Gillen and McKelvie turn the “parents just don’t understand” cliche on its head as Billy (a.k.a. Wiccan) tries to pluck Teddy’s mother out of the timestream just before she was killed in an alien attack (see the original Young Avengers series by Heinberg and Cheung for that story.) What he brings back, Mother, looks and sounds like Teddy’s mother but it’s an impulsive mistake by a young man who doesn’t quite yet understand how his powers actually work. While Teddy and Billy are dealing with other-dimensional Mother creatures, Kate (a.k.a. Hawkeye) hooks up with Noh-varr for a one night stand and another Skrull invasion as Loki and Ms. America Chavez just butt heads over Kid Loki’s sheer Lokiness.
McKelvie, Mike Norton and Matt Wilson draw and color a comic that’s full of vibrant life. McKelvie and Wilson’s make each character have a life and personality that you can understand without ever even having to read a word that they’re saying. McKelvie can take these sometimes silly words that Gillen writes (Noh-varr’s “Come with me if you want to be awesome” is silly but actually kind of awesome) and he delivers images that convince you that the characters are really 100% committed to these words and lifestyles. Like he did in Phonogram: The Singles Club and his own Suburban Glamour (both also colored by Wilson,) McKelvie just captures the optimism of youth. These characters may be worn down by what they’ve done and what they’ve seen but McKelvie shows that they’ve still got life left in them.
While drawing a young adult drama, McKelvie and Norton wrap it up in a superhero adventure, using the pages in ways that are jaunty and exciting. Panels as prisons or juxtaposed as quick jump cuts throughout the comic keeps you as off balanced as the characters are. You never know what you’re going to see as you turn the pages. It may be an emotionally charged exchange between two characters or it may be a fight between the heroes and the hordes of mind controlled adults. McKelvie is a great artist for a teen drama that involves punching, archery and aliens.
Gillen gives each character a unique voice that accompanies the artistic beats of the story. He creates this honest push and pull between the characters as they play off of one another. You can whittle this cast down into couples, Teddy and Billy, Kate and Noh-Varr and even Loki and Miss America Chavez, and there’s engaging wordplay between the couples. Then you start to see the interplay expand as these groupings come together as an ensemble cast. Gillen has been developing this dialogue driven wordplay in Phonogram: The Singles Club and Journey Into Mystery but he uses it to drive the drama here in these characters who are too old to be the sidekicks anymore but not old enough yet to be the heroes.
Young Avengers V1: Style > Substance finds its characters somewhere between being kids and being adults. Being a superhero no longer has that excitement of being a new adventure but the responsibility of their powers haven’t set in yet for Gillen and McKelvie’s cast. They’re trapped between freedom and their parents. Those parents may happen to be possessed by an alien being who looks like Teddy’s mother but there’s still that feeling of rebellion against parents while there’s still that desire to cling to them. The original Young Avengers series was about teenagers’ hormonal rebellion. It was their turn to be the heroes. Gillen and McKelvie’s Young Avengers is about that post-teenage boredom, where the kids are looking for any hookup or adventure to fill the void caused by their teenage ennui.