One of the things you develop, over your lifespan, is control over your impulsive disclosure urge. Some people are naturally inclined to never tell anyone anything about what’s going on with them, some people can’t stop themselves; the middle ground is roughly what you move closer to, as you learn various, frequently incredibly painful lessons.
There’s massive connotation to either end of the spectrum; people who are too private are considered at best mysterious or shy and at worst suspicious, people who share too much are considered stupid, brash, outrageous or at best, naiive. ‘Trustworthy’ is a hard thing to learn to be, sometimes, especially with different standards in different contexts (trustworthy with your BFFs is a lot more detail than trustworthy at work) and getting a balance as well as a personality is something that takes time. And the aforementioned painful lessons.
Reading Charlotte Geater’s excellent piece on the diner motif and Grease in Young Avengers, especially in issue #7, I was earwormed by the Tell me more tell me more refrain from Summer Lovin’. Which was kind of the theme of this issue, in a way, being packed full of exposition and catch-up. The terrific Not-stagram page (more on this story later) showcases the full gamut of exaggeration, stolen stories, personal landmark documentation and social currency bank account statements and dodgy selfies that you’d expect from any healthy extrovert’s online presence- no need to ask Loki. Or more accurately, no point. But he appears to be so open and he’s sharing all his (and Kate’s) photos! Ah, lying by admission.
Social media has essentially provided, as well as a nifty plot device, a platform for exactly this sort of thing, in real life: “Better just catch up on the plot of Friend From School Not Seen For Fifteen Years on Facebook, don’t want to get spoilers at this upcoming crossover event Wedding Of Mutually Known Acquaintance Who Had To Invite Me After Running Into Me At A Work Thing.”
Except those are old person’s social media activities- for the under-20s, it’s a steady stream of HAPPENING! NOW! With maybe the odd bit of Spice Girls-or-local-equivalent-based pre-nostalgia. And when it’s a steady stream of NOW! THINGS! then a teenager is less inhibited about what they share. When you’re 17, having everyone know who you’re smooching and what gigs you’re going to is far less likely to be an issue than if you’re 34 and it’s your friend’s ex-husband and your boss is on your Facebook.
But then in turn, younger people are far less likely to disclose a tale of how they spent 45 minutes trying to stop the loo spouting effluence all over the bathroom floor last night, while crying and waiting for the plumber. Grown ups? God, yeah, let’s have a moan, make it funny, talk about how at some point during the process you were overcome with the urge to vomit and that just made everything even worse and it’s practically a stand-up routine of disaster. But a teenager? Does not want anyone to imagine them covered in poo. The mundane practicalities of life are not at all cool. You do not Instagram that, err, shit.
Being a Young Avenger is very much not about the mundane practicalities of life- issue #7 could hardly be a starker contrast from #6, in this respect. What does one do when one has a camera phone, a sweet ass ride and pals and a healthy lust for life and a complete inability to go home or else your soul will be consumed by a parasite of your own creation? SPRING BREAK!
I don’t actually know what spring break is, being the wrong age and British. But I think it’s sort of like having a ‘free house’ (ie: your mum and dad go away) but at the beach and in a country where you’re not supposed to drink until your final year of being an undergraduate, thus don’t learn how to moderate yourself enough to not get kicked out of the bar until much later. Also I think it involves swimwear and ‘body shots,’ which sound like a great way to wake up with some Cactus Jack’s caramelising your sheet onto your midriff. The key thing is that you get a bunch of photos to hope your mum never finds on Facebook, even if your mum is not currently being possessed by an interdimensional parasite bent on killing you horribly. Even, you know, metaphorically.
The essence of Spring Break, though, I get. It’s the taste of some of the power and very little of the responsibility, which is the sort of principle that’s very opposed to what the Young Avengers regularly go through. The bit that fits them is far more the element of continuously-on-the-brink-of-disaster. Spring Break is all about living on the edge, a total wildness. A roadtrip in a spaceship fueled by dreams. Butt-of-your-catsuit adventures on a shoestring, only getting in in time for diner breakfast, live extremely fast or die incredibly young or if Billy fucks this up, both! Constant excitement for Norse gods, alien envoys and earth-brought-up teens alike.
The manic, shit-I-hope-no-one-dies enthusiasm of spring breakers, trying not to think about whatever they have back home, whatever they are back home, is twisted and amped up a billion times by Young Avengers. If their parents find out about all this, they’re going to be dead. If your wild time on spring break goes wrong and you have to phone your mum, you’ve failed and you’re going to face some savage consequences.
