"Young Avengers" #1 is one of those books. A book where you're aware while reading it that you are experiencing something truly special. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have delivered an incredibly satisfying, innovative and touching first issue that will leave readers absolutely pumped for this debut series.
This book is so good, it's honestly hard to review it -- to break down what is so right about it. "Young Avengers" #1 is like a perfectly executed symphony with all the elements working in sublime concert with one another. The issue is so much a sum of its parts that it's difficult (and almost unappealing) to examine each of those elements and why they work, but here I go.
Gillen has a deft and experienced hand with these characters. He's a great writer to begin with and he did very well with the young cast of "Generation Hope." Judging by his work with "Young Avengers," it's clear that was no fluke. He has a great ear for youth -- that perfect balance between the characters feeling young and authentic without the strain of trying too hard. There's no stodgy conservative feeling that I sometimes get when adults write young characters -- like they're trying to be hip, but without actually riling anyone up. Gillen is happy to rile, whether it be in the form of Kate Bishop sleeping with a guy and not being sure she knows his name or simply showing a loving gay relationship between two teens that includes actual physical affection, and it's much appreciated. Every character gets solid page time and readers old and new get a good grasp of the cast under Gillen's pen. His love for these characters just radiates from the pages. It's not all just good character work (though I wouldn't have minded that) -- Gillen also does a good job of setting up a very clear and interesting plot which raises the stakes nicely on the whole book.
McKelvie (with an able assist from Mike Norton) is obviously equally at home on this kind of book, and readers reap the awesome rewards of his comfortable style. Gillen and McKelvie clearly speak the same language as evident from their previous collaboration on great indie books like "Phonogram." The "Generation Hope" books by Gillen and McKelvie were the best in the series, so it's great to see them bring back that same enthusiasm, talent and collaborative skill to a big mainstream book. McKelvie's character design is wonderfully simple, but well considered and smart. His page layouts are innovative and beautiful. There's a sheer joy of storytelling, character and the superhero genre in general that is absolutely infectious. McKelvie has a somewhat flat, simple style that can be deceptively hard for modern colorists to handle, but Matthew Wilson's colors are spot on. They're uncomplicated enough to fit McKelvie's work but deceptively complex when you consider the way he addresses a night scene and deals with light, shadows and superhero special effects.
There's such passion and even conviction in what Gillen and McKelvie are doing on this book. It's easy feel the love and care on these pages, which is something mainstream comics don't have nearly enough of. With books like "Young Avengers" leading the pack, Marvel NOW! is shaping up to be one hell of an interesting line.