Trade Waiting: Avengers Academy Vol. 1 and 2
In this latest installment of trade waiting, we’ll be looking at a series that I have heard amazing things about, but had yet to read: Avengers Academy. Written by Christos Gage and drawn by Mike McKone, the series introduces us to a whole new set of characters, all from the “Dark Reign” era of Marvel, as they are ushered into the “Heroic Age” under the tutelage of Dr. Hank Pym, Tigra, Quicksilver, Justice, and Speedball. Living in the Infinite Avengers Mansion, the team is trained to hone their powers to become the next wave of heroes, when in actuality Pym and Co. are worried that the team may become the next wave of villains. You see, all of the characters in the book have one thing in common: Norman Osborn horrifically tortured them all in order for their powers to manifest and grow.
All of the characters in Avengers Academy are fantastic, and with the exception of one of them, aren’t “younger versions” of a popular characters, which is extremely refreshing, and a testament to Christos Gage’s originality. The team is naturally diverse, and every member is given his or her moment to shine. Their origin stories are unique and many times, tragic. The back-stories for Hazmat and Striker are two phenomenal examples, and there are many layers to these characters because of them. It would be impossible to not see the similarities between them and Marvel’s merry mutants. There’s not a bad member of the team, though my personal favorites are Veil, Mettle, and Finesse, the alleged daughter of Taskmaster.
Christos Gage’s script is able to remind you of the classic Claremont era Uncanny X-Men, but also be something completely original as well. His handle on Marvel history is stunning. Many past Avengers foes, like Korvac, make appearances, but are still presented in a way that is approachable for new readers. There’s also a great balance of quiet character moments and action, as the team tries to learn how to act in battle, many times out of their leagues and in way over their heads. This is also another plus for the book, as the characters make mistakes and learn from them, much like actual, real-life teenagers do. The art by Mike McKone is stunning. His figure work on the characters is fantastic, and he really does a great job of giving each character their own unique way of moving and posturing. He’s no slouch in the action sequences either. Finesse’s sparring match with Taskmaster in the second volume is one of the coolest fight scenes I’ve seen this year, expertly paced and planned so as though you almost get dizzy trying to keep up with these two world class fighters.
The first volume of the arc is a great introduction to the characters and set-up of the book, but the title really picks up steam in the second volume, which includes the previously mentioned Finesse/Taskmaster fight, Korvac’s attack, and even a school dance with guest stars the Young Allies. In fact, that one issue was probably my favorite of the whole collection. It’s the prime example of what the book is about, and how much fun it is.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Gage at Free Comic Book Day last year, and up until that point, I had only read his great Spider-man & The X-Men and Spider-man & The Fantastic Four miniseries, but I hope to see him again next year so I can talk about this wonderful book with him. We’ve got both collections at Jetpack, (and if you look reeaaallllll hard you may find volume one on the sale hard covers table) and the series just started a brand new story line with issue 21 that’s perfect for new readers. I know this is one series that I will definitely be sticking with, and is; in all honesty, one of the best books Marvel has produced in th