Avengers Academy: "Christos Gage...is doing the work of his career (so far) on this book."
There’s just something about new teams of teen superheroes that inspires devotion in a small, but loyal fanbase, isn’t there? And you could chalk that up to a hunger for new characters (which is probably true), or that readers can identify with the characters better, as they’re closer to their age (also probably true). But what it comes down to, more than anything else – and this is about to sound really stupid – is that they’re usually very good.
What I mean by that (because duh, of course people like them if they’re good) is that the pressure to make a team of new superheroes worthwhile reading about often inspires the best in the writers tasked to present their adventures. Not only that, but because they often delve into a time in our lives when we felt emotions the strongest – positive, negative, first love, first heartbreak – there’s a real connection that happens between the creator and his or her creations.
This is all a preamble to saying that Avengers Academy, the latest iteration of the teen superheroes concept, has been as good as any team that’s come before them, and very often, much, much better. The credit for that rests squarely on the shoulders of Christos Gage, who really is doing the work of his career (so far) on this book. For those of you who haven’t been picking it up, Gage set up a nifty presence: what if the Avengers were able to identify future supervillains, and rather than waiting for them to go rogue, tried to educate them? And as an extra added bonus, the teachers were often as screwed up – if not moreso – than the students?
For twenty issues, the book has wrestled with that presence, and again it’s to Gage’s credit that he hasn’t taken the easy way out. The students have skirted the line, some of them not so successfully. Now, with issue twenty-one, Gage and company are taking an even bolder step of, essentially, soft rebooting the book… And it’s great.
The potential supervillains are still there front and center, of course, but now they’re down a few members (and teachers), and in a more expansive campus on the west coast; specifically, the former headquarters of the West Coast Avengers, which pushes all the right nostalgia factors. Also new? Avengers Academy is now open for enrollment to all young heroes in the Marvel Universe, with the more at risk kids coming on full time. That means we get some giddily fun cameos from former Power Pack members, one-off heroes like Sentinel, and more.
But what Gage never loses sight of is that these are teens with serious chips on their shoulders, and any brush with authority – even someone as authoritative as Captain America – can go awry.
Before I make you think this is just steeped in continuity (and sure, it is), the issue is one hundred percent new reader friendly, basically working as a new number one for readers who have never picked up the book before, and continuing plots from the previous twenty issues for those who have. That’s also a tough line to walk, but Gage does it ably and deftly, only occasionally dipping into the expositionary well.
But the best part is the shocking last few pages, which are, no exaggeration, the biggest twist the series has seen since the end of the first issue, and will make fans desperate to pick up the next few. And if you do, even if you don’t know anything more about the book than what’s in this review? You’ll be happy you enrolled at Avengers Academy. We’ll see you at class.
AVENGERS ACADEMY #21 hits comic book stands this Wednesday, November 2, 2011.