By: Christos Gage (writer), Sean Chen (pencils), Scott Hanna (inks), Jeremy Cox & Veronica Gandini (colors), Joe Caramagna (letters), John Denning & Jake Thomas (assistant editors) & Bill Rosemann (editor)

The Story: After the destruction of the Infinite Mansion during Fear Itself, the Avengers Academy needs a new home, and possibly a new direction.

Five Things: 

1. Mixing things up is good. To me, comics are kinda like that old myth about sharks: “If they stop moving forward, they will die.”  The worst times in superhero comics are when the stories run in circles.  I know there are fans that enjoy having the same story reserved to them year after year, but it’s not for me.  So, the idea of moving the Avengers Academy to the old West Coast Avengers facility and bringing in some new faces (both teachers and students) is great.  Just keep mixing it up with these comics!  Sustain the things that work and trash the stuff that stinks, but don’t be afraid to fail and keep moving forward!

2. WONDERFUL twist ending! That was an awesome twist at the end where we see [SPOILER] the evil future selves of our young Academy heroes.  It plays on two big themes of the series.  One, that the reason these kids are getting training is that they are the most likely to go evil due to being fiddled with by Norman Osborn.  Two, we kinda saw these adult versions of the kids before during the Korvac story (around issue #12) when the kids were able to access their adult power levels to defeat Korvac.  But, that wasn’t really seeing their actual future selves, just their future power-sets and we didn’t know that they became villainous.  Nor did we know that they had kidnapped Reptil and sent back “future, evil Reptil”.  How very sneaky and villainous!  Love it! However, that final splash page really should have had an editor’s note referring people to that back issue because if I look at that splash page with “new reader” eyes, I wouldn’t have a clue what was going on since the only visual cues are that Finesse has longer hair and the electric guy looks grown up (Veil, Hazmat & Mettle look the same).

3. Too much talking in the middle. There a lot of hand-wringing in the middle of this issue – too much of the teachers and students talking about each other from across the room.  It seems like that could have been wrapped up in a page if the creators weren’t afraid of old-fashioned exposition.  Just have the verbal misunderstanding happen at the same time as the physical conflict.  I know it seems unrealistic to have these long speeches in the middle of the fisticuffs, but that is far preferable to having to waste several pages to get to the same end point.  This comic existed to get us to the money shot (the cool reveal on the final page), not to beat into our heads how much misunderstanding there is among these folks.

4. New kiddie heroes! This is wonderful for the team and the book.  The concept of the Academy having full-time students (Mettle, Hazmat, etc.), but also being a place where other young heroes can stop by for training is great.  In a perfect world, Savage She-Hulk and Spider-Girl could have their own series, but Marvel has tried that and they don’t sell well enough to sustain themselves.  Yet, those young heroes do have followings and need somewhere to be seen and Avengers Academy is a great place for it.  Also loved seeing a grown up Lightspeed from Power Pack.  Anything in comics that makes it blindingly obvious that time has passed in the overall Marvel Universe is welcomed!  Now we know that at least ~6 years have passed since 1985.  LOL!

5. Pretty solid art. There’s nothing in this art that will blow your socks off, but there are so many artists who suck at the little details like drawing faces or doing quality storytelling that its a real pleasure to see someone just doing a quietly great job.  I mean, I’d never rave about this art the way to I do Chris Bachalo or Rafael Albuquerque or Jock, but a lot of artists could take some tips form Chen.  Job #1 of sequential art is telling the story and there isn’t a single awkward panel in the issue.  Probably my favorite is the one of Quicksilver going to look for Jocasta.  It just shows two panels: one of him running away to find her, the other of him coming back and skidding to a stop.  Each has little fantom images in his wake to show that he’s moving fast.  These two small panels tell what happened: Quicksilver ran to find her, he’s super fast and he saw something horrible.  So many artists sacrifice this storytelling by showing a dramatic large panel of Quicksilver speeding through the environment.  Nice job Sean Chen!

Conclusion: It’s a shame this series doesn’t have higher sales because it was been consistent quality since issue #1.  This is a pretty decent place to hop on as the Academy is starting a new direction and I’m sure it’ll be awesome.

Grade: B

-Dean Stell

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