A bit late on the review, but I had some downtime before going to bed so I thought I should give this book a review.
Going into it, my expectations were mixed. I am a huge fan of Heinberg and Cheung's Young Avengers. It's one of my favorite series, and I was hoping that this book would have the same impact as the previous Young Avengers while having the unique twist that Dark Reign provides.
Was this goal achieved? Close, but not quite in my opinion.
Paul Cornell does a decent job introducing the primary cast all of which are "darker" versions of the old Young Avengers. There's Enchantress for Wiccan, Nemesis for Vision, Melter for Patriot, Coat of Arms for Kate, and Big Zero for Cassie. Needless to say, these characters are pretty intense, but at the same time, Cornell is able to provide the youthful struggle for identity that Heinberg implemented in his version of the pint-sized Avengers. At the core of any book, the characters should drive the plot, and if the book is centered on teens, then the inner turmoil that any teen goes through when attempting to become an adult needs to be an integral part of the story. This is best illustrated in The Melter. He wants to be a hero, but he just doesn't know how. I found Melter to be the best new Young Avenger, but unfortunately, the other characters just don't live up to their captain.
My biggest disappointment was in Big Zero. The concept of a giant, skin-head, racist white teenage girl seemed to be a brilliant character that would really challenge the virtues of this team, but she wasn't as well developed in this pilot issue as much as say The Melter. I really hope Cornell uses her more because I do believe she could be a really controversial but well placed character for the times.
On the art side, Mark Brooks does a fairly good job. I'm a huge fan of Mark's work, but I felt that certain moments--in particular, the nightclub scene--were really weak because the characters weren't differentiated enough. The battle scenes were excellent, and the final splash was brilliant, but in order for the book to succeed, there needs to be a sense of unique soul for each character. At times Jim Cheung's people can look pretty similar, but the life that was in all of the characters whether they were in costume or jeans made him become the star he is now.
I find that this book will be compared to the original Young Avengers whether it wants to be or not. Right now, the book is definitely weaker than its predecessor, but not by leaps and bounds. The book is growing into its own, and it definitely has some promising elements that should be explored as the series continues. Now that Cornell has introduced all of his pieces, let's hope Issue #2 will have more bang for its buck.