I'm coming to the rapid conclusion that "Dark Reign" isn't so much an event as a flag that sooner or later, Norman Osborn will make a guest appearance. If you look at it that way, "Dark Reign: Young Avengers" isn't that bad a tie-in to Marvel's latest stunt. And honestly, I'm actually glad that so far as I can tell, Paul Cornell seems to have not even tried to shoehorn his mini-series into somehow having Norman Osborn creating an evil version of the Young Avengers. The idea's so patently ludicrous that instead Cornell has gone for more of a, "new team forms in response to the atmosphere that Osborn's reign has created." It's a much more palatable idea, and it almost seems to work.
Unfortunately, the mini-series has some big rough spots that are hard to ignore. The Young Avengers, and Patriot in particular, seem a little too savvy to just expect they could offer membership to some of the other team but exclude the remaining members. It's such a naïve, unthinking act that it's hard to swallow as a reader. For that matter, their change in membership roster halfway through the issue seems equally clueless. The characters feel like they're playing stupid for the sole purpose of moving the mini-series towards next month's conclusion.
The biggest problem of all, though, is that ever since the original "Young Avengers" series came to a halt, the characters have been spinning their wheels while waiting for writer Allan Heinberg to return. Since then, several mini-series have rolled through with that problem; no one can progress as a character, and it all feels slightly pointless. So while "Dark Reign: Young Avengers" is entertaining, it's a safe assumption that when the dust settles, none of the rival Young Avengers team will have joined our heroes. Everything's still being left in place for Heinberg's return, and it's unfair to both Cornell and the readers because nothing can happen.
I like Mark Brooks' pencils here; they remind me a lot of animation cels, with lots of smooth, rounded corners and colors that pop off the page. He's able to handle Cornell's script and all of its big and small moments well. When Enchantress first sees the Young Avengers' headquarters, the look of surprise on her face looks real. Best of all, when the Young Avengers help protect Hawkeye's secret identity (probably the best scene of the book), he's able to get action, surprise, and anger all packed into just a couple of pages.
"Dark Reign: Young Avengers" is fun enough, but it's hard to not feel like once again fans of "Young Avengers" are getting sent back off to the corner with a consolation prize. No matter how good a job Cornell and Brooks do, they're not allowed to break out of the barriers that were set up several years ago. Hopefully these characters will get out of story limbo before too long.