually non earthlings. Novarh is Kree, a society where the light skinned pinks are the minority (convienient I know, having a character that could talk about being opressed while still being blond haired and blue eyed) and of course Hulkling isn’t white either, but Green (his base form shows his skrull heritage).

Which actually, in my opinion opens up something even more interesting to explore, which is the question of why is Hulkling white? He could take any human form he wants, Asian, African, even his gender is completely flexible, and yet he has chosen a form of a rather good looking white male (ocasionally a rather good looking green male). So often when we discuss diversity in comics the idea is always to show how great everyone is and how open and accepting the cool heroes are, and while that is always good, I would love to see more of the complex emotional drama that comes with passing, or presenting behaviors which are not mainstream within your social group. Honestly, that we can’t have any closeted gay characters any more (out to readers but keeping their lives secret from family and society because of the very real risks that being out poses) is kind of sad in a way. Not that I would want to live in that world where someone couldn’t be out, but because that emotional turmoil is a very real, very honest thing, that real gay teens go through.

I mean, you have a gay teenager who can litterally be anything, and the idea of changing gender doesn’t even cross his mind? Heck you have a teenager any teenager who can litterally be anything and he settles on a single form? If a teen hero book really wants to be great, these are the kinds of questions the story should ask (and may well, or even better ones) but so far, we don’t know what we have yet because we only have on issue.

I have nothing but faith in the story about to unfold, but just for what we have, it is good, very very good, but greatness is something we can only figure out later.

Fredll: Marvel already tackled the whole “gay gender-shifting alien” issue with Xavin in Runaways. He/she would constantly shift between the form of a black woman and a black male, to her girlfriend Karolina’s dismay.

The main reason I think Teddy doesn’t shift around is that, unlike Xavin, he wasn’t raised fully aware of his Skrull abilities nor was he raised in their culture where shifting your identity is seen as the norm. To him, his shifting is used for his “job”, like growing wings to fly or looking like someone else for infiltration. Using it to be someone else out of curiosity either never crossed his mind, or perhaps he feels that it would come off as disrespectful to whichever race he shifted to. Plus, i’m sure the writers want to avoid the whole “All gay men really want to be women!” crap.

Im not sorry when I say that this bs trend of including gay chracters for the sake of not being old fashioned is annoying as hell. Develop the characters properly and i wont care, but marvel and dc need to stop just throwing gay lovers in their comics. Do they want a cookie or something? That and the whole “were racially diverse as well” bs with that stupid kid miles morales (who Bendis will probably murder like an a**hole sometime soon anyway).

@UniqueSon91: There was an intelligent way of getting your message across, you’ve missed the mark.

This is one roller coaster of a comments section.
I just wanted to say that I enjoyed the comic in question for many reasons, and between your review and this text, you mentioned almost (if not all) of them. There was a lot of a good reading!

Also, it feels right to do something completely hipsterish in here, so: I’m not angry at anyone, or anything. I do not mind diversity in comics. I am not surprised that some people find it positive and worth mentioning. I am not baffled that some people feel it should be ignored. Nope. Like, at all.

@FuryofFirestorm

to be fair, Marvel actually did it like even twenty years before that with Mystique; it was heavily hinted for a long time that she was Nightcrawler’s FATHER, and that would make Destiny his mother. While that was dropped, Claremont has stated that was his original intent and dropped hints as such. So basically Vaughn ripped off Claremont.

Justin Bieber hair, hipsters, and pandering. Yeah can’t wait…

Good lord, this book is not the second coming.. . it was “OK” and IMO not one of Gillen’s better efforts.

I think dubbing this “the future” of comics is probably an overstatement — I think this sort of book might be “a future” of comics but it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the taste and interests of comic readers is incredibly diverse. Much like music and TV, I think people are more specific in their tastes and expect titles to fulfill their personal checkboxes, so when a title clicks those, we go overboard with priase and when it doesn’t, we go the opposite way. “Young Avengers” is a book that may find a cult following but I don’t think it is going to be a mainstream hit that almost every comic reader buys or even keeps an eye on. Also, I can’t put my finge ron it, but it feels to me like a product of the cultural moment that, like Generation X or X-Force, is going to feel terribly dated in 5 to 10 years. It seems like it has the potential to be a decent book, but it doesn’t strike me as particulalry revolutionary or moving.

As for Hulkling and Wiccan, I think previous writers (and perhaps Marvel editorial) have painted them into a corner as “the iconic gay copule in Marvel.” That status really limits their growth as characters which is problematic for two people who are so young. there are still a lot of romantic adventures and challenges for two young men learning to define who they are. To have them be untouchable, as that status implies, makes them far lessinteresting and less real. Part of what made some of Marvel’s most interesting relationships were triangles and drama (Scott-Jean-Logan; MJ-Peter-Gwen, etc.). Hulkling and Wiccan seem too fixed and safe and perfect to be interesting to me. I’m hoping that their portrayal in the first issue of YA was conscious and intent to set up something Gillen is going to challenge later on.

