Avengers: The Children's Crusade
Avengers: The Children's Crusade #9
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Allan Heinberg
Penciller: Jim Cheung

After, what CBR tells me, something like seven years, Allan Heinberg's critically acclaimed run on Young Avengers comes to a close. It's hard to believe that it really was seven years ago, that Heinberg and Cheung took a book called Young Avengers and, almost overnight propelled it from being reviled by fans as a "Teen Titans ripoff, to fan favorite, must read status. But that's the power of great writing, great art, and a great hook: super powered fanboys. As you can probably tell, I myself share quite an affinity for this title, and due to that, as well as the fact that it took over a year and a half for this latest 9 issue volume to complete shipping, this book is very hard to review in a vacuum, but, I'm going to try.

The concluding chapter of Children's Crusade moves at a break neck speed. Even though the major battle wrapped up last issue, there are many, many dangling threads that need to be wrapped up, starting with the causality the team suffered during said battle. Two team mates find themselves at odds in the wake of this tragedy, and their actions leave the team mourning the loss of two friends, if not three. The rest of the issue focuses on the remaining Young Avengers trying to assess where to go from this low point, if they even can continue.

Allan Heinberg bit off quite a chunk of story with this limited series. In many ways it could be considered a prelude to Avengers vs. X-Men as various factions of Avengers and X-Men faced off over what should be done about the Scarlet Witch, with only the last minute appearance by a unifying foe to de-escalate the tension. Heinberg is also given the unenviable task of reintroducing the controversial, highly fan requested hot potato that is Scarlet Witch to the Marvel Universe, in just a handful of pages, as the stars of this book are still the Young Avengers themselves.

The story moves along at a rapid pace with Heinberg blowing through large chunks of story and plot developments in no more than a page or two at a time. This does give the impression that the first half of the story is a bit rushed, with so much happening it's hard for any of these monumental developments to fully land the emotional impact they should have. The second half of the issue, the part that is more narrowly focused on the remaining Young Avengers fares much better, as this heavily character driven sequence allows Heinberg to shine in the area he is best suited, knowing the voices of his creations.

There is no other word for Jim Cheung's art than gorgeous. Hands down he is currently one of my favorite artists in Marvel's employ, with his skill to balance emotion with action on par with the likes of Stuart Immonen and Jerome Opena. He segues from the action sequences to the quieter moments with ease. And boy does he deliver on the kiss that fans of these characters have been waiting so long to see. That moment alone, maybe more so than any other particular plot development delivers the closure and emotional catharsis that was necessary following such a bumpy ride for these characters that are now facing such an uncertain future.

From an objective, isolated standpoint, this issue was not perfect. But I don't think there was anyway it could have been, there was simply too much going on for a clean wrap up. That is not to absolve Heinberg, as he made is bed, plotting a story that was this intricate, merely saying that the issue suffers not due to a lack of craftsmanship on the parts of the writers, but due to the creators' excess of ambition.

As for the Young Avengers, I like that Heinberg didn't end the story as he has in the past. The future for what remains of this group really is uncertain, as the very meta narration towards issue's end emphasizes. No writer other than Heinberg has dealt with these characters in anything but a superficial way since he created them. Now that he is stepping away from them, probably forever, how will they fare? Where will they land? I have a feeling that the Young Avengers are going to disappear again for awhile, but at least now I feel they have turned a corner in their journey as heroes, and I have been left with a modicum of closure.

Grade: B

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