Monday, August 11, 2008

Secret Invasion: Runaways / Young Avengers #2

If you don't know the full story behind the Skrull invasion by now, just walk away because you're hopelessly behind and this book isn't going to make a lot of sense to you. With that said, the angle Runaways & Young Avengers takes on this big event is both pertinent and unique. More than just a random tie-in that spotlights unrelated heroes, their brawls with the bad guys and a miniscule part of the story, both of these youthful squads actually count a green-blooded Skrull among their ranks. The Young Avengers' Hulkling and the Runaways' Xavin, each localized former members of the Skrull empire, were caught off-guard by the sudden, jarring assault of their brethren. Now, they find themselves caught between the invading power of their own flesh n' blood and the resisting force of their longtime friends and teammates.

After just a single issue, Chris Yost has dropped both teams into the heart of the conflict, given them an original say in the proceedings, and put the whole ordeal into perspective. He never misses an opportunity to remind the reader that children populate both teams, and that kids (even superpowered ones) have a tendency to absolutely freak out when the status quo is thrown into question. The Skrull attack is so sudden, so unexpected, that it's easy to identify with those characters who do lose it during that moment of revelation, and to look up to those who keep it together and take command.

Yost keeps the action moving at a breakneck pace, bouncing to a new conflict as soon as the last is resolved, but that doesn't mean this is purely an action book. While the tempo may be fast and furious, there's enough room for conversation within these pages to keep the reader emotionally involved in the proceedings and retain the distinct personality of both teams. Where Brian Bendis's primary Secret Invasion title is more concerned with what led to this moment, and the diversions involving the big named heroes in the Savage Land, Runaways & Young Avengers is focuses on the here and now, ground zero of the attack. In that way, it reads more like a primary narrative than the main series, which came as quite a surprise.

Artist Takeshi Miyazawa and colorist Christina Strain make a tremendous visual pairing. Miyazawa's clean, animated style is both dramatic and simplistic, while Strain's colors are vibrant, dramatic and perfectly matched to her partner's work. Hidden within a simplistic grid layout, the issue's inhabitants bounce around the page recklessly, but in the end it's an ordered form of chaos. Miyazawa's layouts are fantastic, constantly testing his boundaries with extreme close-ups, daring, effective new angles and a friendly excess of motion. My eye raced down the page, led through the action brilliantly by the fluid motion of this artwork, before bouncing back to the top to further appreciate the power of each composition. The issue's characters are individualized, easy to tell apart, and amazing to see in action. They display little touches of personality not just through wardrobe and facial expression, but also through body language, and Miyazawa magnificently plays up their relatively miniscule size in comparison to the sinister Super Skrulls. It's great work from top to bottom.

While I came in with low expectations, it took all of four pages for this issue to hook me up and reel me in. It's simple, effective storytelling matched with incredible artwork and blow-away colors. Secret Invasion: Runaways & Young Avengers is more than just a side dish, it's an attraction all its own. Buy this up, I had more fun with this issue than I've had with all three episodes of the regular Secret Invasion.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 9

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