It’s no secret that I normally prefer female protagonists over male protagonists. This isn’t a gender-biased decision on my part. Indeed, some of my favorite characters are men: The Doctor, James Bond, Batman, Spock, Michael Weston, just to name a few. Unfortunately, male characters outside the classics tend to be written as jackasses, and the writers appear to think that I’ll empathize with a jackass. Let me just say right here and now: You’re sadly mistaken. So imagine my surprise when Sean McKeever devotes nearly an entire issue of Youth in Revolt to a male hero and knocks it out of the park.
I only saw Hardball in Avengers Academy, but Sean McKeever lets me in on what makes him tick. He demonstrates Hardball’s leadership skills, as the youth and his team of Initiative heroes attempt to do the impossible: stop a hammer-wielding Juggernaut before he tears Las Vegas a new one. He gives me a taste of the character’s history. He displays Hardball’s immense power and his willingness to sacrifice everything to save lives. For me, that’s a winning combination. It’s largely McKeever’s characterization of a character that’s practically new to me that earns Youth in Revolt it’s perfect score. Afterall, there are far more hyped up books that “demand” I like a character — Spider-Man’s girlfriend d’jour for example — and fail miserably when presenting the case.
To be sure, Youth in Revolt offers the reader more. McKeever picks up the threads from the Thor-Girl/Cloud 9 subplot. It’s quite enjoyable to see Prodigy leave the spooks that tortured my favorite, Thor-Girl, last issue in the cold. However, he takes a mistep when ordering Thor-Girl to return to incarceration. Tried that. See what happened? As a result, this stirs some tension among the Initiatives, yet it’s genuine tension. The Liberteens hearts really aren’t in the capture of Thor-Girl and Cloud 9, both former comrades. So, they make an effort. They get defeated. They pick themselves up and do what heroes are supposed to do, protect the innocent, not battle amongst themselves. The Liberteens’ lip service reactions feels more authentic than the histrionics of Civil War, where heroes were out to kill each other.
With the addition of Mike Norton and Veronica Gardini, Youth in Revolt is a sure thing. Norton’s welcoming artwork gives resonance to each character through costume design and body language. Each hero looks the part, from Ms. America, the stars-and-stripes-clad girl leading the Liberteens to the star of the book Hardball. The costumes are derivative of the more recognizable heroes. For example, Hardball’s cowl is based on Batman’s cowl, subtracting the ears. Prodigy, Captain America. The colors of the stretchy-based 2-0 reflect those of the Elongated Man while Nonstop, the speedster, wears the red and blue of so many champions. These characters should be generic, but Norton, Gandini and McKeever make an effort to give these figures substance, and at the same time, they emphasize the stars’ even greater depth and dimension.
Ray Tate’s first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, “Spider Without a Web,” published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups. In the POBB, as it was affectionately known, Ray reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he’s young at heart. Of course, we all know better.