REVIEW: Avengers Academy #2

by

Or – “The Next Guest Instructor Should Be The Two-Gun Kid!”

Last issue, we met the newest recruits to Avengers Academy, the kinder, gentler version of Camp HAMMER and Tony Stark’s Initiative.  Ranging from nerdy to flat-out disturbing, the new kids have a hard row to hoe, learning to be a hero from a guy best known for killing his father, a former teenage terrorist, a guy best known for beating his spouse, an accidental mass-murderer and Tigra.  Suffice to say it may take a while to matriculate to full hero status…

Avengers Academy #2
COVER BY: Mike Mckone
WRITER: Christos Gage

PENCILS: Mike McKone
COLORED BY: Jeromy Cox

LETTERED BY: NEUROTIC CARTOONIST, INC
PUBLISHED BY: Marvel Comics

Previously. on Avengers Academy:  The ascension of Iron Man to the head of SHIELD was supposed to herald a new Golden Age, but Tony Stark just flat had too many irons in the fire and things went bad.  His replacement was Norman Osborn, the former Green Goblin, a man who believed that demagoguery starts at home.  Long story short, the Dark Reign was bad quick, and the return of Steve Rogers could not have come at a better time.  Last issue we were introduced to Striker, Reptil, Mettle, Veil, Hazmat and Finesse, each of whom were told that they were the cream of the crop of young superhumans that Norm-O’s administration could track down.  Utterly through chance, they discovered the truth about their status:  They were chosen not because they were most gifted proto-heroes, but because they were deemed most dangerous and unstable.  The kids are still dealing with this revelation, but the real question is, can we even trust their TEACHERS?

Last issue was narrated by Veil, the wallflowery teen whose powers include turning to gas, while this issue comes from the mind of Finesse, the polymath with the oddly familiar powerset.  It quickly becomes clear that, while she has a grasp of particle physics and higher math, Finesse has NO idea how to handle people.  She quickly alienates Reptil by revealing that he’s never kissed a girl, and then offers to kiss him without realizing the consequences.  Thankfully, they’re attacked by a villain (Arsenal, the living… uh, arsenal, no relation to the former Red Arrow ((Ugh))) and have to fight it or die.  Well, not really die, as Finesse quickly works out that the beast is attacking with purely non-lethal force, and uncovers that it’s a test set up by Quicksilver to help them bond as a unit.  “When I was a boy, Magneto would hire assassins to attack me and Wanda in our sleep!” explains the Transian speedster, but his fellow faculty members aren’t buying his explanation.  (It’s also revealed that Jocasta survived the end of Mighty Avengers, and is now treated Hank Pym like a particular dispised ex-boyfriend…)  Finesse tries to bond with her teammates, but just can’t crack the code of human interaction.

We get the quick version of her history, including worries that she might be a psychotic or that she might have Aspergers syndrome, but neither hypothesis fits.  She even reveals that she was happy to join Norm-O’s team, because it gave her the ability to study super-battles first hand, allowing her experience that she couldn’t ever get as an athlete or college student.  To try and get in with the bosses, Finesse actually MAKES A PASS at Hank Pym (!!) but is quickly rebuffed.  Mike McKone does very nuanced things with the art here, giving her nearly the exact body language with Hank that she had as she went to kiss Reptil, leaving no question as to what she’s up to.  (Add that to the fact that she looks oddly like Audrey Hepburn or the actress who played Susan on Doctor Who, and it’s a very well “acted” sequence.)  Hank leaves her to watch a television biography of Quicksilver, apparently to show her a better example of a path to heroism, but what she actually finds is clear proof that his ‘A Skrull replaced me!’ excuse for his psychoses is false.  Once again, she uses the EXACT body positioning to put the moves on Quicksilver, with a twist.  “Unless you want the world to know your secrets, you’ll teach me what Magneto taught you in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants…”  Don’t run away from that ‘psychotic’ question too quick, young lady…

This is a neat issue, told from the perspective of a character who is puzzled by humanity, and the writing clearly isolates her.  We spend the majority of the issue in her head (unlike last issue’s Veil spotlight, where she interacted with everyone and crushed on Justice) and even the moments where other characters interact with her are as awkward to read as they would be to live, a really nice piece of work.  I like McKone’s art here, steeped in the classic Perez/Byrne depictions of the Marvel Universe, but with a slightly Vertigo twist that gives the work an additional layer.  It’s funny that both the Heroic Age and the Brightest Day are filled with characters as dark and twisty as anything we saw during the “dark times” of the universes, but this team is starting to coalesce into something fascinating for me.  I don’t want it to turn into the next Champions/New Warriors/Loners/New X-Men team that slips into the background until a vaguely familiar character is needed for the sacrifice mill.  Avengers Academy #2 is  a strong issue, as good as the last if not better, and earns 4 out of 5 stars overall.  The crative team gets additional kudos for acknowledging the elephant in the room and bringing up Finesse’s similarities to Taskmaster as part of the plot… 

Rating: ★★★★☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Which of the Academy kids do you think has the most potential?