I will admit to suffering from Avengers fatigue at this point. Marvel is following a time tested format that if one popular title is good then 5 versions of that popular title is even better. Initially, I was going to pass on Avengers Academy. It certainly was not because of the creative team. I like both Christos Gage and Mike McKone. I also completely enjoyed Avengers: Initiative which is the title that Avengers Academy ostensibly comes spinning out from.
However, Avengers Academy seemed like an unnecessary title. I rarely enjoy teen hero teams who are training to replace the iconic heroes. That is why titles like Young Avengers, Young X-Men, New Mutants, etc. have historically had limited to no appeal to me. The problem is that many of the teen characters lack personality and never experience any character growth because Marvel is never going to replace their iconic characters for these teen characters.
Still, I am a huge fan of Hank Pym. I also like Quicksilver, Tigra, Justice and Speedball. So, that was enough for me to give Avengers Academy #1 a try. Hopefully, Gage can make Avengers Academy something more unique than your generic teen super hero team “training” to become the heroes of the future. Let’s do this review for Avengers Academy #1.
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Mike McKone
Colors: Jeromy Cox
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin three months ago at a high school. We see a nerdy girl named Maddy. She thinks about how the attractive popular boy in school has been texting for the past weeks. She walks up to him and says that she would love to Homecoming with him. The boy responds “Do I know you?” The girl realizes that the popular boy’s girlfriend has been playing a trick on her by texting her the past few weeks. Maddy thinks how she just wants to disappear. Suddenly, her body turns into smoke.
We shift to that night with Maddy meeting with Norman Osborn. Norman says that Maddy is special and he can turn her into a hero like Ms. Marvel.
We cut to the present time. We see Hank Pym running some tests on Maddy. Maddy feels bad that she didn’t realize how evil Norman was. Hank asks Maddy how she feels. Maddy responds that she feels better than ever and no longer needs her glasses. Hank responds that when a super human ability manifests that there is often a general augmentation of physiology that accompanies it.
Hank then says that his tests reveal that Norman forcing Maddy to turn into several different types of gases in a short period of time just after her powers manifested themselves caused damage to Maddy’s basic molecular structure. That Maddy’s body is slowly losing cohesion. Hank says that it may take years or even decades for that to occur. Pym says he will do his best to fix her. But, if they cannot figure out how to prevent it then Maggie is eventually going to discorporate.
Maddy then runs out of the lab as Justice and Tigra enter it. Justice follows Maddy. Justice then walks after Maddy. Justice comforts Maddy. Justice tells Maddy to live life to its fullest and not worry about the future. Justice then takes Maddy to meet another student at the Academy.
Her name is Hazmat. When her powers jump started they realized that every part of her body was poisonous. Even her sweat and saliva. Therefore, Hazmat has to live the rest of her life in a containment suit. Justice thinks that Hazmat could use a friend like Maddy. However, Hazmat blows of Maddy and does not want to talk to anyone.
Justice then tells Maddy that Norman Osborn picked them because out of all over the dozens of young super heroes because they are the best. Justice says that they have a chance to change the world.
We cut to later with Maggie in her new costume. She thinks it looks ugly. She goes to meet the rest of the group before their sparring session. She meets Reptile and Mettle sparring with each other. The three young heroes to address themselves to each other at these update is mail. We then see the rest of the students at the Avengers Academy enter the. Their names are Striker, Finesse and Hazmat.
Speedball enters and says that Hank Pym wants to address everyone proper to the sparring session. The students walk into the main atrium. Pym says that the young heroes are a part of a new Golden Age. That Norman Osborn sought them out because they were the best of the best. That they showed the greatest potential to become the heroes of tomorrow. The teachers at the Academy are Pym, Justice, Speedball, Tigra and Quicksilver.
The sparring session between Speedball and the students begins. During the sparring session, we see Pym talking with Tigra and Quicksilver. Pym is worried about whether it was a good idea to have Speedball as one of the teachers. Tigra mentions that they are all black sheep of the Avengers. That Justice killed his father. That Quicksilver has changed sides between hero and villain many times. That Speedball deserves a chance.
