Despite being from the United Kingdom, author Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie tap into the deep well of Americana with Young Avengers #7. Following the kidnapping of Speed last issue, the book is divided into three acts. The first act begins with a group of Skrull-like aliens marveling at a spaceship modeled after a classic American muscle car. The Young Avengers then quickly become involved in a story that, while decidedly science fiction, is more American Graffiti than Star Trek. The second act takes the Young Avengers to a roadside diner for breakfast where the mutant Prodigy finds them. He tells them about Speed’s disappearance in the previous issue and pulls them into the mystery that drives this story arc. In the last act, the Young Avengers go to the scene of the kidnapping and begin their search for Speed through the multi-verse.
This issue provides as solid of an entry point to the series as last issue. By not starting with last issue’s cliffhanger, new readers are able to start the issue on equal footing with those that have read the series from the beginning. As the issue progresses, the Young Avengers find out about Speed’s disappearance through Prodigy, feeding new readers much needed exposition without feeling contrived. As with most comic books, a reader would be better off reading from the beginning of the story arc, but Gillen and McKelvie give readers an easy jumping on point with Young Avengers #7.
Author Kieron Gillen uses dialogue to quickly define the characters’ voices. Kid Loki and Kate provide quick wit throughout the issue. In one interaction, Marvel Boy, who plays a “fish out of water” character as a Kree on Earth, picks up on a Nina Simone joke from Kid Loki. He starts a fanboy diatribe about her before Kate pulls him back saying “It’s shush time again. Be pretty and silent.” Not only is the exchange humorous, but it is also inverts the comic gender norms. In many comic books, women have been used as what Kelly Sue Deconnick calls “sexy lamps”, objects in the book who are there to look nice and be quiet. Young Avengers doesn’t force the commentary and uses it to serves the purpose of humor.
Gender is not only way Gillen and McKelvie divert from the average comic. Young Avengers also has the best experimental panel work this side of Hawkeye. The series exists in a world of youth culture and social media, which McKelvie visually realizes by drawing on the layout and design of various social media outlets. In one sequence, three months of story are told through the use of social media pictures and comment threads involving the characters. In another sequence, McKelvie introduces Prodigy to the Young Avengers by using panels shaped like Prodigy’s head to create a rare comic book first person perspective. Most of the panel experimentation works well and serves the story, although old school readers with an aversion to social media may be turned off by its use as a storytelling device. Fortunately, it’s not overused, so readers shouldn’t take issue.
Unlike many team books, Gillen gives all the characters a chance to shine by focusing on the team’s interactions with each other as opposed to how they fight a villain. By keeping readers engaged through comedy instead of action, readers should find Young Avengers to be a fun read. Most of the comedy finds its mark and the aliens with the muscle car spaceship are a lighthearted addition to the Marvel cosmic universe. For some readers, the stakes of the book will be too low. Generally, the conflicts are personal and at times the relationships come off as overly driven by teenage angst. Readers inclined towards intricate comic book epics from the likes of Jonathan Hickman or Grant Morrison may want to look elsewhere, but Young Avengers will appeal to those seeking fun escapism and great craft.