Family reunions can be a drag, especially when your father may be a guy who has incorporated the fighting styles of everyone he’s ever witnessed in action. But what if you seem to share this skill set? Perhaps it’s time to go Maury Povich on his #@@ and determine if Taskmaster *IS* the father! The DNA tests show…ah, take the jump already!
Title: Avengers Academy #9
Writer: Christos Gage
Penciler: Mike McKone
Inker: Rebecca Buchman
Colorist: Jeremy Cox
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramanga
Assistant Editor(s): Rachel Pinnelas & John Denning
Editor: Bill Rosemann
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Previously: Norman Osborn is one twisted pretzel. While he was in power, he engaged in a multitude of nasty shenanigans. For the purposes of this review, we’ll focus on one specific chapter from the stained pages of Osborn lore; the young and powerful young adults who would eventually represent the first class of Hank Pym’s Avenges Academy. Alongside Pym are Tigra, Quicksilver, Justice, Speedball and Jocasta. The students of the Avengers Academy have been selected based on a variety of criteria, including their torturous indoctrination into the accelerated power evolution. Along with already existing personality traits, the 6 students (Finese, Hazmat, Mettle, Reptil, Striker and Veil) are ‘at risk’ for being lured by the pallid glamour of supervillain status. Through subterfuge, the kids know the real story of their presence although Pym and his crew have yet to acknowledge this fact.
Same As It Never Was
Never let it be said that an Avengers-related book can’t thrive, fueled primarily by strong characterization. Unlike Bendis-led Avengers titles, character interaction in Christos Gage’s Avengers Academy isn’t a series of ‘one size fits all’ one-liners filling 4 pages of talking heads. Gage has a clear identity in mind for all these heroes and his approach is winning critical praise from fellow creators and perhaps more importantly, from comics readers.
In many cases, high character count can impede the reader’s ability to fully absorb the material. A striking example can be found in the final year or so of JSA stories from Geoff Johns. The cast of assembled heroes was staggering, especially when you factor in the action-heavy backdrop of the title. Gage skillfully avoids those pitfalls, carefully rendering the tale at a balanced pace. In other Avengers books (Bendis-penned), it’s clear that the author has a favorite (or several) character that receives the lion’s share of attention. There is no sense that Gage is partial to any one set of heroes, instead he expertly juggles the entourage with an almost paternal engenderment. These are his children and he loves each of them equally.
Who’s Your Daddy?
This issue puts the spotlight on Finesse, an emotionally bankrupt character with a thirst for learning and an instinctive knack for absorbing the fighting abilities of those she observes. If you’re thinking this sounds similar to Taskmaster, you’re not alone in your thought process. Finesse believes that her father may very well be the man himself. In perhaps one of the stories’ weaker plotting moments, Finesse (with the aid of her undercover mentor, Quicksilver) happens upon Taskmaster on her first try. She goes to an ‘abandoned’ training facility that Taskie had set up in Nevada, hoping to uncover clues to his potential whereabouts. Two characters with photographic reflexes can really only do one thing when they come into contact with one another; that’s right…some fighty fighty transposed with witty and insightful banter.
While no definitive resolution is achieved by issue’s end (where’s the drama in the quick reveal?), we do get to see some rare glimmers of emotion from Finesse. She remains distant and clinical, but there is something lurking beneath the surface, given the proper setting and circumstances.
Artist Mike McKone, who’s been with the series since the beginning, is stepping down as regular artist as of issue #10. His work on this issue typifies his contributions to the entirety of the series; it’s solid. To elaborate, his panel progression and storytelling make for a great reading experience. His character designs for the Avengers Academy cadets work well. At times his facial expressions can get a bit garbled and his backgrounds & detail work have a tendency to be sparsely rendered. However, this is a book about the characters and their evolution so flashy minutia would take attention away from the book’s main appeal; story.
Hey, Marvel Marketing…Let’s FOCUS!
Marvel Comics has elected to escalate the printing schedule for Avengers Academy to a bi-weekly basis. The cover price of $2.99 is manageable, but asking fans to drop $6.00 a book on a 2nd tier Avengers book is a tough sale. Having the #1 issue of the launch priced at $3.99 perhaps wasn’t the best way to introduce a new Marvel comic into the already-glutted direct market. Seemingly despite these questionable marketing techniques, Marvel has delivered a quality title at fair market value.
For the uninitiated, Marvel reprinted the first 3 issues of the series in a special 1-shot, Avengers Academy: Meet The New Class at only (yes, I’m using the word I generally hate to see tied to monetary value) $3.99.
Bottom Line: Join The Academy – BUY
Since I am not a regular reader of the various other Avengers books (I tend to shy away from Bendis’ $3.99 price points, but I digress) it’s impossible for me to legitimately say this is the best Avengers book on the stands. I can tell you that it’s currently the only Avengers title I actively pursue. Gage has created a solid niche for himself with Avengers Academy and if you’re a reader who’s looking for some character depth in your comics reading experience, I suggest you give this a try. Avengers Academy earns 4 out of 5 Stars.