Not in the figurative sense, in this instance, in the sense of being actually dead. Kaput. Totally erased from existence to feed a soul-eating thing from what would appear to be a particularly hellish alternate dimension. It’s going to be even worse than if your mum turns the WiFi off, is what I am saying.
Not that the others aren’t willing to comment, of course- Kate, who is secure in the knowledge that no one who goes to her school is following some stunted fourteen-year-old Norse kid’s stream of nonsense, can unleash in chat. Noh-Varr genuinely doesn’t know what’s going on, genuinely doesn’t care what’s going on on the basis it’s all delightful to him or genuinely gets a kick out of Kate slightly dominating him when he’s being a wide-eyed space-boy. Hulkling is a join-in-er, not to mention currently extraordinarily paranoid and thus entirely likely to stalk anyone he knows even a little bit on anything where they might talk about him or Billy, especially the person who’s been planting seeds of anxiety in his mind and Wiccan? Wiccan is fucking emo.
Wiccan wasn’t up to much at home, of course, in terms of ‘horsing about in space’ sort of much. He’d been struggling, secluded, desperately in love with Teddy but not able to be fixed by that alone (it’s a common and hideously teenage misconception that love could do the job of cognitive behavioural therapy) and now he’s suddenly up to a whole lot. Which is the sort of thing a guy who’s spent a lot of time on the internet recently doesn’t necessarily adapt to enormously well, not being able to get to his computer and being expected to take lessons in the finer points of reality-altering from a notorious villain with a recently cute face who might have tried to kill him. In space. On a space ship powered by self-belief. Right.
Billy Kaplan’s a natural conformist, to some degree. He isn’t the kind to go off on spring break, he finds the riskiness of heroics a source of anxiety so severe it affects his mental health, from the Spider Man School of Oh-God-No-Not-That-Please not popular TV game show Clint Barton Presents ‘Eat it or fight it?’
(That’s slightly unfair on Clint, who is a worrier but in a different way)
(But would be a great show, Kate standing boredly in an evening dress hitting Clint over the head and reading the autocue for him 5 seconds in)
What I mean is that Billy is not happy about not having a home to go to. Most, indeed, all of the other Young Avengers have already experienced this and although they might not be thrilled to be severed from the security of wherever-they-call-home, they are able to cope or at least, used to it by now. Billy isn’t, barely was before all this- Billy has always had the fact he’s a nerd with a home and a heropedia admin-rights account to go home to. He’s a geek, a collector- he needs a safe space for his physical and mental stuff and he’s willing to kick his boyfriend out of his room at midnight if that helps maintain that peacefully. He’s always been a good kid.
Apart from the last time his powers flared and he ended up hanging out with Magneto. And now he’s done the thing again and it’s even worse. And no one might have a home to go to ever again. And Tommy’s in trouble. This is not what he wanted at all. And he’s on galactic spring break and actually he didn’t really want to come and he doesn’t like this kind of club and he definitely doesn’t want to do body shots.
So it’s just as well it’s not just Billy getting them into trouble anymore. The whole gang are in it, now! United by dead parents, like true comic book kids, they’re now exiled from society. If there’d always been the tension that, as teen superheroes, they might at some point be expected to go back to “normal” (lord knows, it’s the major anxiety of all the grown up heroes that they have the choice, at least and the adults know which way they want them to choose) then right now they don’t have that option.
Not that they ever did- how are you meant to go back to school after being buried under fifty tonnes of Asgard? Watching your friends die? Hanging out with Captain America? But they are genuine exiles, now, even more so after the events of #7, cut loose amongst the dimensions like the team of yore (“Five years ago is not ‘yore'” – Freakytrigger’s “Call yourself a Psylocke fan” Editor) they’re a team defined by their exclusion.
If the Young Avengers were a band, they would sound punk. It’d sort of be an accident and entirely irrelevant to any of their taste in the way all good punk should be- it’s just that they’re always in a rush and there’s a world that needs saving, no time for anything longer than three minutes OH GOD watch out for that Super-Skrull. Punk is music made quickly by people in a mild state of panic- a brief, fierce summary of the situation and the possible ongoing strategy. Punk is born in a firefight, organised as long as the end of the track and then on to a different tactic when the second wave comes. It’s a direct, environmental response- instinct driven, almost unconscious and filled with an uncontrolled energy. It’s a divination it’s hard to even recreate the illusion of, alchemically, yet when you look at the list of most influential punk bands of all time, the Sex Pistols ride high.
