Avengers: The Children’s Crusade

I now know exactly how Yahtzee Croshaw feels when he has a string of decent games for a while then finds a shitty one to tear apart like a starving lion ripping open a gazelle.

For weeks the comics I’ve read and reviewed have been, by and large, either really good or not bad enough to seriously mark down (Secret Seven notwithstanding). So finally I’m delighted to say I’ve now read the most feckless, rank, putrescent piece of vile Marvel frozen pus ever published since Chuck Austen’s run on X-Men.

Well, alright, it’s not that bad, but it’s not that good either, so I’ll meet it halfway. Maybe. A bit.

So, Children’s Crusade; for those of you unfamiliar with Marvel canon, there was an event in 2004 called Avengers Disassembled that resulted in the disbanding of the titular superhero team after resident mutant reality warper Scarlet Witch (who was kinda ugly, or at the very least not as hot as Ms Marvel) went batty and killed a bunch of people before being brought down by her own teammates. Following this was House of M, which featured the Witch creating a parallel world controlled by Magneto’s family (Magneto being her father) that was swiftly undone when the X-Men and the Avengers figured it out and attempted to stop her. With her (supposed) dying breath she uttered the phrase “No more mutants“, and with her reality warping abilities she depowered almost a million mutants and reduced the species to just over 200 people. It was considered a near-genocidal event that forever scarred the surviving X-Men and gave the team’s emo-panties leader Scott Summers – aka Cyclops – a permanent chip on his shoulder.

So it can be understood why he’d be opposed to the idea of rescue when everyone learns she’s not dead, but I seriously feel that when Scarlet Witch caused M-Day she also might’ve depowered Scott of his adulthood too, because for the entirety of the story he sounds and acts like a whiny teenager who’s cutting because his parents don’t understand him and just wants to go to the Goth Rock concert next week but they won’t give him pocket money because he forgot to do the lawns.

Sorry, got a little tangential. Point is, he’s a massive whingey prick here. So, same as always I guess.

The story starts off featuring the remaining members of the Young Avengers (a title I’ve not read before now, and for reasons I’ll outline later probably never will) discovering that Wanda the Witch (made way hotter by artist Jim Cheung) may still be alive, and that two of the team’s members – namely Wiccan and Speed – may be the resurrected souls of her dead children who didn’t really die but were absorbed by Mephisto but may have died from that…or something. That bit I’m still fuzzy on, but what isn’t fuzzy is that this story has an overload of one element in this odyssey through time and space to locate Scarlet Witch (who is now hot).

Angst.

Lots, and lots, and lots, of angst.

The fact that Allan Heinberg is proudly touted in the blurb as a former writer of The OC should’ve been the first warning sign, and the influences definitely show. I get that we’re dealing with teenage superheroes and that they won’t exactly have Oscar Wilde-level dialogue, but I’ve still seen plenty of teen-driven work with a script that doesn’t make every single character sound like they feel like cutting themselves with Wolverine’s claws between every angst-riddled fight. Wiccan in particular is quite guilty of jumping on the angst train, and it gets really annoying very quickly how often he’ll do something stupid, his boyfriend Hulkling will chew him out, and Wiccan will brood for a good ten or twenty pages while Dr Doom tries to marry Scarlet Witch or Captain America has another pissing contest with Cyclops. If this was ever made into a movie I’m positive Wiccan would be played either by Michael Cera or one of the gormless fuckskulls off The Vampire Diaries.

Apart from the story being Angst Central, the narrative also feels a bit schizophrenic at times. The initial goal of locating (hot) Wanda turns into Dr Doom becoming God, then Kang-to-be Iron Lad taking out his penis envy frustration on his former teammates and killing mainstays Vision and Stature. After about the halfway point there’s a sense that the story grabbed onto too many plots threads and tried to smoosh them all together haphazardly, and the fact that it was stretched over nearly two years of bimonthly issue releases makes me glad I didn’t read this thing whilst it was staggered out. In an interview with Newsarama, Heinberg stated that the script evolved quite a lot over the two year gestation period, and by Christ does it show – though not in a positive sense.