Quicksilver agrees that he is currently with the Avengers in an attempt to disassociate himself from his father, Magneto, now that Magneto is active once again. Quicksilver points out that Pym has made his share of mistakes in the past. Pym says that he never forgets that he had a nervous breakdown and attacked his wife and friends. Pym says that he reminds himself of this every day. Pym says he intends on learning from his mistakes and not forgetting about them and helping others achieve their full potential.
We cut back to the sparring session. We see Hazmat remove her glove and blast away. Speedball nails Hazmat and tells her that the students are not supposed to use anything dangerous. That Hazmat used a radiation blast and could have killed someone. That Hazmat can only use non-lethal options until he has total control over her powers.
Speedball yells if Hazmat wants to accidently incinerate a bus full of kids when she is trying to take down a bad guy. Speedball asks if she wants to wake up every night hearing screams and smelling burnt pork.
Justice enters the room and tells Speedball to take a break. Speedball walks into the room where Quicksilver, Tigra and Pym are hanging out. Quicksilver asks Speedball if he thinks it is a good idea that they are deceiving the students about their true nature. Speedball snaps that they have to lie to the students. That they can never find out the truth about themselves.
We see Finesse watching Speedball talking to Quicksilver through a window between the two rooms. Finesse says that she is a polymath and can acquire skills and knowledge at an accelerated rate. Finesse says that she read Speedball’s lips before he turned around. Finesses says that the teachers are hiding a secret from them.
Striker says that all the teachers, except Pym, will be out tonight. And that Pym will be locked up in his lab. Striker says that they can go hack into the system and find out what the secret is.
We zip to later that night. The students use their powers to disable the security systems and hack into the system. Striker finds out the secret. Striker tells the team that it is a lie that Norman picked them because they were the best and had the greatest potential to be heroes. In fact, they are the ones that Norman tortured the worst. That they are the ones whose psych tests set off alarms.
Striker says that they are not here because they think the students have what it takes to be the next Captain America. That they are here because the Avengers are worried that they will become the next Red Skull. Striker says “They are afraid of us.” Finesse says “They should be.” End of issue.
The Good: Avengers Academy #1 was an enjoyable read. I had more fun reading this issue than I was expecting. Gage managed to put a nice twist on the typical teen super team that made this issue different from the other teen super team titles on the market.
Avengers Academy #1 was a properly paced title. This issue had a pleasant flow as Gage nicely transitioned between the various scenes. Gage provided just enough action with the sparring scene in the middle of this issue to keep this dialogue heavy issue from being too slow.
Avengers Academy #1 was a well plotted issue. Gage does a nice job immediately introducing all of the characters in this title; both the teachers and the students. Gage also quickly installs the mission statement of this team as well. The reader gets a clear impression of what Gage wants to do with this title. These are all important qualities that a debut issue of a new title must possess.
I also appreciated the fact that Gage wasted no time by revealing the secret that the teachers were keeping from the students. Most writers would have made the readers slog through an eight issue story arc to finally reveal the teachers’ secret. Thankfully, Gage unveils that to the reader up front. This allows the story to move at a more enjoyable pace and lets Gage deal withthis delightful twist of the students not being picked because they were the best and the brightest.
To be honest, it was this brilliant twist at the end of this issue that hooked me on Avengers Academy. Up until the end, I was convinced that Gage was going to offer us nothing more than another generic teen super team title. However, Gage smartly flips the teen super team concept on its head with the ending of this issue. I absolute love that these students are not the heroes of the future. In fact, they are the villains of the future. This should certainly make this title much more interesting than your average teen super team title.
This plot twist should help Gage be able to differentiate Avengers Academy from the myriad of teen super team titles on the market. This twist should also serve as the basis for an interesting character study. The reader now wonders which of the students will want to try and fight against their personal demons and become heroes and which of the students will simply accept who they are and become villains. I seriously hope that Gage does not have the entire team turn out to be a bunch of heroes. I would love for the Avengers Academy to spawn a few villains as well.
I love the faculty for the Avengers Academy that Gage has assembled. Hank Pym, Justice, Tigra, Speedball and Quicksilver are outstanding choices. I like all of these characters. Gage was wise to pick these specific characters as it matches perfectly with the theme of this title.
