“The Young Avengers return in an epic saga by series creators Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung. When Wiccan’s reality-altering powers begin to rival those of the Scarlet Witch, the young hero sets out on a quest to find her that spans the Marvel Universe and pits Wiccan against both the Avengers and the Young Avengers. But will Wiccan’s desire to solve the mystery of his parentage be his salvation or his undoing? With three words, the Scarlet Witch changed the world forever…and now with her return, nothing will ever be the same for the Marvel Universe.”
In spite of the fact that, at the time, I had another Young Avengers graphic novel on my desk, one that would have likely been better suited to serve as my official introduction to the group, I chose to dive in with The Children’s Crusade because I could not resist the lure of a single page of art and a handful of words. But as it turned out, this book and I, we got along just fine. It should be noted, however, that my enjoyment of it was derived in part from knowledge I brought with me. Namely, I was aware of the main series of events, which is mentioned in brief in the summary above, that triggered the conflict the Young Avengers find themselves embroiled in in this particular storyline, and knew – at least to some extent – all of the players on the board. Without that, I can’t say how well it would work – or even if it would at all – as a primer to this group of young superheroes.
So, yes, I knew that the Scarlet Witch unleashed…hell, for lack of a better word, and that the resulting ripples of disquiet and unease and outright antagonism touched most everyone within the superpowered community. The Children’s Crusade hints at the shattering effect that event had on the Avengers and X-Men, but this is very much the Young Avengers story, and as such the focus is on how the fledgling squad deals with the aftermath and infighting among their mentors. And even then, Wiccan is at the forefront of the story; it’s his determination to settle the question of his parentage once and for all that acts as a catalyst for the ultimate conflict that pits former allies against one another, as well as an exponentially stronger but well-known enemy.
(What I really meant to convey with that paragraph was: While Heinberg did an admirable job of recapping the events that led up to this, I was glad for the knowledge I brought to it, because I could see what was on the fringe of this story, and that led to a deeper emotional connection to everyone involved, including those I maybe didn’t know quite as well. Also: Both Civil War and Siege are mentioned in this title. I cut the part from the summary that claimed The Children’s Crusade was a “self-contained event” because, in my opinion, it relies on too much backstory for that to be entirely true.)
The next thing I should probably cover – as briefly as possible, which is proving rather harder than it should be – are the Young Avengers themselves. Several of them, after all, sunk their hooks in me: Billy Kaplan (Wiccan) because his voice drives the narrative, yes, but also because he’s sweet and unsure and his coming-of-age is accompanied by an immense amount of power he’s still learning to control; Teddy Altman (Hulkling) because his fierce loyalty to and love for Billy gave me that fluttery feeling; Tommy Sheperd (Speed) wasn’t quite what I expected, but his smartass, boderline self-absorbed personality won me over anyway; and…Okay, just about every one of them worked exceptionally well. (I don’t yet fully understand Eli (Patriot) or Kate (Hawkeye), but that will no doubt change as I continue with my Young Avengers reading.) Seeing as how I liked them as individuals, I couldn’t help but become invested in them as a team. They are wonderful advocates of each other and their friendship shines through, often in humorous exchanges like the one below:
To go into further detail would risk spoiling the story, so I’ll stop here. Suffice it to say, I was thoroughly taken in by The Children’s Crusade, and I will absolutely be seeking out any and all future (and older) Young Avengers titles.
*Screeches to a halt with the cursor over ‘publish’*
I didn’t mention the art! Quickly: It was great. I liked Cheung’s style, appreciated the consistency, and the fact that the Young Avengers actually looked young.
[Note: That page I mentioned in the first paragraph? I'd include it here, but it might be considered spoilerish. Ultimately, the aspect of the story it covers is also my favorite, and it hurts just a little to not gush about it, but...I won't. I'll just go...sit on my hands before my fingers can start typing without my conscious consent. But! If you don't mind being spoiled - or have an idea of what I'm referring to and just want it confirmed - click here.]