With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artist: Jim Cheung
Issues: Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #1-9
Avengers: Disassembled in 2004, followed by House of M in ’05, kicked off the modern Marvel era of story-telling. Big events, major character deaths (which were never permanent but hey), and years-long fallout and regime changes became the norm.
I dig it quite a bit, despite lots of missteps. But Avengers: The Children’s Crusade represents a lot of what annoys me with Marvel comics – time-travel, retcons, and do-overs that let them “fix” any formerly awesome scenes and situations that had years-long revelations. In this case, the sobering saga of the Scarlet Witch.
I’ll give credit to Marvel for at least not doing this story like a year or two after House of M. Instead we were treated to a whirlwind of cascading events, and the Scarlet Witch was mostly forgotten about, though her “No More Mutants” legacy forever altered the X-Men.
In this special nine-issue limited series that ran from 2010 to 2012, Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung brought Scarlet Witch back to the forefront using the Young Avengers.
Now I’ve never really read much Young Avengers. For whatever reason this particular team never really spoke to me, though I’ve enjoyed other YA, teen superhero teams in the past (see: New X-Men, Avengers Academy, Generation Hope). These guys really felt like dorky knock-offs of their adult versions.
The Children’s Crusade posits that there may actually be a reason for at least two of them to share similarities – the speedster and the mage both realize they’re identical twins, and may just be the reincarnated sons of The Scarlet Witch and Vision. Losing those kids is what made her insane in the first place during Avengers: Disassembled, so Wiccan and Speed decide to seek her out.
You can’t even mention the name Scarlet Witch without alerting pretty much everyone on Earth. The Children’s Crusade brings in no less than both Avengers teams, most of the X-Men, and even X-Factor. That’s a lot of people to keep track of. Though the comic tries to focus on the POV of our young teen heroes, the characters get a bit lost when everyone meets up and fight each other, cause that’s what superheroes do.
Before that, the comic had some fun potential. Magneto, father of Wanda and Pietro, and possible grandfather to Wiccan and Speed, finds the kids and offers to help them. I was 100% on board with the adventures of grandpa Magneto and his teen squad.
They travel to Transia, the fictional Eastern European country where Wanda was last seen (amnesiac and shagging Hawkeye, I believe). They quickly (too quickly) discover that Wanda is about to marry Doctor Doom. That sounds stupid, and it very much is.
The Avengers and X-Men all show up and fight each other over what to do with The Scarlet Witch. What should be an important, heated debate over the ethics of very dangerously powered individuals devolved into an immature slug-fest. It’s here the story really loses cohesion, as it just turns into an excuse to show off all these various heroes fighting each other.
Jim Cheung’s art is very comic book-y and works pretty well here. Bright, dynamic poses fill every page – though character faces tend to all look the same. His women characters particularly all suffer from the Disney effect.
The Young Avengers are still given the primary focus, especially young gay spellcaster Wiccan. His relationship with fellow Young Avenger (and half-Kree, half Skrull) Hulking is sweet, tender, and supportive. It’s not the first homosexual relationship in Marvel comics. But in this limited run at least, it’s refreshingly drama-free and positive. Gay couples are a rare sight, and often the relationship is fraught with tragedy.
Iron Lad, apparently the young version of Kang the Conqueror, shows up and transports the Young Avengers, along with Scarlet Witch, back to the fateful day depicted in Avengers: Disassembled. Many Avengers were killed that day, including Stature’s dad Ant-Man. Of course here they manage to save Scott Lang, restore Wanda’s memories, and transport back to the present.
There Wanda vows to restore all the mutant powers, starting with X-Factor’s Rictor. It works, huzzah! She, Doom, and Wiccan decide to pool their magical resources to restore every mutant around the world, but Patriot decides that’s a bad idea.
He’s technically right – I’m sure many ex-mutants are way happier now, but his execution to stop it is god-awful. He attacks the spellcasters, which results in Dr. Doom receiving the “life force” that helped power up Wanda, but also eventually drove her insane in the first place.
So in the end it all comes down to everyone teaming up to defeat a powered up Dr. Doom. Normally I adore the good Doctor as one of my favorite villains, but here he’s just lame and predictable. Ultimately he’s defeated by Wanda and Wiccan using magic to overload his systems, or something.
Talk about your retcons. This whole story began to feel like a large brush designed to fix much of what Avengers: Disassembled and House of M laid out.
But it didn’t need fixing! I get bringing back Scarlet Witch and making her relevant again. But involving time-travel mumbo-jumbo and life force crap, it just completely loses me. And the arrival of so many other Marvel heroes to fight each other just detracted from the Wiccan’s story.
I also found the death at the end horribly egregious. Stature, Cassie Lang, gives her life to help defeat Super Doom. She had just brought her dad back to life and now this.
It’s absolutely devastating, and also dumb since Marvel literally just showed us that death is indeed meaningless in the Marvel Universe. You can’t have it both ways, guys! Also, Stature was a way more interesting character than Scott. Blah.
I was really annoyed with The Children’s Crusade. Ironically it did make me like the Young Avengers team, and Wanda herself was decently written. The frequent two-page spreads of battle scenes are also jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
But everything else was a mess. At one point Wiccan actually lectures Cyclops on how to deal with Wanda. What! Avengers: The Children’s Crusade is an incredibly relevant and important story that bridges those past events into the mega event of 2012, Avengers vs X-Men. I just which it told a better story.