Formed by a manager because they looked fashionable, their most successful song is a cover of the British national anthem. Subversive or derivative, it’s kind of a tough call, were it not that the lyrics of No Future are so persuasive, the sneer so apparent to the vocal. An anthem for doomed youth so poetically pubescent (when there’s no future, how can there be sin?/we’re the flowers in the dustbin) -the narrative held together by the oncoming end, an enforced and horrible present acknowledged and pushed away. Instagram photo of decaying building with Red Stripe can #fuck shit up.
Punk is all about being hardcore. About not being like the other front-ers; yes yes, of course, it is time to talk about the Skifflefuffles (which, as a word, is the only moment when I’ve thought ‘ok, that is too cute’ in Young Avengers) and return a little to the original disclosure/non-disclosure/trustworthiness thing.
The Young Avengers are in space, doing space things. They don’t have a mission other than to avoid anything parental and they’re essentially just hanging out watching Loki teach Billy. This is totally belied by the action scene at the start of the issue, of course, which makes it look like they’re very focused. They are, sort of; they’ve finally closed in on their quasi-bullies but these are small fry for the Young Avengers, who have not only been in a full-scale Skrull invasion but have a fairly significant priority list that includes ~the end of reality~ at the moment.
So what to do with these young pretenders, who only wanted to be hardcore? Phonies shape shifted into fake shape shifters, this is a classic teenage tale of who is more 4 REAL. Of who is going to call whose parents now, eh?
In the first instance, obviously the Young Avengers are going to beat up the Skifflefuffles, send them packing and get on with their own stuff un-harassed but as Miss America’s favourite punching bag points out, they’re hardly the best-equipped and most organised collective out there, themselves. 4 REAL in red biro.
Compared to the other Young Avengers, Prodigy has been extremely focused- waiting for these idiots to come back, noticing the interdimensional horror they seem to attract wherever they go, sighing and sticking it out. Prodigy doesn’t have to do this- he barely knew Tommy, he’s given up superheroing. But he’s got the discipline and the smarts to stick it out because he knows it’s the responsible thing to do. He knows he needs to deal with the spectre that took his colleague and he knows who needs to deal with it. This isn’t something he can solve with intelligence alone- he needs some high-level magical superpowers.
The thing about being punk and emo and hardcore and actually, an intense spring break is that although it may look cool as fuck, it’s not very much fun when it’s happening to you. So you can be capable of kicking a hole through dimensions and downing all the vodka in the bar but there’s a small chance that you may wake up with a hangover that makes you retch for six straight hours or in a collapsing sepia pocket of shattered dreams. You can burn down society but what if it grows back? What if you burnt down the wrong bits?
The brilliant, awesome thing that I love about punk, the thing that the Young Avengers have fallen a little prey to, here, is the speed of its reaction. Loki wanted to write a prog album, Miss America threw three chords together and gave someone a nosebleed with an amp. The emotive, effective rapidness with which a snotty practicality can be put into action is unbelievable- it’s a viral picture, a hundred thousand retweets where a news broadcaster hasn’t got to the scene yet. It’s an occam’s razor of a thing- no time for getting caught up in a scheme, little room for manipulation, feeling not debating. It’s not for every Young Avenger.
And truth hurts, especially when it’s from the heart- the team have a lot of stuff going on and now they’re literally falling apart and down a hole. That’s the sort of perspective adjustment that can screw up your ability to make these impulsive choices, these punk bursts, in the right direction. The sort of thing that Prodigy, carefully waiting and calculating, was precisely trying to avoid and which Loki might not have the ability to manipulate, this thing he’s trying getting more and more off-course.
Like Noh-Varr’s ship, they’re off past the point of reason now, entirely flying on belief. Sliced off from their lifelines, they’re independent through abandonment. Young hearts, run free.
[Total sidenote: the other book I’ve been reading recently about a group of misfit exiles making wise cracks, playing computer games, shagging each other and screwing up their own plans completely on a weekly basis is Cable and X-Force, which makes a delightful parallel to Young Avengers as, like ‘Old people: still fucking idiots.’ (I utterly adore it and heartily recommend it to anyone enjoying YA altho it is ‘for the older reader’ as it were)]