Basically, Avengers Academy is a place where the potentially villainous go to learn to be heroes. Who better to teach these students than the black sheep of the Avengers family? Thematically, the selections of the teachers for this title were perfect. It should allow Gage the opportunity to show the truly great and heroic side of these vastly underrated Avengers.
Gage displays an excellent feel for the personalities of the five teachers. Each of the teachers has a well developed voice. Gage does an impressive job being able to whip up some quality chemistry between these characters in quick fashion.
Pym is the natural choice as the head of the Avengers Academy. It appears that Pym is in good hands with Gage as the writer. Gage understands Pym’s character and, unlike some writers, actually respects Pym and his place in the Avengers’ history.
I enjoyed how Gage made a point of having Pym own his mistakes in the past. By having Pym state that he wants to embrace his mistakes and never forget them in order to make him a better person and to spur him to helping those around him get better fits thematically with the general message of this title. Pym is certainly the best Avengers to choose for this role as the head of the Avengers Academy.
I like the inclusion of Speedball onto the faculty of the Avengers Academy. I also love the fact that Robbie is now going by the codename Speedball and is back in his Speedball costume. I never liked Robbie as Penance. It was too overly dramatic and grim for me to ever take seriously or buy into.
I found the move to turning Robbie back in Speedball more of a comment on the direction of the Marvel Universe. Penance was a microcosm of the Marvel Universe during and after Civil War. The 616 Universe was incredibly dark and humorless. Penance embodied that Civil War-Initiative-Secret Invasion-Dark Reign era.
On the other hand, the Speedball that we get in Avengers Academy #1 is a microcosm of the Heroic Age of the Marvel Universe. It is a generally more heroic and positive approach, however, like Robbie’s lingering pain and emotional scars, the Heroic Age also has some depth and darkness to it as well. It is just that, like the current Speedball, the Heroic Age is much more balanced between the positive heroic feel to the 616 universe compared to the darker side of the 616 universe.
I appreciate that Gage simply did not gloss over Speedball’s stint as Penance or his emotional baggage stemming from Civil War. Those memories should leave him scarred. However, I like that Gage is having Speedball work past those demons and try to be the positive hero that he used to be. It is a nice balance between light and dark.
I enjoyed how Gage handled Quicksilver in this issue. Gage absolutely nails Quicksilver’s voice and personality. I have always been a fan of Quicksilver. Unfortunately, Pietro is a character that few writers understand and know how to write. However, when done correctly, Quicksilver can be immensely entertaining. Pietro is a mercurial fellow and I like how he is always looking out for himself. Unlike the other Avengers, Pietro walks the line between hero and villain. The reader never knows which way Quicksilver is going to go.
Justice appears to be given the role as the conscience of the teachers. Justice is going to provide a more empathetic role model for the students than any of the other faculty members. And Tigra? She is just flat out cool. I love her.
Mike McKone provides plenty of nice slick artwork. McKone’s style is a good match for this title. McKone is certainly at ease with dialogue heavy scenes as he is with action scenes. I enjoyed the amount of emotion that McKone is able to inject to the story through the character’s facial expressions. The evil smirks on Finesse’s face got across the point to the reader that she is not to be trusted for more effectively than the dialogue did.
The Bad: The opening scene of Avengers Academy #1 was simply a collection of high school clichés. It felt like I had read it numerous times before. This opening scene certainly did not start this issue out on a positive foot with me.
The students largely do not interest me. There is just not that much to get excited about with a bunch of mopey angst ridden teen-agers. Gage was not able to give the students much personality at all. Their characters came across as generic. Personally, I would much rather see the teachers getting the spotlight on this title rather than the students. Of course, this is just one issue, but Gage has his work cut out for him to get me interested in these students.
Overall: Avengers Academy #1 is a solid debut issue. This title has plenty of potential. Hopefully, Gage will be able to tap the full potential of Avengers Academy. I would certainly recommend Avengers Academy to readers who enjoy teen super team titles. But, this title is more than just that. Readers who like classic super hero stories as well as readers who like stories that are a bit dark should also enjoy this title as well.