In "Young Avengers" #10, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie switch tracks to focus on the book's less-than-savory characters. With their release dates positioned so close together, Gillen and McKelvie's villain-centric issue begs comparison to DC's Villain's Month, which it easily surpasses in quality without really even competing. Gillen -- with his usual wit and many meta winks -- continues his superb "Young Avengers" arc in this latest installment through his multilayered approach to storytelling, with Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton's striking art carrying the book to new heights in its gorgeous landscapes and genuine facial expressions.
In classic Gillen fashion, the issue absolutely disregards the fourth wall for an overtly-meta reading. While this technique is nothing new for Gillen, its usage is particularly effective for this specific story arc, in that it hints at a kind of danger that addresses both the main characters and the reader directly. The Young Avengers' travels through the multiverse have brought them to all kinds of worlds, up to and including our own, as it is hinted on a title page earlier in the series. Thus, to have an issue where even the (not so) omniscient narrator isn't safe from Mother opens the issue to involvement with the reader on an even more personal level than any before. This way, Gillen realizes Mother as a villain that exists to be as much a threat to the reader as the protagonists. What's more, Mother isn't the only character to utilize this meta device; Loki -- whose insidiousness reaches an all-time high in this issue -- looks directly out at the reader in a scene that parallels "Siege: Loki," implying that Mother isn't the only one who's watching back.
Additionally, the issue provides insight on multiple villains without rushing the plot or trying to squeeze in all of the information. Gillen drops revelations throughout the issue that speed the plot along, focusing on Mother, Loki, and Leah's circle of evil exes. The last group, in particular, fleshes out a personal threat for each individual character in just a few short pages, considering that each character created their own nemesis through his or her own mistakes. Though the issue prompts as many questions as it answers, Gillen makes each development feel fast-paced and exciting through his witty dialogue and fascinating characters, both new and old.
McKelvie and Norton enrich Gillen's storytelling through their stunning, deliberate style. Mother steals the spotlight once more as McKelvie and Norton navigate her character in way as multilayered as the story itself; after Mother devours the narrator, McKelvie and Norton meticulously include her ink-stained mouth in each ensuing panel. This inclusion provides a great dichotic device for the character, pitting her human form and her regal expression against the beast-like consequence of her actions. This choice and its careful execution build upon Gillen's plot and enhance the characters' personalities.
In addition to providing such scope to characters like Mother, McKelvie and Norton do wonderful work with character expressions. These expressions -- as well as stances and body language -- bring great fluidity to the issue, as they are various and diverse; Loki, in particular, has a great range and his movements are a pleasure to observe. Likewise, the background of Mother's universe reflects the stark, consuming nature of her personality. In both this stark dimension and otherwise, Matthew Wilson's colors pop off the page. McKelvie, Norton, and Wilson tie the issue together wonderfully in a way that adds depth to the story.
Gillen, McKelvie and Norton have struck gold with this issue. Aside from a few discrepancies, "Young Avengers" sets a new bar for comic book writing with its smart storytelling and profound art. If you didn't care for the issue, I'd keep it to yourself; after all, Loki's watching.