Just hammered this out before heading out to the con. Excuse any typos, as I’ve not exactly proofed it.
Freeze frame action opening. I like how Jamie has pretty much hid what’s important in the panel – as in, the tiny figure of Wiccan climbing into the space-ship on the background – but also central to the image.
It’s at this point I suspect people who paid close attention to the YA playlist are going a-ha. BLOOD RED SHOES’ I WISH I WAS SOMEONE BETTER. The ending of the record’s looping angst mantra always struck me as a spell, and immediately made me connect to Wiccan.
The dropping what was captions into the background was Jamie’s idea. I took that, and thought that having the mantra drop in panel 5 as Billy’s will crumbles a little was a good way of showing that.
These two pages being released early made me wince a little. It felt sadistic. The effect of showing this scene with a week’s gap before its resolution instead of four pages is just… hard. I mean, obviously I want the emotional intensity. It’s the end of the arc. The emotional intensity should be at its height. But still – a week with a loved character with a gun pressed to his own head. That was uncomfortable for me.
I’ve had people ask whether this is Billy being solely practical and this is the logical solution (as he believes this will save his friends) or whether he’s primarily depressed. I don’t think it’s an either/or.
For one, suicide feeling like the logical and necessary solution is sort of the metaphor. Young Avengers is all about genre-ification of individual perspectives and experiences.
(For anyone interested in a more “real world” treatment of a similar issue, I’d direct you to Generation Hope 9 by Jamie and me. Stand alone issue, so can be read out of context.)
Fuck me, Jamie’s last panel is painful.
And now you don’t have to read Journey Into Mystery.
I knew I had to basically infodump Loki’s background at some point, and thought that delaying it so the reveal of what was going on was something the reader wanted to desperately know, married to Loki’s seeming (in fact, actual betrayl) would give the dramatic interest to get through, married to a reveal (Loki’s guilty conscience), etc.
I also liked how audacious it is. Jamie as performance is just key – I suspected a STRAIGHT TO CAMERA would be how I’d approach it, but with Jamie on, that can work wonderfully. I did demand Jazz Hands.
I had about three times as many lines written for the second panel, and just chose a selection of tones. Loki’s a troll. He’s winding people up. I wrote anti-dumbeldore in the draft, as I couldn’t remember Voldy-guy’s name, and instantly decided it was funnier than being right. The dancing between modern idiom, ironic parody of modern idiom and classic fantasy dialogue is sort of what I want, y’know?
The cloud conversation is a callback to SIEGE: LOKI where this whole character arc started.
PRECIOUS LITTLE LIFE is a nod to Scott Pilgrim.
Nice colouring for Matt on the eyes – I recall what Matt did with Loki’s eyes in the .1 story when I see this, but with inverted effect.
The situation here is pretty simple: Loki has a guilty conscience over what he did.
(It’s an odd one seeing a few people confused over this one, when the story explicit says it.)
The advantage of Loki talking to Loki is that I can get information across with an assumption of sincerity. Loki’s lines to others are a mixture of truth and lies.
Those paying close attention to the playlist may have a good guess whose song GUILT is.
And Panel 1 is Loki’s current situation. Loki isn’t just pretending. Loki is acting the way he is because he’s now in Kid Loki’s “role”. Gods are living stories. What Loki did fucks them up a bit.
The killer panel is panel 3. Jamie did a wonderful job going back and forth between confession, exposition and twisting the knife in this sequence.
Last panel – The green is Loki’s magical effect. The blue is Wiccan’s. Earlier we see the Green controlling it, and now Loki dismisses it.
The dialogue’s a call back to the end of Journey Into Mystery.
I don’t think I’ve seen the contrast between verbal tone of characters what they’re feeling (the core dynamic of what I do) better than the final panel. Billy! You poor fucker.
Jamie draws a mean blowing apart of goo people.
And it’s a power-up scene! More goo people explosions!
All this was done Marvel Method, with dialogue added later.
The Magic circle has been one of the major visual elements in the series so far. At this point, you may realise why, and realise why I wanted a six member team.
Miss America’s smile is a rare and beautiful thing.
And this issue’s over-designed DPS. I knew Jamie could handle it, though I did do a rough sketch of how it would work myself. Jamie added the slant.
Lots of highlightes here, lots to unpack for those who wish to do so.
The compare and contrast between America and Marvel Boy is key – just a bit of characterisation and approach. They’re both “bad-ass” here, but the emotional connection is key. America is engaged here, and the feelings she’s bottling down beneath her mask is visible. Marvel Boy is… glacial? This doesn’t bother him at all. Marvel Boy is a little sociopathic at times. Oft charmingly so, but…
I’m also fond of Teddy’s attack form. Working out ways to make the power sets look neat in the powered up form was part of fun, more trad-genre elements in the comic.
I do like big Akira-esque explosions.
Yes, Loki being dragged everywhere in a state of indignity is totally a thing.
Yes, I set the kirby engines up last issue for this.
Young Avengers is both in text and on a meta level, a machine that runs on belief. You either go with us or you don’t.
