‘Young Avengers’ Writer Kicks it Old School

I’m a fan of Allan Heinberg, even though I’m not a fan of any of the television shows he’s produced, such as Grey’s Anatomy, The O.C., or Sex and The City. (OK, I’ll admit I like that last one. That Samantha Jones is one hot cougar.) No, my admiration for Heinberg stems from his side gig — writing comic books.

Heinberg is best known among fanboys for creating the Young Avengers, a team of teenage heroes who each have some tie to a member of Marvel’s flagship team, the Avengers. But these aren’t simply a collection of sidekicks, a la the original Teen Titans. Throughout most of their adventures, the Young Avengers have been discouraged by Captain America, Iron Man, et al, from fighting crime at all.

His comics scripts’ clever dialogue and intriguing plot twists make it clear why Heinberg is such a hot property in Hollywood. But I appreciate his work for another quality: He has a clear respect for what has come before and couldn’t care less what else is being published right now. In essence, his comics fly in the face of the conventional wisdom at Marvel and DC these days.

Walk into a comic book store and pick up almost any superhero title published by the Big Two. You’ll most likely hold in your hands a comic that cannot be understood without reading issues of at least three other series. In what is at best an attempt to creative a cohesive fantasy universe and at worst a blatant money grab, Marvel and DC are devoted to promoting “event” comics. “Blackest Night,” “The Siege,” “Dark Reign,” and “Brightest Day” are just a few of the overarching “stories” that have weaved in and out of mainstream comics over the last few years. The problem is, at $3 to $5 a pop, reading every chapter of even one of these stories would set you back more than $100.

Heinberg’s comics, on the other hand, are set in the present day but have little connection to the rest of Marvel’s line. On the first page of his latest series — Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, the second issue of which is in stores today — there was a disclaimer that basically said, “We know that certain characters’ appearances and behavior might seem out of continuity. Just relax and enjoy the story.” Damn right. If the man can craft an entertaining tale, who really cares if it slightly conflicts with the umpteen Wolverine titles currently in stores?

The thing is, while he’s not a slave to what else is going on in comics today, Heinberg has a respect for the medium’s history. The man is clearly a fanboy. The “Kree-Skrull War” tales from the ’70s, the mid-’80s arc about the Vision trying to take over the world, and the tragic story of the Scarlet Witch’s children are all touched upon in Heinberg’s work. He’s taking some of the best Avengers comics ever — ones that I enjoyed much more than the current versions — and expanding upon on them decades later.

Is it odd that a comic called Young Avengers has turned me into a grumpy old man?


The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects: That is one hell of a title. Appropriately enough, this is a collection of work by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola.

Our Army at War: In the same week that President Obama declared combat operations in Iraq to be over, DC kicks off a series of one-shots based on classic war titles.

We Will Bury You: There are tons of zombie comics being published these days. But I think this is the first one I’ve seen that’s set in the 1920s, and I’m sure it’s the first I’ve seen that’s written by a Heroes actress, specifically Brea Grant.

5 Ways to Die #1 (of 5) and Heroic Age: One Month to Live #1 (of 5): Coincidentally, two companies — IDW and Marvel — are each publishing a weekly series this month about a character who won’t live to see October.