Current Reviews


Young Avengers Presents #4

Posted: Tuesday, April 22, 2008
By: David Wallace

Paul Cornell
Mark Brooks (p), Jaime Mendoza (i), Christina Strain (colours)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Young Avengers Presents #4 arrives in stores tomorrow, April 23.

"The Vision"

This fourth issue of Young Avengers Presents might be titled "The Vision," but it's really a story about two characters, concentrating as it does on the relationship between the new Vision and Cassie Lang, a.k.a. "Stature." On the surface, it's a fairly derivative vignette about an android trying to come to terms with his own humanity and emotions, but the execution makes it more entertaining than it might have been, via some casual wit and original insight from writer Paul Cornell and some strong visuals from artist Mark Brooks.

The majority of the issue sees the two characters discuss their feelings for each other and their opposing opinions on the issue of superhero registration, as the Vision grapples with the question of how to define consciousness and humanity, and whether he can truly be considered an individual being. Despite these latter ideas being fairly well-worn staples of android characters in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, these sections are not as clunky or derivative as you might expect, as Cornell manages to find some moments of originality in his approach to such a familiar discussion. I particularly enjoyed the sections which see Stature question whether the Vision is truly capable of independent thought, or whether he is merely a reflection of his external influences--and if so, whether that prevents him from being considered any less human than anyone else.

Cornell writes the characters fairly well, too: there's a convincingly youthful uncertainty to the way that they speak, and it's juxtaposed with an amusing couple of pages which see Cassie over-compensate for her lack of confidence with a bombastic monologue about the weaknesses of the anti-registration argument, oblivious to the fact that she's completely missed the point that the Vision was trying to make. The writer also contrives a fun variation on the old standard of two characters being handcuffed together as they try to escape their enemies, giving the fight sequence in the second half of the issue a visual appeal which goes beyond bog-standard superhero theatrics. I also enjoyed the manner in which Cornell made use of some neat sci-fi ideas without ever over-explaining them or making them feel shoehorned into the story (such as the explanation of the Vision's camouflage abilities).

Finally, Cornell pulls off the sometimes-difficult balancing act of rooting his story in current continuity without letting those elements overwhelm the central story. He includes references to the post-Civil War landscape of the Marvel Universe that don't feel gratuitous but which ground the characters in a wider context which informs some of their discussion. Those who haven't read the original Young Avengers series might find the references to the events of that book a little confusing, but Cornell makes the characters' shared backstory reasonably clear without wasting too much time by spelling out the complicated history of the current incarnation of the Vision in unnecessary detail.

Mark Brooks provides clean, clear artwork for the book, giving the pages a welcome sense of energy and dynamism even during the more static talking-heads sequences. I can still detect a fairly heavy Mark Bagley influence in his work, but that's no bad thing when it comes to teenage superhero comics (as readers of Ultimate Spider-Man will attest). His panel-to-panel storytelling is strong; I loved the two-page sequence which sees Cassie embark on a diatribe which is punctuated by some amusing goings-on in the backgrounds of the panels, and he makes sure to give the key moments of the story the focus of attention that they deserve (such as the penultimate page, which I found curiously reminiscent of one of Brooks' images from the first Ultimate Spider-Man Annual). There's the occasional moment in which the storytelling is unclear, but by and large this is a solid job, with a clean finish provided by Jaime Mendoza's inking and some effective and sometimes delicate colouring effects from Christina Strain (which are particularly evident on the page which depicts the Vision's trip around world, or the subtle blush that we see applied to Cassie's face on the final page).

In the end, though, despite this being a fairly enjoyable story with decent artwork, there's a sense that it's weakened by the limitations of the miniseries' concept. Story ideas that might have made for satisfying character-based subplots of an ongoing Young Avengers series have been divided up into separate character-oriented one-shot issues, which add some reasonably interesting extra dimensions to the characters involved, but which simply aren't very successful in terms of providing a compelling story. Yet again, the bad guys of this issue are generic goons who only exist to give the characters somebody to punch, and there isn't any strong superhero conflict or crime-fighting drama to go along with the solid character work that Cornell provides here. The impression is that Young Avengers Presents is simply treading water whilst readers wait for the main series to return, and that's a shame, because I think that Marvel are going to risk a loss of interest in the characters if they can't actually come up with a decent direction for the team.

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