Review by Frank Plowright
Style > Substance was a spellbinding attempt at re-engaging an audience with the concept of the teenage super-team. Forget about the Avengers aspect of the title as that’s largely irrelevant, and concentrate on the Young. This is a bunch of teenage superheroes who manifest the mixture of insecurity and confidence, the front that masks all finding their way in the world. It’s a confusion particularly well written by Kieron Gillen.
The opening chapter concentrates on two, or possibly three, Young Avengers not seen to this point. Speed was a member of the team, and Prodigy will be for most of this book. It’s drawn by Kate Brown, who has a slight manga influence to her style, but whose layouts work as well as regular artist Jamie McKelvie.
He’s back for the remainder, and is as impressive as previously, particularly with a sequence where two of the cast are trapped in a dimension consisting of white boxes with black outlines. Is this an oblique comment as to the constraints of working with comics? Dimension-hopping is key to Alternative Cultures, as the team travel through multiple dimensions in search of one of their number who’s missing.
Gillen’s plot continues elements from the previous volume, in which it was established that some members of the team are unable to be in the vicinity of their parents due to complications concerning a form of inter-dimensional leech, who calls herself Mother. He’s inventive in recapping the three months since the close of the previous volume via the cast’s tweets, and the fast pace and engaging character interaction continues. The pace is so rapid, in fact, it prevents some characters asking some obvious questions about how they’re able to piece the dimensional veil.
By the time the book concludes there are some very different dynamics between the team members, with some questioning their reality, and others proving to have been working their own agendas.
All three volumes of this series form one continuing story, so those enticed are probably better off buying the Omnibus gathering them all. For those determined to continue with individual volumes, the series concludes with Mic-Drop at the Edge of Time.