REVIEW: Avengers Academy #21

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Or – “Is Lightspeed At Least Still Bi-Curious?”

There are a lot of vaguely bothersome trends in comics these days (weird numbering, strange book titles that mean nothing, covers that are nothin’ more than interchangable glamour shots) but one of the most annoying is the endlessly repeated mantra of “a great jumping-on point!”  For a book like Avengers Academy, which I’ve been enjoying, a rejiggered jumping-on point could easily serve double duty as a jumping-off point.  Can even Julie Power’s midriff save the day?

AVENGERS ACADEMY #21
Writer: Christos Gage
Penciler: Sean Chen
Inker: Scott Hanna
Cover Artist: Rodin Esquejo
Colorist(s): Jeromy Cos & Veronica Gandini
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Bill Rosemann
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Avengers Academy:  Henry Pym had a vision.  He hoped to take a group of kids tortured and scarred by Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign and redeem them as honest-to-Pama superheroes, utilizing established heroes who know a little something about redemptions: Quicksilver, the manic-depressive son of the world’s greatest mutant menace; Justice, convicted of murder; Speedball, the monster of Stamford; Tigra, for the crime of publicly cleaning herself; as well as Pym himself, who it must be said gets a lot of grief for striking his wife precisely the same number of times that Peter Parker struck his…  The Asgardian Invasion left Avengers Academy without a headquarters, and down at least one member, but Henry has an idea to clear the slates and get back to the business of teaching kids.

AN OPEN CALL FOR YOUNG HEROES.

The issue begins on shaky ground for me, as Giant-Man angsts about how he failed the initial six students of the Academy, and how Veil’s choice to quit hurts him, as he expositions the last 20 issues of the book.  There’s a slight lift as we discover that he’s not monologuing, but is in fact talking to Captain America, Luke Cage and Hawkeye (!!), and all three heroes dismiss his worrywart ways.  It’s especially nice to see Hawk back, as the Academy has moved to the old West Coast Avengers compound to set up their new digs.  We meet all the new students of the Avengers Academy (Batwing from Untold Tales Of Spider-Man, Butterball, Julie “Lightspeed” Power, someone I fear is Machine Teen, Penance from Generation X, Power Man, Rocket Racer, the kid from the ‘Sentinel’ miniseries, the Savage She-Hulk from the future, Spider-Girl, Turbo from the New Warriors, Richochet, Whiz Kid from the X-Terminators mini as well as a new White Tiger) and have a bit more angst from the OLD students, each of whom believes that they’ve missed their chance to matter in the universe…

WHERE’S LLOYD DOBLER?

Things get dumb for a bit, as Striker, Hazmat, Mettle, Finesse and Reptil start a fight with Captain America (!!) because they expect to be thrown out of school, while Jocasta is acting weird.  Sean Chen’s art is very smooth, but doesn’t quite have the personality or expression that original artist Mike McKone’s work did, and Finesse especially suffers in comparison.  There’s some sweet coming-of-age stuff between Hazmat & Mettle, but the new cast makes me wish we still had former New Warriors Speedball & Justice on board, both of whom exited the Academy last issue to find themselves.  (I’m sure that Appa Ali Apsa is waiting just off-panel in an old green pickup truck.)  Quicksilver reveals that Julie Power isn’t another student, but in fact a teaching assistant, and the issue ends with a variation on the old ‘locked-room murder,’ and a chilling revelation that one of our protagonists is not what they seem, and that some old scores are about to be settled.  To say more would be unfair, but it’s nice to see that these plotlines aren’t being ignored in the new world order.

THE VERDICT: NICE CAMEOS BUT MIXED RESULTS…

A lot of the character work this issue is very nicely handled, especially the awkward not-quite-sex scene and Finesse’s obvious dismay at Julie’s new role as Quicksilver’s assistant, but the new characters barely get any dialogue and no character, reminding me of the old ‘Defenders For A Day’ storyline.  The new White Tiger throws an obnoxious race-related guilt-trip at Reptil, and by the way, wasn’t there JUST a new White Tiger three years ago?  If they’re gonna go the route of ‘Glee,’ and focus just on a few outcasts among a larger student body, we’re going to need to see at least a little development of the background players, and perhaps NAME them while we’re at it?  Take what works minus the stupid idea to brawl with Captain America, Hawkeye and Luke Cage (the world’s greatest hand-to-hand fighter, the industructible urban warrior and the guy who faced down Thanos with a sharp stick) and some over-played angst, and Avengers Academy #21 still makes the grade, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall.  I’m not giving up on these kids just yet…  If nothing else, they’ll make a hell of a villain team.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  White Tiger dresses down Reptil for not being a better member of the Latino community.  Am I the only one to find this bit of characterization awfully 1970′s in nature?