Avengers: The Children’s Crusade was one of the most under-advertised events of 2010. This is a good thing for two reasons. One, the book was intended to be bi-monthly and was then subject to some severe schedule slippage such that it didn’t end until 2012. Two, you’d need a fairly deep understanding of the events of the Marvel Universe since 2004 to really understand it. That said, if you are a big Marvel fan, it’s fantastic.
Toward the end of the Young Avengers comic’s lamentably short run, it was implied that two members of the team, Billy Kaplan and Tommy Shepherd (or Wiccan and Speed respectively) , had the souls of the twin boys the Avenger the Scarlet Witch had created from nothing (as her husband was a robot, they were unable to have children). The Scarlet Witch is currently best known for all but undoing the mutant race with her reality warping powers in the “House of M” event of 2005 and hasn’t been seen since. As The Children’s Crusade opens, the Young Avengers are fighting the Sons of the Serpent, a group of terrorists. Billy sees one of the terrorists threatening his boyfriend Teddy (code name Hulkling) and manipulates reality to save him. This worries the Avengers, who know how dangerous he can be if left unchecked. They take Wiccan and Hulkling into “protective custody” to run tests. This displeases the rest of the team and they break the two out. Billy and Tommy’s grandfather comes to meet them and help them find their mother. (Hint, the Scarlet Witch’s father is also known as Magneto.) And thus the plot begins. The Young Avengers are running with one of the world’s biggest (but currently reformed) criminals, trying to find someone responsible for the undoing of an entire race before the Avengers do. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
The plot is faced paced, but each issue feels like it contains an entire story, complete with at least one plot twist per issue. This was good when the comic was coming out, due to the delays, but collected in one volume, it feels a bit disjointed. Nonetheless, it’s superbly written and changes the status quo of several Marvel characters in a big way. It also manages a fair bit of subtlety, highlighting the tension between the Avengers and the X-men, which is the cause of the current blockbuster event. It is a wonderfully written event with a massive cast of characters that manages not to feel cramped or rushed.
The art is beautiful and richly detailed. There’s a clear amount of effort put into every page. From the scenery in the background to the facial expressions on every character to the big, bombastic battles, every page is a joy to look at. Also, despite the massive cast, none of the crowd scenes feel crowded, which is quite an achievement.
While the book is complex, it’s only complex because of Marvel’s rich history. There’s plenty of violence, but it’s almost all big, flashy superhero battles, with nary any blood or gore. The only reason I can’t recommend this for all ages is because of character death toward the end. So, this book is suitable for ages ten and up. But be warned, this story’s ending is at best bittersweet.
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade
by Allan Heinberg
Art by Jim Cheung
Marvel Comics, 2012