Saturday, November 2, 2013

CBR:Quickies Avengers Academy

I'm a big fan of fun light hearted Avengers book - here's a great recent series I was very sad to see end up.

For more Hank Pym's adventures, check out these other reviews!

Traditionally, books featuring Antman/Hank Pym have always been the lighter funnier Avengers titles (such as Tim Seeley's Ant-man & Wasp).

Following the events of the Siege and Dark Reign storylines, Marvel Comics launched its "Heroic Age" branding in 2010.

Avengers Academy was created by writer Christos Gage with art provided by Mike McKone. Prior to this Gage was working on Avengers: The Initiative with Dan Slott who was responsible for Mighty Avengers.

Like Mighty Avengers, Avengers Academy is part adventure, part comedy and all drama.

The books follows several new young heroes, kids who have been experimented on and given super-powers by the villain Norman Osborn when he was in a position of power. Changed forever, these
"gifted" kids are searching for a purpose and a better understanding of their powers at the Avengers Academy, first located in Pym's Infinite Avengers Mansion and later on at the Avengers' former West Coast Mansion.

These students are Madeline Berry aka the vaporous Veil, Brandon Sharpe aka the electrical Striker, class leader Humberto Lopez aka the fanboy dinosaur-shapeshifter Reptil, the surfer Ken Mack aka the now red-exoskeleton-enhanced Mettle, Jeanne Foucault aka the photographic-memory genius Finesse and Jennifer Takeda now super-radioactive trapped in a containment suit as Hazmat.

The book relates their adventures as they try to learn how to become better persons with the help from several Avengers. During the course of the book, several other kids joined or left the Academy.

After several tie-in crossovers including the ones with the event Fear Itself and later on the Avengers vs. X-Men series, Avengers Academy was brought to an end due to the rebranding/soft-reboot in Marvel's lineup, known as Marvel Now.

Comic title: Avengers Academy Volume 1: Permanent Record
Written by Christos Gage 
Art by Mike McKone & Jorge Molina
Format: Trade Paperback collecting Avengers Academy issues #1-6 and Enter the Heroic Age.

Norman Osborn has been experimenting how the super heroes abilities work and playing God himself.

But Osborn's dark reign is no more. Now the kids all returned to their respective homes.. only to gind out they didn't escape without some permanent "scars".

Given super powers these young people are proposed to enter a special program courtesy from the Avengers.

Hank Pym opens the Avengers Academy with some help from his robot Jocasta. They are soon joined by Tigra, Justice, Speedball and Quicksilver who will all serve as regular teachers while other Avengers are free to drop in give some advices or help along.

They try to learn how these powers work and understand how to better use them instead of those powers taking over their life (as in, becoming super villains).

Finesse blackmails Quicksilver into teaching her some stuff not on the program, "after hourse".

Thanks to Osborn, things are never gonna be the same for our young heroes..

Overall: I must say, this was a very entertaining and engaging opening for the series.

Simply put, it's pure superhero drama in the style of good old Stan Lee. Those are all-new character but they're pretty fun and able to carry this series like I haven't seen in years.

Christos Gage is a talented writer and he writes these fully 3-dimensional characters as flawed protagonists that will evolve, develop and grow up over the run of the series.

Mike McKone's drawings are clean and perfectly clear. It's the usual "Marvel school", but he brings some added clarity that avoids this book from looking like your generic stereotypical superhero (or X-men) comic. These characters are expressive and lively.

Little note, the trade includes a fun interview from Gage himself originally printed in the first issue.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Avengers Academy Volume 2: Will We Use This in the Real World?
Written by Christos Gage 
Art by Tom Raney, Mike McKone & Sean Chen
Format: Trade Paperback collecting Avengers Academy issues #7-13.

Hank Pym changes is super hero alias once again - it must be Friday. Formerly going by Wasp, he decides to return to Giant Man to move on.

The Avengers Academy students face some actual super-villains. They decide to track on villains on their own, almost getting expelled in the process.

Finesse takes on The Taskmaster all by herself. She believes he might be her real biological father.

While that is left not clear, our heroes get on probation for running these vendettas in secret.

They get trapped in their adult bodies from a possible future.

Finally the students get a well deserved break with other youngsters. Reptil meets Spider-Girl for the first time (the former heroine Araña).

Overall: Another solid story arc.

