Zeb Wells’ Civil Wars: Young Avengers & Runaways

wells-civil warMarvel’s crossover series, Civil Wars, has offered up at least one gem: the Young Avengers & Ruanways volume.

The U.S. has passed the Superhuman Registration Act, the end result of the high-profile conflicts between various superheroes and supervillains. Superhumans, no matter which side of the moral divide they operate on, are the bad guys, thanks to demagogues and opportunistic politicians. The superhuman community is divided, with Iron Man announcing his support for the Act on national TV while Captain America is leading the underground resistance. The Runaways, teenage children of the villains who formerly composed the Pride, which operated out of Los Angeles, have rejected their parents’ activities, but wind up on the run after saving a couple of cops from Flag Smasher. They escape, but Victor Mancha, hybrid son of the robot Ultron and a human mother, is badly injured. The Young Avengers, seeing the news reports, defy Captain America’s orders and head to LA to help. Things are complicated by the intervention of the Kree Noh-Varr, who has been brainwashed into becoming the slave of the Warden, director of an “ultimate security” detention facility, the Cube. (“Ultimate security” means that it doesn’t officially exist at all.)

Zeb Wells’ script for this volume is a good one, tight and clean, with dialogue that sparkles: there is serious stuff going down, complicated by the deep distrust of the Runaways toward the Young Avengers, and dialogue is pretty snappy in places. There’s a little bit of hormonal diplomacy going on here that helps resolve that distrust, though: these are teenagers, and no one on either team is unattractive.

The prize goes to Stefano Caselli’s drawing, though, and its perfect synergy with Daniele Rudoni’s color. Wow! And again, Wow! Caselli takes comic realism to a new level: facial expressions, in particular, are amazing, often broad, but equally often subtle — if you’re not paying attention, you’re going to miss some choice bits. That carries over to body language, too. And Caselli is another who breaks up the mechanical frame-follows-frame layout to good effect — the flow is not only clear but dynamic. Rudoni’s color is rich, modeled, and intuitive: even night scenes and dimly lighted interiors take on an overall color signature that establishes mood without compromising the naturalism of the figures. There is one sequence of Noh-Varr in action rendered completely in black, white, and electric blue that’s a total show-stopper. I would buy this for the drawing alone — in fact, I did.

This one’s good enough for me to follow up on the rest of the Civil War series.

Collects Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways #1-4.

(Marvel, 2007)


Robert M. Tilendis lives a deceptively quiet life. He has made money as a dishwasher, errand boy, legal librarian, arts administrator, shipping expert, free-lance writer and editor, and probably a few other things he’s tried very hard to forget about. He has also been a student of history, art, theater, psychology, ceramics, and dance. Through it all, he has been an artist and poet, just to provide a little stability in his life. Along about January of every year, he wonders why he still lives someplace as mundane as Chicago; it must be that he likes it there. You may e-mail him, but include a reference to Green Man Review so you don’t get deleted with the spam.

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