Writer: Zeb Wells
Artists: Stefano Caselli & Daniele Rudoni
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways possesses some inherent flaws…, besides the overwhelming number of syllables in the title, that is. It’s not writer Zeb Wells or artist Stefano Caselli’s fault that the premier issue seems substandard. Ideally, the first team-up of Marvel’s youngest superhero teams would be handled by their creators. Both series, Young Avengers and Runaways, have a unique style thanks to their respective artists that isn't quite captured by Caselli, and each character has a specific voice that isn’t quite captured by Wells. As a result, the first issue of this limited series is rather disappointing.
Now, that doesn’t mean YA/Runaways is a terrible book. Technically, it’s very well done. The dialogue fits the characters fairly accurately, and the art is adequate. It’s just surprisingly bland and boring on both the writing and artistic fronts. In fact, the entire book seems bogged down by a level of negativity uncharacteristic of both teams. Granted, that’s been the case for any book whose path has been crossed by Civil War, but these teams became famous for their witty dialogue and youthful enthusiasm, none of which is found here.
The Runaways have the added benefit of their own title being a few months behind the events of Civil War, so a few scenes seem out of place for that reason. Xavin’s “robophobia” seems to come out of nowhere, and Chase’s overall attitude and place on the team probably arise from the next few issues of Runaways. Still, Wells shoehorns in a few lines early on with the purpose of making the book accessible for new readers.
Fans have been clamoring – with good reason – for a Runaways/Young Avengers crossover. Unfortunately, as with most team-ups that begin with misunderstandings and result in joining forces, the first meeting feels forced. Asgardian locates the Runaways far too easily, and the Young Avengers are quick to defy Captain America's orders. Other parts of the plot are ridiculous, as well. S.H.I.E.L.D. agents patrol a farmer’s market in Los Angeles of all places, and a few of them seem to be caricatures of themselves. One “capekiller” laments the fact that they can’t use lethal force against a group of kids, another case of the pro-registration side being portrayed as over-the-top villains. On the plus side, and to Wells’s credit, one S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is briefly humanized in a way we haven’t seen yet in Civil War. And the Vision’s relationship with Victor, which likely makes little sense to those who don’t follow both books, should nevertheless prove interesting as the story unfolds.
Besides the “learning curve” necessary for adjusting to the Runaways drawn by someone with a vastly different style than Adrian Alphona, the art suffers from some muddy colors that keep the book from looking crisp and exciting. The coloring diminishes the strengths of the pencils, which really do fit the characters well with the exception of the faces that make the kids appear to be much older than they really are.
If you go into Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways (or NAMBLA, for all the Daily Show fans) expecting the same level of quality found in Brian K. Vaughan and Allan Heinberg’s respective series, you’ll be disappointed. But with the set-up out of the way, Wells now has the opportunity to explore the compelling similarities and differences between the two teams. It’s just too bad their first team-up comes in such a downtrodden time in the midst of Civil War and immediately following the death of Gert. It may not seem fair to blame the book for what it isn’t rather than what it is, but fans of both books will likely find issue #1 lacking the charm or excitement they might expect. Considering the subject matter and recent events in Runaways, Wells isn’t at fault for the overwhelming sense of negativity; I’m just not convinced that Civil War is a good setting for this crossover or for these teams.
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