The whole adult bodies-story seems to go in all kinds of direction, but it's actually introducing a future concept (the possible future) and foreshadowing the next big arc.

I personally enjoy the most the calmer issues, and that prom night bit had some great characters moment.

All in all, it's another great volume, very fun and much enjoyable.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Avengers Academy: Arcade - Death Game
Written by Paul Tobin, Chris Claremont & Terry Kavanagh
Art by David Baldeon, Michael Nasser, Rich Buckler & Chris Marrinan
Format: Trade Paperback collecting Avengers Academy Giant-Size #1, Marvel Team-Up #89, and Spider-Man #25.

In the first feature here, our heroes catch some well-deserved break.

Reptil finds Spider-girl and Firestar. Following those two, our heroes get captured one by one.

It seems they have fallen victim of game-genius Arcade. Now captured in his deadly traps they must find a way out and work their differences to combine their strenght... and defeat their foes!

After that we get this classic past Spider-man issue. Arcade goes after the wall-crawler to measure his smarts against ol' webhead. Spidey gets powers from the Phoenix force. And he will only be able to count on Captain Britain to help him out escape these giant jigsaw puzzles!

Finally the last feature follows a team-up between the X-man Nightcrawler and Spidey. Those two are forced to join forces to escape alive from a deadly circus, and a ridiculous plot...

Overall: This is a filler volume.

It does contain the following relationship between Reptil and Spider-girl, but it wasn't followed much afterwards either.

The giant-size Avengers Academy is nice enough. The art was cartoony and lovely rendered.

But the vintage issues are not the best I've read from the House of Ideas. While the old Arcade issue was decent enough, the second one is only loosely related to the main plot.

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Fear Itself: Avengers Academy 
Written by Christos Gage 
Art by Sean Chen, Tom Raney & Andea Di Vito
Format: Trade Paperback collecting Avengers Academy issues #14-20 & #14.1.

Hank Pym and some others are forced to respond to several situations around the world, while the students get sidelined.

They get tricked into freeing the all-new (not really-)improved Sinister Six! And it was all part of Doctor Octopus' master plan.

Pym didn't prepare the youngsters enough.

They encounter another victim of Osborn's manipulations, the kid-genius and billionaire Jeremy Briggs. He's been using his powers in other ways. And he seems to be doing a lot more for the world than they've ever dreamed of.

Then they face something they were never prepared to ever face, Fear Itself! Enhanced villains with powers given by the Gods of Asgard attack the Infinite Mansion.

Speedball leaves his teaching duties. And Veil takes on Briggs offer to join him change the world.

Overall: While this is when crossovers started getting more intrusive on the series, this is still a very solid entry.

Avengers Academy was a fantastic series. Action, drama, humor, you name it!

The whole Fear Itself is used to shake things up and change the direction of the next volumes.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Avengers Academy Volume 3: Second Semester     
Written by Christos Gage 
Art by Sean Chen, Tom Raney, Tom Grummett & Karl Moline
Format: Trade Paperback collecting Avengers Academy issues #21-28.

The second semester is here!

Which means new students and new issues to face!

The Avengers Academy started because Captain America & co feared these kids had all odds against them. Left by themselves they could just as well end up turning into super-villains. But it's time to finally open the doors to others in need of guidance.

Hawkeye joins the staff.

They open the campus for try outs and to let other gifted kids have a chance to look around, what Avengers Academy is all about.

Problems always seem to follow the Avengers around. Jocasta starts to question all this.

Jocasta is attacked and left seriously damaged in the middle of the mansion. With the arrival of the new students it's really tricking to search for the responsible.

It seems that the future selves are behind all this...!

They are forced to ask the X-men to help with the investigation. Even if he's a good guy now, Magneto cause more damages than any help, and Finesse ends up bonding with Quicksilver.

The Avengers Academy offers shelter to a shape-shifter called Hybrid. But Hybrid's actually an evil alien who teams up with future!Reptil.

The students will always be at risk as long as they stay at the Academy. Jocasta also joins Jeremy Briggs to find another alternative.

The Runaways visit the school for help from Pym. They travel to another dimension... which shows some light on the origin of Reptil's powers!

Overall: Freed from any forced crossover, this was another great volume!

My favorite was probably the Runaways story-arc. It's always fun to bring in other characters to let the students interact with other heroes their age.

But the Magneto-Quicksilver confrontation was also another classic scene.