@ Spidermaniac

Um, actually Generation X (minus like half of Hama’s run) and X-Force (from when Nicieza takes over and on) hold up VERY well. Yeah, they seem dated now, but it’s dated in a fun, time-capsule-y, “man, remember how the 90s could be cool and different?” kind of way, the same way episodes of Seinfeld seem dated now but still hold up and are very fun to watch.

“McKelvie excels at fashion, style, and character design, which a book about young heroes (and a book that feels like the future!) should be all about. And we’re already getting that in spades from haircuts to clothing and jewelry choices…For Gillen’s part he’s got a great ear for the teenage voice. It feels fresh and young without feeling forced…”
Like anything else that uses “trendy” clothing/jewelry and slang, it’ll be passe within a couple of years, and looked upon as a cultural artifact by future fans.
Look at the “mod” stories DC did back in the 1960s (especially the Teen Titans!
They were “groovy”, dude! ;-)
Or the 1970s TV series SPACE: 1999, with polyester bell-bottom-wearing astronauts!

Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it!

Not interested in an all white cast. Maybe he tried to make it more diverse, but without actual results, I’m not buying!

@ Cich

Completely agree. Continuing to create comics without acknowledging the current world around us isn’t going to help this medium in the least and neither is continuing write and pencil for an aging and continually shrinking readership that refuses to acknowledge change.

Heh……I’m remembering hipster Thing and Johnny Storm wearing Beatles Wigs.

I enjoyed the issue. My only problem is that it reads too much like it’s TRYING to be cool.

“The track record for Spider-Man sings a chorus to this with Ultimate Spider-Man being just ONE title in this group. The 616 Spider-Man change may not be racially-driven but it’s a stupid move nonetheless. Who identifies with Super-villain-turned-Super-hero? This is a neat What If? story, not a Direction for the book.”

Fans of the Scarlet Witch, Quicksliver, Magneto, Hawkguy, Black Widow, Winter Soldier and Emma Frost might disagree with this.

My two C-bills. “I have a dream. A dream where one day books will be judged on the content of their story and art, not the colouration of their characters.”

@ Iron Maiden

…and those issues were AWESOME!

@Anonymous: I agree there were many good issues in both X-Force and Generation X, but were either series “great” or “the future of comics” which is the claim of the initial artical about YA. Let’s face it, outside of those of us who were kids in the 90’s and Peter David, when was the last time anyone cared or even mentioned a member of X-Force (who was not also an original New Mutant) or Generation X (other than Jubilee who got her fame in X-Men)? In terms of dialogue, characterization (and design), and art style, those books encapsulated a moment in time, but it’s hard to call them “the future” when they haven’t had much of a lasting impact on the form.

Granted, this is only the first issue and it could take off, but right now, I think it’s a little premature to call it anything beyond an interesting first step.

Will E. Dynamite

February 1, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Sorry,but I disagree.In fact,I’m 1 of the seeming minority that isn’t head over heels with this book.It just seems like it’s trying a little too hard to say “Look at me!I’m cool & relevant!”. The homosexual kiss that everyone keeps trying to saying they didn’t make a nig deal of?Look at it again in terms of pacing: a whole page for what really could have been done in 2 panels.It was an everyday kiss between a couple in an discussion.Trying too hard can ruin the intent to make it seem like just another moment.On the characterization front of Noh-Varr & Kate Bishop it just grabbed 2 cool characters w/out really looking at their backstories.Remember,Kate is the victim of either a sexual assault or near sexually assault,which is what prompted her study of weapons to begin with.It also undercut her & Eli being able to be close,physically & emotionally.Yet,she just jumps in bed with Marvel Boy.And as for Noh-Varr himself?The continued castration of Morrison’s brilliantly original character marches on.He’s not even close to the same character.I can’t blame Gillen,though.Marvel’s lack of direction clusterhumped him a while ago.This would have worked way better with new characters. But I’ll wait & see how things grow.After all,it’s just issue 1.

Wow. I’m going to see if the comic shop will let me do an exchange because it appears I have the wrong Young Avengers. The story in my book is weak. Poor dialogue with offbeat pacing. Most of the story was taken up by a gay couple arguing and passionately kissing. Then there’s the parents that’s okay with their teenage son’s boyfriend living with them. Kid Loki was bullied out of nowhere by Miss America Chavez. The story wasn’t put together well at all. If these storylines are carrying over from previous stories, then I feel there should be references somewhere in the story to help those readers that are jumping in. I won’t get into all the politics of diversity. I’ll save that for my own blog. But I will end with this. The diversity issue has gone too far. Let’s get back to what comics is supposed to be; a great story with great art to go along with it.

@La Cracha: OK, from now on we’ll draw all superheroes as Asian folks. If diversity doesn’t matter, then it shouldn’t make a difference, right? Won’t effect sales at all. Because race doesn’t matter, right?

We’re all missing the big story here: Why can’t Gillen use Eli? Is he shelved because of Children’s Crusade, or is there something else in the works for him that we don’t know about yet? What are you cooking up Marvel?

Shoujo manga with spandex.

There’s an audience for it. Doesn’t mean it’s good.

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