Recommendations: Young Avengers and Runaways
I wanted to do a Young Avengers Recommendation post in light of the upcoming film version of The Avengers, but I feared that it would be a tough recommendation due to how much knowledge of the then-state of the Marvel Universe required to understand the story. The series is great, but it doesn’t make sense without knowledge of the “Avengers Disassembled” story that had happened a few months prior to the launch of Young Avengers. (Furthermore, some things the series refers to occur before Disassembled but play into Disassembled and Young Avengers.) So I decided to do a dual recommendation, along with Runaways, another great Marvel series about teenagers, and one that does not require much knowledge of the greater Marvel Universe.
Both series feature teenaged teams and thus take on “teenage issues” like peer pressure, awkwardness, and rebelliousness. Both series handle these issues very well, but their tones are very, very different. Young Avengers is a much more traditional superhero story, whereas Runaways focuses in on a very specific aspect of adolescence and the team can barely be called a team of superheroes.
Young Avengers began in the aftermath of a great disaster for the Avengers, in which one team member went insane, killed three team members, and resulted in a brief break-up of Marvel’s supergroup. While the Avengers were regrouping, a mysterious kid with armor similar to Iron Man’s began recruiting “the next generation” of the Avengers. Each new recruit is somehow tied to the old team, but not always in the way you originally think. The series examines the concept of family, feelings of acceptance, and addiction (including what can drive a person to addiction). The biggest problem, aside from it being heavily steeped in continuity, is that the series proper only consists of 12 issues and a special “secret origins” issue. The writer, Allan Heinberg, does a lot of TV writing and sadly never got back to continuing Young Avengers. The characters still play a role in the Marvel Universe, but as far as I know, a few of the big plotlines that were being set up have not been resolved.
Runaways could probably have been written outside of the Marvel Universe, at least during its initial 18-issue run. The series looks at the feelings of rebelliousness and alienation that many teenagers experience by posing the following question: What if you learned your parents were ruthless supervillains? When the kids in the series learn this about their parents, the decide that they need to be the ones to take them down. (The cops are on their parents’ payroll, so don’t ask why they don’t just go to the cops.) Throughout the series, the kids have to deal with trust issues towards adults (which eventually includes known superheroes like Spider-Man and Wolverine), lack of money, and finding a place to stay. The kids try to be heroic, but their raison d’etre is not to save people, it is to continue their own lives free from people who want to control them.