Who Are The Young Avengers? by Jerry Whitworth
When Avengers: Endgame (2019) introduced an older Cassie Lang (portrayed by Emma Fuhrmann) from the Ant-Man films and brought back Ty Simpkins as Harley Keener from Iron Man 3 (2013) for the movie’s ending, speculation ignited of Marvel Studios tackling Young Avengers. With news of a Disney+ Ms. Marvel series, Kate Bishop being adapted in Hawkeye, what appears to be Wiccan and Speed emerging in WandaVision, Spider-Man seemingly remaining in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the foreseeable future, and Carl Lumbly being cast in The Falcon and Winter Soldier allegedly as Isaiah Bradley, the evidence has only continued to grow toward this conclusion. But, who are the Young Avengers?
Following superstar writer Brian Michael Bendis turning heads with Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Alias, Marvel approached him with trying to reinvigorate their Avengers brand. With a desire to make the team more like DC’s Justice League which traditionally featured the company’s most prominent heroes, Bendis effectively killed the group in “Avengers Disassembled” and built it anew including prominent characters such as Spider-Man and Wolverine in the roster. There was a desire by Marvel’s higher-ups to simultaneously introduce effectively their version of a Teen Titans group as well. However, this presented a considerable problem because beside Golden Age characters like Bucky, Toro, and Namora, Marvel heroes didn’t typically take on child sidekicks (Stan Lee making no secret he loathed the concept). The closest the company had to such a thing was the New Warriors but they had faded into obscurity and their only prominent legacy character was Namorita. At the time, producer Allan Heinberg was earning praise for his hit television series The O.C. where he injected comic book elements into the scripts catching Marvel’s attention. Earning a reputation for producing engaging content involving youths, Marvel offered Heinberg the opportunity to make an Avengers book featuring teens.
Well aware of Marvel’s lack of teenage legacy characters for its most prominent superheroes, Allan Heinberg leaned into this by introducing original unseen sidekicks with the hope it would make comic readers curious for his book Young Avengers with artist Jim Cheung. Originally featuring Iron Lad, Patriot, Wiccan, and Hulkling with Kate Bishop, the group’s origin revolved around Nathaniel Richards, a teenager from the 30th century who learned he was destined to become Kang the Conqueror, a time-traveling despot and one of the Avengers’ greatest nemeses. Horrified at this discovery, Richards traveled to the past to seek the Avengers’ aid in preventing his future only to learn of the group’s destruction. Reviving a mostly destroyed Vision, the youth learned of the synthezoid’s fail-safe plan to replace the Avengers should they fall. Using this plan, Richards recruited Patriot (grandson of the original Captain America Isaiah Bradley), Wiccan (reincarnated son of Scarlet Witch and the Vision), and Hulkling (son of Kree Captain Mar-Vell and Skrull Princess Anelle) while taking on the mantle of Iron Lad himself to prepare for the coming of Kang. Adding on Kate Bishop (who adopted the identity of then-dead hero Hawkeye), Stature (Ant-Man’s daughter), and Jonas (Vision’s mind inside Richards’ Iron Lad armor), the Young Avengers defeated Kang prompting Richards to return to the future and take his place back in history to prevent himself from becoming a conqueror. To replace Iron Lad, the team added Speed (Wiccan’s reincarnated twin brother).
Young Avengers proved to be an unmitigated success. Unfortunately for the book however, Allan Heinberg continued to be in high demand in Hollywood so he couldn’t keep producing it. Marvel didn’t want to lose Heinberg on the book so they made the incredible decision to end the title after only twelve issues with the idea it would continue when Heinberg was available again. As a compromise to maintain interest in the characters and capitalize on Marvel’s latest event Civil War (which featured the death of the New Warriors), a mini-series by Zeb Wells and Stefano Caselli teaming the Young Avengers with Brian K. Vaughan’s popular teen heroes Runaways was produced with both Heinberg and Vaughan acting as creative consultants. Therein, the Young Avengers joined Captain America’s resistance and helped the Runaways combat S.H.I.E.L.D. who sought their capture for being unregistered. By 2008, when Heinberg still had not returned to write the characters, Marvel decided to produce material for the brand under different creative teams resulting in a series of mini-series with Young Avengers Presents, Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers, and Dark Reign: Young Avengers. In 2010, Heinberg finally returned to his characters after four years away.
For Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, Wiccan’s powers to manipulate reality had grown and become harder to control. The Avengers, who had grown to nurture the Young Avengers as their own, feared Wiccan would follow a similar path to his past life’s mother. Putting the youth in protective custody, Wiccan’s teammates broke him out of confinement and decided they were going to search for the Scarlet Witch hoping she can help him control his abilities. In a journey that saw the group trek across Transia and Latveria as they were being pursued by the Avengers, the heroes were joined in their quest by family members of Wiccan and Speed’s past life in their grandfather Magneto and uncles Quicksilver and Wonder Man. Eventually, Scarlet Witch was found in Latveria without her memories or powers. During a confrontation with Dr. Doom that saw the X-Men arrive complicating matters and Iron Lad returning to offer aid, Scarlet Witch’s memories and powers are restored but Stature is killed by Doom (while Scott Lang is plucked out of the past before his death and is now saved in the present). The death of their teammate tore the group apart, prompting them to disband.
As part of the Marvel NOW! rebranding under Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Mike Norton, the Young Avengers were reformed combining past members Wiccan, Hulkling, and Hawkeye with Kid Loki (a name adopted by Loki when he was trapped in the body of a youth), Miss America (America Chavez), Marvel Boy (Noh-Varr), and Prodigy (David Alleyne) to combat an interdimensional parasite called Mother. Running for fifteen issues, the series came to a close and the team largely faded into obscurity. Instead, a team from the 1970s was rebranded as a new team of the Avengers’ young sidekicks in the Champions.
If you consider the Fantastic Four and various X-teams to be in something of their own universe, you could consider the Avengers and Defenders as popular individual heroes united together in team books. In 1975, there was a desire to produce another team like the Avengers and Defenders in the Champions. Teaming Iceman and Angel from the X-Men and Black Widow and Hercules from the Avengers with solo hero Ghost Rider, Champions was a hero team based on the west coast in Los Angeles (as Marvel’s heroes predominantly worked out of New York City and the surrounding area). Unfortunately, the book never took off and the group largely fell into obscurity. However, in 2016, the name was resurrected for a group of teen heroes including Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Hulk (Amadeus Cho), Cyclops (a time-displaced teenage version), Nova (Sam Alexander), and Viv (Vision’s synthezoid daughter). The book has been running off-and-on ever since with the latest version on its third volume. Additionally, Marvel resurrected another past team but with young heroes in Secret Warriors which featured Quake, Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Inferno, Karnak, and Magik. A loose adaptation of the group is featured in an animated brand called Marvel Rising. The team therein is composed of Quake, Patriot, Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Squirrel Girl, Ghost-Spider (Gwen Stacy), Miss America (America Chavez), Inferno, Ironheart, and Shuri (Black Panther’s sister).