Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Waiting for the Trade - Young Allies


Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 
Young Allies
by Sean McKeever, David Baldeon and Emma Rios
collects Young Allies #1-6, Age of Heroes #2 and Firestar one shot

 
Why I Bought This: Firestar and the Rikki Barnes Nomad are both favorites of mine and they are featured in this. Also McKeever wrote the Nomad: Girl Without A World series I previously reviewed as well as a Gravity digest I picked up for $3 and the quality of those two made me think this would be worth checking out.
 

The Plot: A group of young superheroes are drawn together by the actions of a new group of super-villains, who claim to be the children of some major baddies. Best of all they are calling themselves the Bastards of Evil.

Heavy spoilers follow after the break
 


Chapter 1 – Gravity is flying home from NYC to Wisconsin when he sees an explosion somewhere over Ohio. When he flies to investigate he meets Warhead, who looks identical to Radioactive Man. Warhead claims he is the latter’s son and is destroying things to get a reputation on the Internet. Gravity tries to keep his distance in the air but Radioactive Man just goes nuclear and kills a bunch of civilians. This prompts Gravity to drop a car door onto Warhead and pummel him into submission. After he gets home Gravity decides he will continue to be a hero, as he had been considering retiring since there are so many other heroes in New York.

Chapter 2 – Firestar stops a carjacking then meets up with Captain Marvel 2.0 (Monica Rambeau) in their civilian identities and confesses to being tired of the superhero gig. She reenrolls in college to pursue a Master’s Degree, and a few days later has breakfast with her dad as she discusses her recovery from breast cancer. Her dad has gotten engaged to the mother of a girl (Cassie) that tormented Angelica in high school and a formal dinner among the four of them ends with the two daughters arguing. A second encounter between the two goes even worse and ends with Firestar having to use her powers to stop Cassie from driving drunk. A subsequent late night talk sees the girls make peace. The next day Angelica confides in her dad how she feels she is not using her second chance at life the best she can. Her dad gives her a pep talk and the story ends with her joining Monica on a case.

Chapter 3 – We meet Benito (“Benny”) who was forcibly taken from his home in Colombia as a child by the military and forced to first become a child soldier and then later experimented on as a teen to give him superpowers. Next we see the six members of the Bastards of Evil in shadow plotting their big NYC debut for the next day. In NYC Nomad and Arana are fighting street crime as we catch up everything that happened to Arana in Grim Hunt: She lost her powers, was given Julia Carpenter’s old Spider Woman v2.0 costume when Julia became Madame Web v2.0, and was encouraged by Spider-man to take the Spider Girl name--although you think given his responsibility shtick he would encourage her to retire considering 1) that she lost her powers in that story and is now just normal teenage girl; and 2) that three other spider-powered heroes died in that story. Anyway Nomad (also a non-powered teen although she was at least trained by Captain America and SHIELD) is working with Arana on her acrobatic fighting skills as they have formed a partnership. In his civilian identity Gravity is debating his college friends about whether superheroes should be allowed to kill mass-murdering super-villains like Warhead. We cut across campus to see Angelica is taking her Masters classes at the same school Greg is pursuing his B.A. Finally we see Benito arrive at the Statue of Liberty. Action scene time as a building explodes and we see the five characters react to it and converge on the scene where Aftershock (daughter of Electro) is killing civilians at random. Firestar arrives first, followed by Nomad and Arana. The children of Pyro (Ember) and Grey Gargoyle (Mortar) even the odds for the villains and then Warhead shows up and attacks some cops. Gravity makes the save but the heroes are losing. When the son of Graviton (Singularity) shows up, he tosses Arana across the city but fortunately Benito morphs into a bull-man called Toro and saves her with a Hulk-style leap. Gravity puts down Warhead and engages Singularity in a stand off since they have the same powers. Gravity manages to defeat him too, but Warhead decides battling heroes is too “common” and with the news cameras having arrived he walks over to Ground Zero (from 9/11) and explodes.

