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.

Waiting for the Trade – Nomad

Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller

 

Nomad: Girl Without A
World.

by Sean Mckeever and
David Baldeon

collects Nomad: Girl
Without A World 1-4 and material from Captain America 600.

Why I Bought This: The female Bucky
(Rikki Barnes) was far and away the best thing about the Heroes Reborn 90s
reboot of The Avengers line of titles:
Indeed she was probably the only good thing from that era aside from the art.
So the idea of having that character come to the main Marvel Universe as the
new Nomad is pretty inspired—particularly the “Girl Without A World”
catchphrase as a play on Cap’s “Man Without A Country” arc when he was the
original Nomad.

 

The Plot: For the
10th Anniversary of Heroes Reborn Marvel did a series called Onslaught Reborn that much like the original
Onslaught crossover made little sense. It did however have very nice looking
Rob Liefeld art. Anyway that series saw Onslaught chase Franklin Richards into
the Heroes Reborn Universe where that world’s version of the Avengers, FF and
Masters of Evil united to take him on and in the end Bucky sacrificed her life
to stop him: only instead of dying she emerged in the main Marvel Universe just
in time to witness the death of Captain America post Civil War. This series focuses on her efforts to find a place in
this new world as both a superhero and a teenage girl.

Chapter 0 – Rikki, in her Bucky costume, tracks down Patriot
of the Young Avengers. After she convinces him she is who she says she is.
Patriot tells her that he doubts the new Cap (Bucky/Winter Soldier) is going to
want a sidekick. He does offer her friendship and they go to a vigil in Steve’s
memory together.

Chapter 1 – In researching her new world Rikki learns she
doesn’t exist here (i.e. there is no counterpart for her unlike the other Avengers/FF
heroes). When the police radio tells her Bucky-Cap is on a mission nearby she
decides to introduce herself. Black Widow intercepts her and reveals she knows
all about Counter Earth. Widow advises Rikki that this Cap would not react well
to meeting a Bucky and shoos her away. Meanwhile we see Rikki is attending high
school where she has found the dimensional counterpart for her brother. She has
befriended him to feel closer to home. Next we see the student government
elections where some blond kid named Desmond Daniels gets the crowd to go wild
for him and his message of better manners and increased civic responsibility.
Rikki gets suspicious of how some of her fellow students are so quickly buying
into Daniels’ spiel so she investigates as Bucky. In the basement of the school
she encounters what appears to be a werewolf and it kicks her butt good,
shredding her costume in the process. When she gets home she finds a suitcase
on her bed with the Nomad costume inside.

Chapter 2 – We get a flashback to how Rikki first became
Bucky. (Her brother joined a skinhead cult headed up by the Red Skull and tied
her to nuclear missile until Cap arrived on the scene.) Rikki talks to her
pseudo-brother John about her suspicions of Daniels and the kids at school but he
blows them off. He also reveals that in this universe his mother and sister
both died in childbirth, which blows Rikki’s mind. Furthermore his dad died in
the terrorist bombing of Philadelphia
that kicked off Brubaker’s Cap run. And then the diner they are in blows up as
Flag Smasher attacks. Rikki switches to Nomad—the costume includes the Jack Monroe
Nomad’s stun discs as well as a version of Cap’s old energy shield from the
Mark Waid run. Nomad defeats Flag Smasher and then runs into Falcon, who was a
fellow partner of Cap’s in her world, and they briefly compare notes. Back at
ground zero we see John was injured in the explosion. Back in school we see
Daniels influence continues to grow, and then the reader learns these events
are being orchestrated by the Secret Empire while the werewolf looking dude is
Mad Dog (A d-list villain with dog-like powers who has worked for them before).
Rikki goes to visit John when he gets out of the hospital and he hits on her
assuming what most teenage boys would when some random new girl singles you out
and makes an effort to get to know you. Of course Rikki wigs out and says she only
wants to be friends and thinks of him like a brother. John sends her away and
then that evening goes off to meet with Desmond’s supporters where we when he
takes off his hat we see the explosion made him lose his hair thus causing him
to look like the skinhead John from Counter Earth.

Chapter 3 – It’s now a week later and John is now being mean
to Rikki. The Secret Empire is hypnotizing kids by using lasers. Nomad gets
attacked by a mystery villain with laser blast powers and Mad Dog and together
they defeat her. They then hook her up to a brainwashing machine. Back at the
student election the Secret Empire has Nomad endorse Desmond and then unmask
before the entire high school. The Secret Empire is plotting to expand their
program to other high schools. Desmond wins the election and the students begin
to riot. Rikki is still chained up below the school where she learns the
mystery villain is Professor Power.