I think it was Robert McKee in Story who said dialogue where your characters complain about the story they’re in (“THIS IS LIKE A BAD ZOMBIE MOVIE!”) is a message from your subconscious you should heed. This is deliberate subverted with Kate, who is the voice of reason in an insane universe where her level head is no good whatsoever, and may even get them all killed.
On a craft point, note the dropping of Names in the duelling dialogue to make sure everyone knows who’s having the conversation.
The fade out of Mother and the return of the parents who immediately justify where they are is the last piece of “What’s going on” if anyone’s trying to piece together the spell. For those who like close reading, go back to where the team turn up in the club, and we cut away to the parents’ house.
(I’m a little surprised I didn’t see anyone at all pick up on this. The time stamp on the second panel with Mother’s appearance was something I thought may have been too big a clue. But seemingly not. Phew!)
The first two panels still make me smile.
Cue a necessary explanation of the spell’s details. The prime craft question was choosing which panels to use as a punchline and which to use as mere chat. The single-panel is a way to essentially UNDERLINE A FACT for the reader.
Worth noting the subtext that Loki’s earlier claims that he could just sort all this out were at least partially bullshit. He didn’t know what was going on really until issue 4. Though obviously there’s more to come about where his head is at.
Odd thing about writing this is just deciding where Kate’s mom died. You get these moments when writing when you realise you’ve just materialised something in a fictional universe. The first time I remember feeling it was when writing my first Beta Ray Bill mini. The peak had been destroyed a few months previously, and I asked my editor if I could have it rebuilt by now. He said “sure”. And then, instantly, I’d created a space-station in the sky that everyone else in the MU would have to consider. MAGIC.
In a rare moment of deciding something was too-much, I decided I wanted the second balloon in the third panel.
Yet more of Noh-Var’s playing with the idea of being an innocent alien boy. There’s certainly bits where he misses details in culture, but at other times His Faking It Is Total.
Last panel was originally written silent, but it seemed to need words. Occasionally it happens.
Panel 2 is classic Miss America.
You’ll note that I’m doing mid-page transitions rather than using page as stanza. Issue 5 is the densest since the first, and a lot of choices I made were driven by the need to get it all in. I think they work though.
“Parents don’t understand” as a curse.
People have generally said that this arc is an evil parents story. By this point, I hope it’s clear that it’s not. It’s a story about a complete and utter communication breakdown. Neither side can understand what the other one is saying. As much as they love each other, if they’re near each other, they fight. Everyone’s a victim. Can we work out a way to rebuild our bridges before it’s too late?
For certain elements of the set-up, this is a story I’ve wanted to do ever since I’ve been at marvel. As in, a team fighting threats that are literally invisible to everyone else.
(I think I first wrote it in an Alpha Flight pitch that was so demented I suspect the Editor left the company rather than have to deal with it.)
Everyone else thinks they’re mad, but what they’re doing is absolutely vital. While I like it on Don Quioxte-esque tilting-at-windmills fashion, it’s also a way to side-step the constant problem in the MU. As in, if it’s so serious, why don’t the Avengers step in?
Generally speaking, we fight the battles we see. If you see a giant where others see a windmill, you should fight it.
Anyway – talking about silent panels? 5 is one that works. Everyone focuses on Billy and Teddy – and I love their intimacy here – but look at Kate, hanging back, holding herself, knowing she wants to be there and help, but also knowing she’s a bystander.
And we start our slow-fade out.
It’s a story that has taken the whole arc to realise two things. Firstly, they can’t solve the problem right now. Secondly, Billy needs to be a superhero. As much as we use very deliberate, stylistic pacing, this is anti-climax and attacks the standard parts of the genre. Built into the superhero story is the idea that all problems can be resolved by the end of the issue. But really? No. Sometimes it’s not that easy.
Linked to that is Billy’s acceptance of being a hero. Traditional pacing would have given him a splash-page for that sexy thrill. As fantastical as the suit is, this is really low-key. A page turn, a choice, a decision to be this.
Head over to Jamie’s blog to see him write about the design. As much as the moving starfield is the eye-catcher (as Jamie put it, if you’ve magicked a suit into existence, you may as well have a bit of bling) the cloak with hood is the element I most like. It’s showing Billy’s geek-ness. It’s cool, it’s more adult, but it’s still him.
(I oddly found myself thinking about those old Dragonlance pulp-fantasy novels with Caramon and Raistlin. Billy as Raistlin and Teddy as Caramon made odd sense. Except that would be incestuous, obv.)
The final panel I asked to evoke the sadness and romance of ET. The bike across the moon shot in context is a heart-in-throat wonder, but it always looked incredible sad to me when shown out of context.
The quotation marks around the title is a very me move, which I probably picked up from Bowie’s “Heroes”. Using the device to highlight the choice of words and explicitly asking people to consider what they mean is something I love doing, as it’s normally what my stories are doing. There’s a string of small-press British comics I did back in the day for themed anthologies, and inevitably my story would be the title of the anthology in quotation marks. “Zombies”, “Robots” and so on.
What’s the art of saving the world? I’d say we suggest many answers, but I’d argue “living” would be the foremost.
I imagine we fade out with Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1 by the Mountain Goats, the opening track of the YA soundtrack.