Chapter 4 - The heroes are haunted by Warhead’s actions the next day as we learn Gravity contained most of the explosion so that no one except Warhead died (in the explosion; the Bastards killed plenty of civilians prior to the heroes’ arrival) but the property damage and symbolism have put the whole city on edge. Reed and the FF work on cleaning up the radiation while the young heroes vow to capture the Bastards. Also Nomad knows Benito from her home reality, which weirds this version out. Next we see the majority of the Bastards disapprove of Warhead’s actions last issue while Aftershock reports to a mysterious figure.  The heroes hit a lot of dead ends in the search but eventually Firestar and Gravity find Electro. Meanwhile across town the other three find Ember setting cars on fire and engage him. The heroes win easily but when Toro tries to kill Ember the girls stop him and that gives Ember time to escape. Electro meanwhile defeats Firestar and Gravity but because he too is appalled at what Warhead did, he shares some info: namely that he is not Aftershock’s father and offers proof in that she is older than when he got his powers so there is no way she inherited them from him. 

Chapter 5 – The Bastards decide their next mission is to kill Nomad and Arana. The girls (in their civilian identities as high school students) discuss Toro’s near murder last chapter. Cut to Toro, who in his civilian identity is able to take down a gang thanks to his military training but in thinking of the girls he decides against executing them. The girls get a lead on Aftershock, and we see the heroes communicate through email to meet up, but it ends up by a ruse by the Bastards so that Firestar and Gravity are across the city from the girls when the Bastards ambush them.

Chapter 6 – The non-powered girls were defeated off-panel and are now the hostages of the Bastards who intend to execute them live on the Internet. The girls share what they learned from Electro which causes dissension in the Bastards and give the girls time to free themselves. They don’t do much better in the second fight but buy themselves enough time for the other three heroes to arrive. This time the Allies take the villains down hard but just as they start to celebrate Nomad is attacked by the son of the Leader going by the name Superior.

Chapter 7 – Superior is younger than the others, age 10. He is a powerful telekinetic and he has the heroes helpless. He is also the only Bastard who may actually be related to a villain as we learn he created the other Bastards through brain-washing and radiation. Singularity doesn’t take this well and attacks Superior only to get literally ripped in half. The heroes free themselves and we get Gravity vs. Superior, Firestar vs. Aftershock and Nomad & Arana vs. Ember. The heroes win all three fights, and then turn the villains over to the New Avengers. Spider Woman convinces Arana to take the Spider Girl name. Superior vows to continue his work from his prison cell.

Chapter 8 – Firestar is approached by a Daily Bugle reporter who wants to know the name of her new team. Firestar insists there is no team. The reporter would still like to do a story on her being a breast cancer survivor. We then get a day in the life that ends with Emma Frost contacting Firestar telepathically. Emma invites her to join the X-men on Utopia but Angelica has very little interest in working with Emma again considering that as the White Queen Emma tried to brainwash Firestar into being an assassin back when Angelica was 14. Meanwhile Toro has moved in with Rikki. Firestar gives Gravity a pep talk then gets contacted by Emma again. Firestar runs into Rikki and shoots down the team idea. Emma makes another pitch to Angelica. This time Angelica shoots her down with a self-empowering speech. Angelica then agrees to do the Bugle interview. We end with the five heroes attending a memorial service at Ground Zero before they decide to go their separate ways.
 

Critical Thoughts: This was a really good series that unfortunately got cancelled before it got any further than one trade. Characterization was really strong among the heroes. It is probably not surprising that Gravity is written well since McKeever created the character but his use of Firestar is the best since Busiek used her in his legendary Avengers run. I was particularly impressed with how much of her prior continuity he used from her 1980s mini-series. He also continues to write Nomad well.

McKeever, Baldeon and Rios also choreograph some really good fight scenes from the first encounter to the Electro fight to the climax there is a lot of action here in which the tactics of the participants are easy to follow. The art in general is really strong throughout some of the splash pages and flying panels just look really good. My biggest kudo to the creators though is the cliffhangers are exceptionally effective. This is particularly true for chapter 3 where we get an event that is meant to be shocking and appalling and pulls it off to big effect. (And then the consequences are followed up in great detail in chapter 4).
 

Grade A. Overall if you want an idea of why this book is good, look at how long my chapter recaps are. This isn’t Bendis where you only get character beats if heroes sit around the table talking the entire issue. Here we have lots of little character/civilian moments interspersed with a steady flow of action scenes. Furthermore despite the large cast of heroes and new villains no one gets lost in the shuffle.

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