Here's the setup: this takes place after "Avengers: Disassembled" where Scarlet Witch has gone psycho, killed Vision (her ex-husband,) Hawkeye and Scott "Ant-Man II" Lang, and forced the team to split. So, in a world without Avengers, four teens with power sets that appear to resemble those of Captain America ("Patriot"), Iron Man ("Iron Lad"), Thor ("Asgardian") and the Hulk ("Hulkling") begin fighting crime. They quickly pick up Kate Bishop whose attitude and crack shot make her akin to Hawkeye and Scott Lang's daughter Cassie who has absorbed enough Pym particles to allow her to grow or shrink as she pleases. Jessica Jones is asked by the Daily Bugle to investigate, finds Captain America and Iron Man and the lot of them end up doing battle with classic villain Kang the Conquerer for reasons I won't spoil.
You see, there's a twist and there's a lot of them when it comes to the first four Young Avengers. Even though I knew what half of them were going into this thanks to their appearances in other series, it makes for a compelling narrative. See, "Asgardian's" powers aren't exactly the Thunder God's and Hulkling can do a lot more than smash things. Their origins are - at first - unknowingly intertwined with major events in Avengers history and develop over several great twists and turns.
That's really only half of the backbone of this story as Heinberg does an understated-yet-excellent job of reminding you that these are kids. Their hormones are in overdrive. They forge seemingly ridiculous emotional connections out of the blue, but for whatever reason it seems completely natural. Also, the major dramatic point that covers most of the series is brilliant: the threat that Cap, Shellhead and the future Mrs. Cage might tell their parents what's going on. Seriously, battling Kang the Conquerer (who - in storyline terms - had recently taken over the entire planet and executed a large number of civilians) seems to be a smaller crisis. Some might call it an analysis of how teens feel the world revolves around them, but I'm not sure that was the author's intention. That element is executed very well, particularly Cassie's arc as she deals with her mother (a divorcee who didn't like her daughter spending time at Avengers mansion) and her stepfather (a cop who doesn't like superheroes at all.) I have to say she and Bishop - the two early additions - are the best characters of the bunch. I'll talk more about Kate in an upcoming post.
I don't often do this in my reviews since it doesn't always jump out at me, but in this case I should touch on the art. Jim Cheung's character designs are fantastic, the way he incorporates parts of old Avengers costumes, hinting at the past but with some slight differences that help indicate their true nature. Bishop grabbing Hawkeye's gear but also throwing on Mockingbird's mask is a great touch. Heinberg's script also points out early that Patriot is dressed more like Bucky than Cap, something that isn't explained until much later.
But here's the problem: I'm not sure how well this book would go over with someone who doesn't know as much about Avengers history, since there are so many allusions to what's happened before. Heinberg makes the effort to present some of that information, so that may help but I really can't comment.
Regardless, this is one of those collections that wormed its way into my brain. Days after finishing it, there's a lot I remember that I really liked.