A book that’s called Young Avengers, vol. 1: Sidekicks sounds like a book that is shamelessly trying to ride the coattails of the famous super team that faced menaces that no single hero could fight. These Young Avengers even had the apparent gall to model themselves after some of the original Avengers such as Captain America and Iron Man. But Sidekicks features heroes that are more than just Avengers Lite. Allan Heinberg, a writer for the Fox show “The OC” and no stranger to writing teen drama, has created new heroes who are paying homage and rebelling against their namesakes at the same time.
The book starts after the Avengers Disassembled storyline that literally decimates their latest roster and even leaves their famous mansion in ruins. That’s when a new superteam shows up, a team that includes a super-strong green monster and a lightning-casting boy who dresses like he just stepped off a Viking longboat. Heinberg gives two points of view: he shows the new team making rookie mistakes and learning to coexist while also showing Captain America and other heroes who are trying to stop the kids from getting hurt or worse. Naturally, the new heroes rebel and end up the only ones that can stop time and reality from unraveling due to one of their teammates’ actions.
What could have been an obvious attempt to bilk money from fans needing an Avengers fix has become a story about teenagers struggling to find out their place in the world, even if it means going against authority figures like their parents and Captain America. Characters like the angry young man Patriot and seemingly spoiled rich kid Kate Bishop should resonate with readers from different walks of life. The dialogue is crisp and witty, almost too witty to come from teenagers, but it works in establishing that these are teens who are fighting other outside forces (such as the fear of disappointing parents, the fear of not living up to the Avenger’s legacy, and the fear of what they’ll become) that don’t involve time-traveling despots or the imminent collapse of the time stream. The penciling and layout by Jim Cheung is just right; not too flashy, but showing enough emotion and drama that readers are able to follow the story. While Young Avengers, vol. 1: Sidekicks doesn’t have the wit and pathos of Brian Michael Bendis’ work on Ultimate Spider-Man, it’s a solid entry into comics written with teenagers in mind. It shows teenagers having to get along with peers, to go against the majority, and to make hard decisions that don’t always lead to happy endings for all: in other words, it’s about growing up.