1.12.11 Review (Singular)
Marvel Must Haves: Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #1 (Marvel): “The Search for The Scarlet Witch” collects the first three issues of this mini-series and it’s a bargain based on the price point comparison to the single issues. Each of the singles sold for a $3.99 cover price, which would total out at $12 plus tax. Here, we get the exact same content for $4.99, which is like, what, a 60% savings or something? The fourth issue also just recently came out, so it’s a great hook to get people into a series that’s still rolling. At first I thought I was just purchasing this in a desperation move because I wanted *something* to read this week, and it looked fun. But combine that savings with the fact that I like the characters, and I liked Allan Heinberg and Jimmy Cheung’s Young Avengers run, well, then it started to make a lot of sense and was a decision I could get behind. I’d also heard good things about this overlooked series, which combines a lot of Marvel U elements, including the loose crossover between the X-Men and Avengers, and the mutants that float back and forth between the two organizations.
The primary narrative thrust is about Wiccan and Speed, who both bear a resemblance to the Maximoff family, and their quest to find their (assumable) mom, Wanda Maximoff, aka: The Scarlet Witch. The book does a phenomenal job offering up a recap of the last few big events in the Marvel U, along with the Young Avengers’ role in them. It systematically introduces all of the characters, and throws in appearances from Magneto, Quicksilver, Doctor Doom, The Avengers, etc. It’s a whole lotta’ fun! Heinberg’s script balances a bunch of different plot points effectively, and only on rare occasion does it dip into exposition mode or feel like it’s too thick with characters monologuing their motivations or continually convincing someone else of a course of action simply to move the plot forward. For the most part, Heinberg’s script is swift and smart, even making some subtle but brave choices along the way. He includes a hate group referring to young homosexual hero Hulkling as a “sodomite” and then dives right into a clever gay rights debate. The action scenes are rousing, all of the characters showing off their powers organically, and he’s even able to take a couple jabs at the “Distinguished Competition” with some Flash and Shazam jokes. There’s action to be had and the story leans hard on talking heads and relationship building, but my favorite part was probably the notion of the Avengers wanting to mentor and groom Wiccan and the team for leadership roles as accepted heroes. Balance that with their desire to prove themselves and their fear/rejection/cynicism of the elder generation and there’s some interesting mechanics going on.
As good as the story is, it wouldn’t be much without Cheung's fantastic art. Every panel is crisp, clear, and dynamic, supported by the brilliant inks and colors of Mark Morales and Justin Ponsor. You can see such clarity of purpose in every stance, look of concern, or the glimmer in Cap’s shield or Ms. Marvel’s eyes. Jimmy Cheung’s pencils seem to have more life than John Romita, Jr., and more pop than guys like Mike Deodato or Ron Garney. For my money, he is “The” Marvel Artist. I can’t imagine a book I wouldn’t like to see him on. I may have found a new mini-series worth supporting. Grade A.