Grim_Noir reviews AVENGERS ACADEMY #14.1! So NOT the “throw-away” issue you’d expect!

Title: Avengers Academy #14.1
Writer: Christos Gage
Pencils: Sean Chen
Inker: Scott Hanna
Reviewed by Grim_Noir

I knew I was going to enjoy Avengers Academy #14.1 because the creators of this book never take the easy way out. Repeatedly, Christos Gage and company have ignored the option of taking Marketing gimmicks as an excuse to hand in lazy or throw-away issues:

Writer Christos Gage could have created a team book of “Young Avengers” using his then-cancelled Avengers: The Initiative characters.

Instead, he created Avengers Academy as a thoughtful examination of the aftermath of Norman Osborne’s Dark Reign. Like Hitler’s Youth Brigade before it, Norman mixed half-truths with young folks seeking approval to create his “Initiative.” Gage gave us a brand new group of young heroes that had never been seen in any other Marvel book (Finesse, Hazmat, Mettle, Reptil, Striker, and Veil; for those of you keeping score at home). Their teachers are a group of fallen Avengers (Giant-Man, Tigra, Quicksilver, Justice, Speedball, and even Jocasta), on their own personal quests for redemption, who worry that these teens may have had their morals irreversibly warped by their exposure to The Initiative.

It is a book where those who have darkness in their still-forming souls worry that all they are is Darkness. (Especially, since their gut-reaction to several standard superhero situations is much more “Dirty Harry” than “Captain America”.)

A year later, Avengers Academy had a “Giant-sized Special.” Usually, this is code in the Comic Book Geek community for “32 pages of new, but non-canon story combined with reprinted stories from ten years ago and sold for eight bucks (also see: It’s a Trap).”

In this case, however, it was a solid 80-page Arcade and Murderworld story that Paul Tobin and David Baldeon originally created as a three-part Young Allies, Spider-Girl, and Avengers Academy crossover. Not only was the story a lot of fun in a Jigsaw-meets-the-Joker way, but the main book’s writer, Gage, would continue the relationships formed in this “Giant-sized” seemlessly into the thirteenth issue.

Now, we have the POINT ONE issue of Avengers Academy and again we are given more than we have any right to expect. The, er, point of the POINT ONE issues of various Marvel comics is to give new readers a “jumping on” spot in the their respective narratives. (For books with fifty years of convoluted plotting, this might make sense…IF the Ultimate universe didn’t exist.) In most books, this would be a re-hash issue that no one needs, particularly in a title that is just over a year old.

This is why Avengers Academy #14.1 might catch readers off-guard: Gage uses this as an opportunity for these aspiring Avengers to examine the “path less taken” and find that being a superhero might not be the best way to make a difference in the modern world. The issue is never overloaded with exposition, but still asks the big questions, “If your mentors are so smart, why haven’t they cured you?” Or, “Are the concepts of hero and villain relevant in a post-Cold War world?” Or even, “What does a true 21st Century villain look like? And how would you recognize him?”

Artist Sean Chen and inker Scott Hanna are still struggling slightly with Mike McKone’s original character designs. (Mettle, in particular, needs a very deft touch to prevent his expressive eyes from becoming “googly.”) However, this does not distract from Gage’s spot-on dialogue. As a former Law and Order: S.V.U. scribe, he writes the way people actually speak and their discussions feel like all-nighters we had in college about what we would do to “fix” the world if we had infinite money or infinite power.

Just when you are ready for the team to break up and “walk the earth like Caine” from these revelations, an unexpected twist is introduced. I can only assume this is what older readers would have felt like the first time Kingpin showed up in Spider-Man or Magneto debuted in X-Men. It reminded me of the genuine thrill of reading a comic and not just the ritual of following a title.

Even though the book is moving into the Marvel Universe’s “Fear Itself” storyline for the next few issues, hopefully, this POINT ONE issue will have repercussions for years to come.



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2 Comments to “Grim_Noir reviews AVENGERS ACADEMY #14.1! So NOT the “throw-away” issue you’d expect!”

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  1. MasterFilmmaker MarkMackner says:

    Haven’t read this one yet, but I did pick up the one where they fought the Sinister Six, and LOVED it! It was so cool to see the Sinister Six win one for a change. I mean, they’re a SUPERGROUP of SUPER-VILLAINS! They SHOULD outmatch the heroes here and there.

    And was it Gage’s idea to bring GHOST into the THUNDERBOLTS? Because Ghost is one of my favorite comic characters these days.

  2. Grim_Noir says:

    Alas, Mark, I am not privy to Marvel bullpen scuttlebutt (as much as I wish I was). He is quite candid in the letter’s page of Avengers Academy.

    I agree that the Sinister Six should win one, once in a while. Plus, these are teenagers we’re talking about. They should make mistakes occasionally. The real test of their heroism is if they can persevere and learn from their mistakes. I look forward to seeing them grow as a team and as individuals.

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