As well as that, some of the already-established characters are all over the place, with Captain America being the worst offender. At the start of the story, when faced with the possibility of Scarlet Witch still kicking, Cap immediately condemns her to death if they locate her and gets his crew into a fight with the Young Angstvengers just because Wiccan and Speed want to find their mum. Not only should Captain America not act like this, he should be actively trying to assist them – fair enough, she killed people and depowered mutants, but everyone knew she was unstable beforehand and yet no-one tried to help her. It’d be like sentencing a Tourette’s sufferer to death because they called you a faggot – they can’t help it.

Scarlet Witch (when she was not hot) had mental problems following the death/not-death of her sons, and the fact that Cap – being the most virtuous of any Marvel superhero out there – is the first person to order her death just flies in the face of everything he is about, not least of all because as far as I’m aware from two years of reading his title he’s all about finding the non-violent solution. He doesn’t suggest rehabilitation or even the bloody Negative Zone to try and make her better, it’s all just blood and violence from the get-go. This is then made worse by his complete reversal at the end of the story when he invites her back onto the team after Cyclops threatens – and nearly succeeds – to kill her. Erm, good to know you’re back to your proper characterisation Cap, but I’m pretty sure the sons you just told that you were going to kill their mother are probably going to clue her into that fact. If we get M-Day 2.0, I’m blaming you Allan Heinberg.

The ending felt a bit anticlimactic with the last little bitch-scuffle with Iron Lad, and the out-of-nowhere deaths of Vision and Stature I suppose were meant as big WHAM moments but just came off as a little cheap, especially since the latter had just been reunited with her formerly-deceased father. The final reconciliation between Wiccan and Hulkling was alright, and the end speech given by Cap about how the young team will always be considered Avengers sounded a little glurgy and cliche, but I suppose when it’s a teen book you’ve gotta give them something a bit less angsty to end on.

The dialogue is also a bit clunky and basic, and the quips that most of the younger characters – especially Wiccan and Speed – came across as flat and very The OC in nature. There aren’t any particularly memorable lines apart from a funny exchange between Emma Frost and the Young Avengers and a few one-liners that resident hottie Hawkeye (that is the female one – Hawkette, Hawk-Girl…whatever you call her. The one with boobs) delivers on a regular basis from behind those gorgeous purple-tinted sunglasses.

The one area that I can absolutely give full marks to is the artwork; I’m not familiar with Jim Cheung’s art before this, but I’ll be hunting it out afterwards. Not only does Cheung succeed in making Scarlet Witch actually look hot – rather than a hooker with a giant shaggy dog on her dead – by giving her curves and a sweet outfit with good colour levels, he also manages to give a rich and detailed tapestry of colour to every scene that few other artists I’ve seen have been able to capture. He very much puts me in mind of artists like Olivier Coipel and Andy Kubert in terms of the detailing and rich vibrancy of the palette of the story. I suppose if I have to suffer through Wiccan leading his Angst brigade it’s made more bearable with gorgeous artwork.

Seriously, check out that art. That’s how it looks throughout the entire book. Magic stuff. (fyi, Scarlet Witch is center right – HOT)

The main reason I picked this story up was it was named as required reading before the summer blockbuster of Avengers Vs X-Men, and I can see why; there’s definite foreshadowing towards the eventual conflict between Cap and Cyclops, and Scarlet Witch is meant to play a large part in what goes down. But as a book on its own, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade doesn’t do all that much for me. It’s not Cry for Justice level in terms of its weak points, but it’s definitely not the strongest Avengers book I’ve read.

But it’s worth it in the end, because did I mention that Scarlet Witch is HOT now?

STORY: 2/5
ARTWORK: 5/5
DIALOGUE: 2.5/5

OVERALL: 9.5/15

BEST QUOTE: “Doctor Doom is the least of your problems, because now you’ve upset Emma Frost. And yes, the fact that I’m angry enough to be talking about myself in the third person should terrify you.” – Emma Frost

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