Chapter 4 – Nomad uses her energy shield to free herself and
takes down the two super villains. Riot police arrive at the high school. John
and two other students realize things are out of control and try to quell the
riot but it seems to be too late. Just before the police open fire Nomad
arrives with the Young Avengers. Meanwhile the super villains recover, cut
their ties with the Secret Empire, and blow up their lab under the school and
escape. The heroes subdue the rioters as Desmond resigns as student president
to get the teens to disband as he himself was not involved with the Secret Empire;
it was the first five kids who supported his candidacy. However the most
fanatical of those original supporters has a gun and he ends up shooting John.
Nomad takes him down but its too late as John is dead. We cut to Rikki at
John’s grave where Bucky-Cap pays her a visit. He gives her a pep talk and
ponders her last name but does not reveal his real name to her (It was implied
in the Heroes Reborn universe that she is Bucky’s granddaughter). We see agents
of the Secret Empire capture the Professor. Finally we see Nomad vowing to take
down the Secret Empire.

 
Critical Thoughts: This
is very good comic all around. Rikki remains a very likeable protagonist and we
get to see her be resourceful and a face a much deeper level of adversity than
she ever did in her original appearances.

All of the stuff with her pseudo-brother is fantastic. The
conversation where she learns how she and her parents died in this world is
written to hit like a punch to the gut. John misunderstanding her intentions
and the subsequent reveal of him possibly turning out like the original
skinhead John is a fabulous cliffhanger, where the art really pulls the reader
into thinking that is where the story is going. And they actually fooled me, I
didn’t see John turning it around and ending up a hero again at the end; and I
certainly didn’t see him dying. Rikki’s story really feels like a tragedy here
and yet the reader buys that in the end after her pep-talk with Bucky-Cap that
she manages to respond to it in a determined productive way while remaining
upbeat.

Credit McKeever’s writing, which is top notch throughout. In
general I’m starting to like the little I’ve read of McKeever as he wrote a Gravity miniseries that I grabbed in
trade for a few bucks on a whim due to the low price that was quite good too.
Based on this story I wouldn’t mind seeing him write Cap one day because just
in the few scenes they have in this story he writes Widow and Bucky really
well. This story feels like its part of the larger Cap mythos even though at
the end of the day Rikki herself is only a footnote in that mythos. The
implication that Widow is the one who gave Rikki the Nomad costume is also a
nice touch that feels right after it plays out.

The same can be said of the Young Avengers and their
presence here as Ricky feels like she’d be a really good fit on that team. In
both cases this is a really good example of how to use guest shots to explore
the sense of being part of a wider Marvel Universe without distracting from the
primary hero’s journey. I will say however that Rikki tracks down Patriot way
too easily in the opening beat. She basically does some Internet research and
figures out who he is. If secret identities are that easy to solve than most of
the heroes of the Marvel Universe should be dead by now.

I thought the Secret Empire was a very good choice as the
main villains of this story as the Secret Empire were the villains who first
caused Cap to assume the Nomad identity. Admittedly their plan to rig a high
school election seems awfully low key from their usual plan of world
domination, but at the end of the day you can let it slide because it’s not
like they’ve done anything important since that Englehart story 40 years ago and
they make good foils for Rikki. I also liked Flag Smasher showing up, as he was
one of the better villains from Gru’s run on the main Cap title. Again bombing a diner is insanely beneath him and his
usual M.O., and he’s defeated byRikki way too easily as back in Gru’s run he
defeated the John Walker Cap (U.S. Agent) and was a serious threat to Steve.
I’m also not sure why Professor Power is alive when Walker beat him to death years ago. So yea
overall I suppose one could criticize the use of the villains in this story,
however; I will not because the villains are clearly secondary to a strong
character piece that is needed to establish Rikki in the main Marvel Universe
(of course that they later killed her off just two years later makes one wonder
why they bothered to bring her over in the first place, but I’m not going to
criticize this story for the failings of a subsequent story.)

Finally I want to praise Baldeon’s art quite a bit. It is
exactly what this story needs. I already mention how good the art is in the
cliffhanger for chapter 2. His art works both in the quiet moments of dialogue
in Rikki’s civilian life and in the big action scenes. Plus I really like the
ultimate design of the Nomad costume. The final splash page is inspiring in the
way the best Captain America
stories are.

 
Grade B+. I
enjoyed this. It’s a quick yet compelling read and you can find it online in
the $5 price range making it worth checking out even if you are unfamiliar with
the main character. I should add it is digest-sized for those who are concerned
about such things.