I hate to say this, but with each new issue of "Avengers: The Children's Crusade" I'm growing increasingly convinced that the (incredibly) long wait for this mini-series was well worth it. Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung are reminding all of us that it was their talents working together that made "Young Avengers" so much fun, and we're getting a lot more of the same here.
Heinberg is continuing to keep the story moving forward at a brisk pace; with a bi-monthly schedule, that's a good thing. Each issue has a big plot development to keep readers interested, and this is a comic that shifts setting often but without feeling disorienting at the same time.
It helps that Heinberg is one of the few writers who can manage an exposition dump without making it feel unwieldy. After his last-page appearance in the previous issue, Heinberg catches old and new readers up on Iron Lad's history and motives, but it doesn't feel like a lecture, or something that's slowing down the story. Likewise, when the story hops settings, the new location (and its significance) is explained in a way that feels organic.
And as for that new setting? I have to give Heinberg and Cheung credit; explaining in synopsis or outline form, it sounds cringe-inducing, but the actual scene itself is tense and well-played. It's not just there for shock value either, but instead providing a turning point that is timed well for the halfway point of the series. It's nice to get Heinberg's little surprises throughout "Avengers: The Children's Crusade" and this is no exception.
Cheung's pencils continue to knock the book out of the park. Characters look young and energetic, and that huge two-page spread with thirty or so characters is still easy to follow rather than being a jumbled mess. More importantly, though, just look at the big confrontation between Wanda and the surprise character. It's not just the careful detail on the other character's outfit, and hair, and skin, although that's appreciated. But look at the expression on his face. That pleading look comes across with a strength of emotion that so many artists can't muster. Cheung's able to make his characters emote almost effortlessly, and it's part of what makes his collaborations with Heinberg end up as such engrossing comics; the characters look and act like they're genuinely alive.
This is a series steeped in "Avengers" and "Young Avengers" history, and despite only being a big fan of the latter I'm impressed with what Heinberg and Cheung are doing here. It's easy to follow, and more importantly, it's fun. Hopefully once it's over, we won't have to wait quite so long for another Heinberg and Cheung collaboration. Until then, though, I'm on board for what's to come.