Graphic Novel Friday: Avengers: The Children's Crusade
When I began the newly published Avengers: The Children’s Crusade collection, I did not expect it to be one of the best superhero comics so far in 2012. For one, I’m not a huge Avengers fan. Yes, I’m thrilled at what I’ve seen so far of Joss Whedon’s directorial adaptation set to release in May, but the team (comprised of Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man) always seemed too goody-two-shoes for me. Secondly, Children’s Crusade stars what I thought to be glorified side-kicks, the Young Avengers.
Let me tell you, Omni readers: I was wrong.
Children’s Crusade turns the Young Avengers into a must-read team; it picks up long lost threads from Avengers Disassembled and House of M and resolves them with aplomb; it makes me care where the regular Avengers team goes from here; it features an extended guest appearance by X-Factor, still the best X-Men team on the stands; it turns Doctor Doom, often a one-note villain, into an at once sympathetic and hated character. The book does far more than this, but I cannot say too much more without spoiling all the great plots and subplots that writer Allan Heinberg (screenwriter for Gilmore Girls, among other notable television shows) effortlessly weaves to a satisfying close by the oversized hardcover’s end.
Here’s what I can say: it’s superhero nerdiness on a human scale. The Scarlet Witch, Magneto’s estranged daughter, finally surfaces after casting a spell in House of M that eradicated the majority of mutants. A power of that magnitude must be kept in check, and her former teammates on the Avengers seek to do damage control while the X-Men want to bring her to justice. Meanwhile, the Young Avengers (led by Wiccan, who just so happens to be the Scarlet Witch’s maybe-son) try to find her before either team. Then they all run into Doctor Doom.
If you remain unconvinced, I suggest reading it for the artwork. Jim Cheung is an artist whose work is usually limited to smaller scale projects due to his turnaround time, but here he crafts nine chapters full of multiple characters per panel, sweeping backgrounds, and believable emotions. Cheung’s style blends an eastern influence with western storytelling. It’s a fantastic pairing that allows for an emphasis on kinetic figure poses and facial features, while still maintaining traditional panel sequences and character designs. Colorist Justin Ponsor meticulously chronicles complex costumes and expansive and explosive settings. It’s gorgeous, and Marvel chose a larger-than-normal format to present it all. Am I gushing? How about a bonus chapter illustrated by none other than Alan Davis?
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade is swoon-worthy superheroism. It’s an event without all the unnecessary tie-ins or grim attitudes; a welcome change of pace in a genre that rarely deviates from the status quo. Its ramifications will ripple throughout Marvel’s 2012 titles, but its emotional impact is for once far greater than its continuity.