It’s not often that a superhero comic gives me chills, particularly when we’re talking villains, but then it’s not often you that see a superhero comic from someone like Kate Brown.
Confession: Kate Brown is one of my favourite comic creators. In my other life as a bookseller the most common comics related question I get is, “what graphic novel should I read if I’ve never read comics before?”, and my answer is always this: “Fish + Chocolate by Kate Brown”. (and Karrie Fransman’s The House that Groaned and Hannah Berry’s Adamtine – my unholy trinity now joined by Mary Talbot!)
Brown’s art and storytelling skills are phenomenal, and it doesn’t hurt that in person she is cooler than a whole bag of cucumbers.
Young Avengers too, if you remember from my review of #1, is one of my favourite series of recent years. I’ve been reading along, oohing and ahhing over the ace layouts and gorgeous McKelvie lines, and then #6 popped through my letterbox. By Gillen and Brown. Brown? Brown! OMG.
The first arc of Young Avengers (#1-5) was a non-stop rush as our heroes raced against a very personal big bad. It was great stuff and I loved to hate it for stirring that frustration in me that I always get when I want to shake characters out of themselves (parents!) and bring them to their sense. The feels man, the feels.
The latest issue takes things down a step, as we see the other side of being young with superpowers – the dreary day to day living of working in what looks like a call centre for those dealing with superpowered and supernatural events. David “Prodigy” Alleyne is fielding the calls, while Tommy “Speed” Shepherd works as a technician. They’re bored out their skulls, but hell, it pays the bills.
It’s the interactions between these two that leap off the page, Gillen as ever slipping easily into the minds of teenagers and young adults the world over as they chomp noodles and down coffee. Tommy is an amusing gossip, spilling the dirt on his old chums Patriot and Wiccan, while David suffers from having a very old head on those young shoulders. His predicament, being “a genius multiplied by an enormous number” as Tommy puts it, is that he no longer possesses any actual powers. But his knowledge is just wasting away, until perhaps these events give him the kick he needs.
There’s a lot of talking heads here but trust me, you won’t notice. Instead you’ll be at that table with them, running down the corridors or sneaking around in the dark. Tommy’s workday – all five minutes of it – is broken down microchip style to truly illustrate how much work is being done. And how non-superheroic it is.
But then you’ll get to the end. And see fear and shock in eyes in a way that feels realer than it should. A body posed just slightly wrong which tickles all the lizard parts of the brain and makes you think, “fuck run!!”. Shock, agony despair.
I thought Young Avengers had given me all the feels already. But Kate Brown has come in and knocked it outta the damn ballpark. Her beautiful work, pencilled, inked and coloured by herself, works really well with this story and to be honest, I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t in a non-guest-spot capacity too. I’d dearly love to see more superhero comics embracing lots of different artistic styles…
Often times I know in advance when I’m going to write a review. Other times – and far more rarely – it’s because I’ve literally just finished reading (and re-reading) the issue and I’m still sitting there like O_______O and know I have to share it with everyone. Right now.
Added bonus – never read YA before? This works as a great entry issue too!
Young Avengers #6
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Kate Brown
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson
Asst Editor: Jake Thomas
Editor: Lauren Sankovitch
More of Kate Brown’s work can be found in the Phoenix, the UK weekly comic anthology for all ages and in Fish + Chocolate (and more).