Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Young Avengers #12 and Afterlife With Archie #2: Kids in Costumes Have it Hard

Archie isn't so wholesome in this Tim Seeley variant.

It's was a busy Wednesday for young people in peril! Both Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's Young Avengers #12 and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla's Afterlife With Archie #2 came out today. AWA 2 had actually sold out on the shelves by the time I got to the comics shop at 1:30, but a kind clerk found me a variant behind the register. Hero.

Let's start with YA 12...

...cause Leah wants to finish this hand.
What happened:

With the adults still under Mother's control, the Young Avengers have no choice but to go forward with David's plan of attacking the parasite and her army using every teenesque Marvel character he could scrounge up. The league of evil exes know of this plan, and are pretty sure it ain't no thing, but also aren't going into battle unprepared. Leah and Fake Patriot examine tarot cards while maintaining excellent posture, and Oubliette gets a killer poison manicure.

Our team, on the other hand, is not totally, completely confident in this endeavor. Noh-Varr and Kate fret (Noh-Varr while glancing at selfies of Oubliette), Loki does some literal-and-otherwise handholding with Billy, and David is coolly pragmatic and not optimistic.

"Only together can we survive this chick's shitty iPhone photos."

Once again we're reminded that Loki and America both know something about Billy that neither he nor we know. We also go back to the storytelling themes Gillen explored in Journey Into Mystery. "He can't die," says Loki. "This story has a happier ending than that." "His story," America reminds him.

Girl, you're in a Gillen book.

And then...the battle begins! The army of Marvel bit characters fights the other dimensional army, hoping that maybe, just maybe, they'll get picked up for a future Young Avengers story. Meanwhile, our heroes take on Mother and the exes, giving McKelvie another excuse to have a ball with form and composition.

And then! Gillen starts unveiling one of his twists. While squaring off against Loki, Leah brings up his early conversation with Teddy about the power of reality warpers and wishful thinking...and then she seems to merge with Sorta-Kid-Loki. It's probably useless trying to guess, as I'm always wrong, but to ruminate...perhaps Kid Loki is finally getting his revenge?  He did change. He did win. Somehow? Because Loki's guilty conscience wished it so? In this interview with Al Ewing who will be writing the forthcoming Loki: Agent of Asgard series, he says Loki's greatest fear is "sliding back into his old persona, getting trapped again in an endless cycle of fighting superheroes and getting beaten by them - especially after everything he did to escape that cycle." That certainly sounds like Kid Loki, who in the JIM finale begged Thor to kill him if he ever turned evil. Maybe Kid Loki or Sorta-Kid-Loki is finally getting his (sexier) body back, or at least will be more equitably sharing it with Loki-Loki? I'll stop now since this is turning into the end of that Louis CK skit on "Why?"

Was the kidnapped Tommy rescued or mentioned?


What's next:

Tragically, we only have three more issues of Gillen and McKelvie's Young Avengers, which Gillen writes about a little here. As aforementioned, extreme prodigal son Loki will be returning to Asgard as a secret agent for his mom(s) in Loki: Agent of Asgard, which comes out in February 2014. Will he finally get that cool car? At first I was a little nervous to see a writer other than Gillen take the reins on Loki, but hey, that's mainstream comics, and the interviews with Ewing have been encouraging. I hope Loki stays in touch with America, Kate, et al.; the chemistry in this little group was great. We'll always have noodles and revolutionary moon kisses, right? :'( 

This looks good 'cause it's from Francavilla's twitter.

That panel's so damn pretty I couldn't bear to use my crappy iPhone pic. All right, so, moving on to a different set of endangered kids. With the Archie Comics world pretty stagnant since the 1940s, minus the recent and welcome addition of gay teen Kevin Keller, the announcement that there would be a serious horror Archie book was a surprise. Afterlife With Archie #1 was a smash hit, and Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla impressed critics and Archie fans alike with their ability to stay true to the Archie mythology while ruthlessly twisting its conventions.

We already saw scenes of horror (a mouthless Sabrina exiled by her aunts) and violence-with-consequences (a jealous Moose beat up Reggie as he's done for decades, but this time it led to a dazed Reggie running over and killing Hot Dog) in the first issue. In AWA 2, the creative team shows us just how much leeway they've been given by opening the issue with a scene of emotional incest between rich twins Cheryl and Jason Blossom.

In "dead Raggedy Ann and Andy" costumes, no less.

It's a little eye-rolling and tawdry as a way to shock, but whatever, we get it, you're going HBO. The twins wisely decide not to crash Riverdale High's Halloween party after learning that mass cannibalism is taking place inside.

We see some more mature maturity in the interlude, a moody scene set at Pop Tate's. Ginger and Nancy are having a quiet, joyless dinner away from the party. They've been secretly dating (sorry, Chuck), and the closeted nature of their relationship is wearing on Ginger. Nancy isn't ready to come out. It's a pretty typical plot for a gay teen romance, but it gets interesting when they bring up out-and-happy Kevin. "Look in the mirror, Ginger. We're nothing like him," says Nancy. What does she mean? Is she (and the writer) acknowledging that as women of color, their experience of coming out might be different than Kevin's? But their discussion is interrupted the arrival of Jughead's father...who has been zombiefied!

Back at the dance, zombie Jughead has started his rampage, and his first partygoer victim is awkward one-sided love interest Ethel, heartbreakingly naive and sweet in her Snow White costume. When Jughead attacks her, the kids think it's a prank at first, and catch on to what's actually happening at various times, leading to a supremely satisfying moment when Veronica, who has been in all her bitchy, scheming glory, steps up and saves eternal rival/BFF Betty by taking a fire extinguisher to zombie Ethel's head.

Girl went all America Chavez on us.

 A core group of Archie characters - Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie, Moose, Midge, Chuck, Dilton, and Kevin - flee the school and make it to Veronica's mansion. ("Mr. Lodge, I've been trying to sneak into your daughter's room for as long as I can remember, and I know what a fortress this place is," says Archie reassuringly.)

But of course, they're not safe yet...

Alas, we don't get the next issue until 1/1/14, presumably because Francavilla fills in all the shadows by hand with half-dead ballpoint pens.

The gang in simpler times, when they were an extremely unprofessional band, what with half the members wandering away and the drummer not showing up until partway through the song: