Most comic book companies made sure to ship the lion's share of their comics around December 18th to keep this week light for customers and retailers to perhaps cut back to spend time with their families for this Christmas week. The next week to end 2013 will be fairly light as well. Fortunately, I actually forgot a comic book from December 18th, which means it got picked up and read this week.
Book of the week (from last week): Young Avengers #14
Starting out a two issue arc, this is also the penultimate issue of this long awaited second volume of "Young Avengers" as an ongoing series. While its sales have slipped steadily since its debut in January, its end hasn't come due to an editors' cancellation notice, but writer Kieron Gillen stating that he feels he has come to an organic finale to his run on the franchise and he felt the sense to end on a high note. Marvel Comics have wisely chosen to honor this wish rather than stick on another writer and hope for the best; perhaps they learned the folly of this tactic when "Winter Soldier" sunk like a stone once Ed Brubaker left. The notion of keeping a comic book franchise in print for no other reason than it has been in print for X number of years is a new one in terms of historical fiction and often gets the "big two" in no end of problems. Considering Marvel once sat on a relaunch of "Thor" for some three years until finding a creator with a run worthy of reviving it (J. Michael Straczynski) caused sales to skyrocket with heightened demand, it is amazing how rarely the company seems to learn this lesson.
At any rate, this is actually the second issue of "Young Avengers" which shipped this month; the previous one kicked off December and resulted in the series' major climax. A space parasite which Billy Kaplan/Wiccan had accidentally summoned to their universe was finally defeated, and Loki's long term manipulation of the team of teens was finally revealed. However, this series has focused far more on emotional beats for its characters rather than the plot, as the plot was essentially an over the top metaphor of the "us vs. the adults" pressure which teenagers seem to feel as they come of age in every generation. To this end Wiccan and Hulkling solidified their relationship (despite the advances of ex-X-Men member Prodigy) while Noh-Varr and Kate Bishop have broken up, and former member Speed (Billy's oft neglected brother) was still missing.
The final arc of this series is aptly named, "Resolution", and if this series has done anything well, it has established Marvel's young heroes as being part of a community in a better manner than most other series tend to - especially since the cancellation of "Avengers Academy". The "Young Avengers" utilized social media to organize virtually every young hero who wasn't dead or busy in another book (such as "Avengers Arena") to aid in the massive battle for the previous two issues. Now the fight is over and its time to party; not just to celebrate the current triumph to save the world, but to celebrate being alive another year in a universe where young heroes are the ones who die and stay dead (while types like Capt. America, Wolverine, Thor, or Human Torch never do). Art for the issue is split between regular artist Jamie McKelvie and fill in artists Emma Viecelli ("Girl Comics", "Vampire Academy"), Christian Ward, and Annie Wu ("Batman Beyond Unlimited"). Each artist has a segment with a different set of characters whose style fits the tone.
Notable segments of this issue involve Wiccan, Hulkling, and Prodigy getting things straight with their relationship (or in the case of the latter, the lack thereof) as Miss America gives her own unique pep talk. Her own origins from another universe are also peeked at. Wu has the last (and best) segment where Marvel Boy and Kate get in some words about their ended relationship; most of the talking is done by Kate, and despite beginning as a random "hook up", she clearly is more hurt by it than Noh-Varr was. The end of the issue has Speed emerge from seeming randomness, and one hopes such a pivotal plot point will be embellished in the next (and last) issue. As always, it is fun to peek at all of the cameo appearances from characters such as Rockslide, Kid Gladiator, Pixie, Troll, or Lucy in the Sky.
To be blunt, this series has often been more about flash than substance. The plot is confusing at worst and simplistic at best, only ever serving as a motive to action and a metaphor to be expanded upon. Each issue usually is fun and has many notable moments, even if it is hard to remember much of it once the issues fade from memory - not unlike a party in itself. Yet it has often been full of imagination and utilized most of its characters well, along with doing heavy lifting in regards to creating a community of young Marvel heroes which barely existed before. Taking two issues to catch narrative breath and usher a series into a natural finish is a rare thing for Marvel Comics, but it is an appreciated exercise. 2014 will see the latest relaunch of "New Warriors" by Chris Yost which should offer more straight forward "teen superhero team comics", which after this series' run feels fresher than it did in years.