Spinning out of the “Avengers Disassembled” storyline, Young Avengers was a different type of comic than what Marvel was making back in 2005. The story about a group of young heroes who modeled themselves after the disbanded Avengers was full of hope and life, in large part due to the considerable talents of Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, who created the team and concept and worked on the initial 12 issues. After bouncing around the Marvel Universe for years, the team has returned to the stands in a new monthly series this year with a new creative team as part of the Marvel NOW initiative.
But before that, Heinberg and Cheung wrapped up their take on the Young Avengers by returning to the characters in 2010 in the pages of the Avengers: The Children’s Crusade miniseries. And what a return it was.
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade
Written by Allan Heinberg
Art by Jim Cheung
Cover by Jim Cheung
A big part of what made Young Avengers work was the fact that this was never really a team; they were an extended family. The book reminded me more than once of the great Marv Wolfman/George Perez New Teen Titans run and that same great feeling is on display on every page of The Children’s Crusade. Heinberg and Cheung really make you care about these characters and what happens to them. While the story may focus initially on Speed, Wiccan, and the quest for the Scarlet Witch, it eventually involves everyone (and I do mean everyone). The story will keep you on the edge of your seat, waiting with baited breath to see what happens next until the series comes to its heart-stopping conclusion.
The key to what makes Avengers: The Children’s Crusade work is Heinberg. He does something very similar to what DC writer Geoff Johns (Green Lantern, Justice League) does in his work in that he takes what he can use from Marvel history and spins an incredible story without being beholden to that history. Here Heinberg uses plot elements from “Avengers Disassembled,” “House of M,” “Secret Wars,” the Vision and Scarlet Witch miniseries, and about ten other stories and weaves them all together into a greater whole. Yet, you don’t need to have read any of those previous stories to thoroughly enjoy The Children’s Crusade. Also, his ear for dialogue is near perfect. The banter between the characters, the long moments of exposition–none of it feels forced or is an effort to read. The story moves at a steady pace and the plot is jam-packed, practically the exact opposite of decompressed storytelling. The end result is a book epic in scope, but not in page count.
Speaking of epic, that is the best word to describe the artwork of Jim Cheung. Avengers: The Children’s Crusade is full of single- and double-page spreads that will leave your jaw on the floor. The first appearance of Doctor Doom, when the X-Men arrive, the return of the Scarlet Witch–each of these moments is accompanied by a piece of artwork that will amaze and delight you. I knew that Cheung was good as far back as when he worked on CrossGen’s Scion title, and his art on the first volume of Young Avengers was better than a lot of what was coming out at the time. But this, this is just flat out stunning art that needs to be seen to be appreciated
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade was supposed to act as a kind of prologue to the big Avengers vs. X-Men event and does set certain plot points into motion, especially concerning the Scarlet Witch. More importantly, the book serves as a fitting ending to Heinberg and Cheung’s work with the Young Avengers. The baton has now been passed to a new creative team, but thanks to stories like “The Children’s Crusade,” I don’t think anyone will likely forget how the story began or how satisfying the end of this chapter of the Young Avengers story was.
It goes without saying; this book gets my highest recommendation. If possible, make sure you get the oversized hardcover so you can really soak in the Jim Cheung artwork. Regardless of how you choose to enjoy Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, this is a worthy addition to anyone’s Avengers collection.