Tuesday, December 14, 2010
In the last few months, I’ve been extremely bummed that some of my favorite Marvel Comics have been cancelled. First Hawkeye and Mockingbird, then the criminally under-read Young Allies, and then most recently, my favorite Marvel book, Thor: Mighty Avenger, got the axe. While I know there is only so much one man can do, I thought I’d take a more proactive stance with my favorite surviving Marvel title, Avengers Academy. Hit the jump for my Top Ten reasons why you should be picking up this comic!
In this month’s issue #7 (due out tomorrow), Giant Man returns for the first time since the death of Bill “Also-known-as Goliath” Foster during Civil War. Is it going to be Hank Pym changing his heroic identity yet again? Could it be a new hero taking up the mantle? You’ll have to pick up the issue to find out!
If you haven’t been watching Super Hero Squad on Cartoon Network, you are missing out on perhaps the most unexpectedly witty cartoon to come out of Marvel. One of the few drawbacks to this cartoon—which I guarantee is better than you think it is—is the character of Reptil. On the cartoon, he is an incredibly whiney teen hero who seems painfully out of place amongst the likes of Thor and Iron Man. In Avengers Academy, he is a complex and powerful young teen who runs the risk of losing control of his powers. Think of him as a hormonally imbalanced and untrained dinosaur version of the Hulk with acceptance issues.
Marvel doesn’t seem to be budging on the $3.99 price point for its most popular titles any time soon, which means this is the only title in the Avengers line that clocks in at the once-standard price point of $2.99. That makes this one a great value by Marvel’s standards and your purchase is one more reminder to the company that readers want cheaper comics.
The cast of Avengers Academy features of a mix of new and established characters, with all of the teachers at the academy being former Avengers. More specifically, the teachers are Avengers with major issues looking for redemption. You get Speedball trying to overcome the pain dependency he developed as Penance. Tigra recently gave up her own child to focus on making the world safer. Quicksilver and Hank Pym each need redemption for a list of misdeeds miles long. This series is about training the next generation of heroes, but for their instructors, its also about finding a positive purpose.
With the exception of Reptil, all of the future heroes at the Avengers Academy are brand new to the series. Christos Gage and Mike McKone flexed their creative muscles to create a cast of young characters that are even more intriguing than their instructors. The sensitive Veil’s powers will eventually kill her. Hazmat’s would kill anyone who gets closer to her. Mettle has lost all semblance of his once joyful humanity. Striker is a conflicted glory-hound who extreme issues of the pageant mother variety. And there is Finesse. We’ll get back to Finesse…
I’ve been a huge fan of Christos Gage for years and I’ve always been impressed with the work that he has done with Marvel, even if he seemed to be playing it safe with his characterization and plotting. That is, of course, until he completely cut loose with the mature readers comic Absolution for Avatar Press—a violent and twisted comic that took Gage’s work to a previously unseen level. With Avengers Academy, Gage continues this trend of pulling no punches, but with a more cerebral approach. In this highly character-focused series, Gage holds nothing back when it comes to psychologically damaging his characters, making this one of the most intriguing superhero comics on the stands. This may not have the gore of Absolution, but that doesn’t mean Gage’s concepts are any less horrifying.
This is, hands down, artist Mike McKone’s best work since his Teen Titans run with Geoff Johns. His designs and storytelling are extremely bold with some of the best facial expressions I’ve ever seen from him. In fact, I daresay that Avengers Academy #2 might feature the best work of McKone’s career. I spoke with McKone briefly at Wizard World Chicago last August and was immediately struck by the passion that he has for this series. It shows on every single page!
While Avengers Academy was originally pitched to readers as the heroes of tomorrow being trained by the heroes today as extension of this glorious new Heroic Age, there is really a sinister secret bubbling under the surface. These future heroes weren’t chosen at random—they were handpicked by Norman Osborn (during his time as the head honcho of the Marvel Universe) as having the highest potential to become dangerous super villains. While this was meant to remain a secret, the cadets found this out early on in the series and it has weighed heavily on their every move since then. Will they become the world’s greatest heroes or the world’s greatest villains?
Jeanne Foucault, codenamed Finesse, has completely stolen the show in Avengers Academy. Her powers are similar to that of Taskmaster’s “photographic reflexes.” She can learn any skill—from martial arts to motorcycle maintenance—with extreme ease and flawless execution. She is the perfect weapon, but not the perfect soldier thanks to her complete lack of social graces and her near-psychotic ambition. This has ostracized her from her fellow students and made her the most obvious threat to her instructors. She has recently forced herself under the tutelage of Quicksilver, demanding that he teach her all the lessons that his father, the villainous Magneto, taught him as part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. She’s the biggest wild card in a series about wild cards and is more than enough reason on her own to add this comic to your pull list.
I’m being completely selfish here. I love this series and I don’t want to see it go away. While Marvel has assured readers that it is sticking behind this book, I’ve seen so many of my favorite comics disappear from the shelves. I don’t want this to be the next Runaways or Young Allies or Thor: The Mighty Avenger. Avengers Academy #6 sold fairly well in November at about 25,000 units to be the 66th best selling comic through Diamond. That’s about 14,000 more comics sold than Young Allies. For now, these aren’t numbers to worry about, but the only way to keep this comic safe is to keep buying it and to bring in new readers. I’m looking at you, True Believers.