The cast is expanded and while not every character got a chance to shine it's building up for more later drama.

Great art all around.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Avengers vs. X-Men: Avengers Academy
Written by Christos Gage 
Art by Tom Grummett & Timothy Green II
Format: Trade Paperback collecting Avengers Academy issues #29-33 & Secret Avengers #26-28.

Hercules joins the staff of teachers.. which doesn't make everybody happy, such as Tigra.

The arrival of new students takes some getting used to, like Laura aka X-23. X and Finesse get along quickly, the two girls sharing the same kind of mentality and inexperience regarding natural human behavior.

Wolverine brings in his X-men students. The two sides of Marvel population ("super heroes" and mutants) get to know each other and learn to accept themselves in the process.

The reformed villain Sebastian Shaw absorbs energy and escape, wrecking havoc in the process to prove a point.

The fight between the adults break out as the "Avengers vs. X-Men" 2012 storyline begins. While some of the adults go to wage war in Utopia, the children start to question all this as they try to keep things friendly around the campus.

Juston Seyfert and his Sentinel are not to everyone's taste.

Suddenly the very questionable Phoenix force-powered X-men get wind of his presence at the Academy. Emma Frost arrive at the school well intend to destroy the last remaining Sentinel...

Overall: Full of action and philosophical stand points better expressed by the younger generation of characters while "Marvel" forces the heroes to face each other.

It's another great book and Gage was able to make the best of this situation in the ever-going story.

X-23 book was canceled at the time.. and instead of letting a perfectly good and decent character go to "waste", Gage incorporated her on the plot. And she provides a great middle and neutral point of view in this AvX conflict.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Comic title: Avengers Academy Volume 4: Final Exams     
Written by Christos Gage 
Art by Tom Grummett & Andrea Di Vito
Format: Trade Paperback collecting Avengers Academy issues #34-39.

Our young heroes are trying to adjust to life as it is. Some with more problems than others, namely Hazmat and Mettle. All this due to the closer of the Avengers Academy.

Jeremy Briggs calls the former students, he has apparently developed a cure to their powers. They discover his true intentions.

Called "Clean Slate", he intends to depower every being across the world. Super villains and super heroes alike.

It doesn't work on everyone so he also employs magic to keep in check mystically-powered beings such as Reptil and Ava Ayala, the White Tiger.

Some of them accept his plan, the others fight back.

Finesse uses X-23 claws to kill Briggs.

After all's said and done, only Veil is left "normal".

Giant Man and Wolverine organize a friendly game of football between Avengers Academy and the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. The adults seem to be enjoying it a lot more than the students.

Laura learns the truth regarding Briggs' death and doesn't want to talk to Finesse anymore. She won't be used as a weapon anymore. By anyone.

Some of the original students are promoted to full level Avengers.

Overall: This was a perfectly fitting ending for the series. Not a complete resolution, and more of a "To Be Continued" one. Sadly, what followed won't ever be recommended by me...

Much of the on-going storylines are brought to an end. It was fun while it lasted! The characters get closure. They matured a lot during the run. They are all left in different places at the end, even Veil and her situation back to "before" she ever got powers.

Gage writes a fantastic final chapter and a bitter sweet send off for the students.

Until next time, true believers!

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

In the end, Avengers Academy was a great series, easily one of the best new ideas Marvel offered in years.

The concept and format of the series offered itself for serial and could just as well have lasted much longer.

Part of the series was retooled and kept as basis, kinda, for the cartoon series Ultimate Spider-man.

Avengers Academy was a good series that was mostly a victim of Marvel's incessant crossovers mania.

A spiritual sequel of sorts was launched as part of the "Marvel Now" direction. Called Avengers Arena, it was a follow-up in name only. While it does feature most of the same ex-students, the book is a different kind of read. Much grittier with a lot less sense of fun, it's basically Avengers Academy meet Battle Royal*. Kids are getting killed left and right, all for the sake of sales.

I'd recommend staying away from that and instead keeping a look on the Marvel NOW! Future Foundation titled by Matt Fraction and Mike Allred, much more in line with the spirit of Avengers Academy.


That's all for this time's Quickies!


  1. I actually thought of Avengers Arena as a Lost rip-off.
    Good review.

    1. Well, to be honest AA was more of a Battle Royal ripoff, from the whole kids fighting themselves to the actual logo of the series - just google it!