It’s a high-stakes game of Tag, across multiple dimensions… Your Major Spoilers review of Strange Academy #4 from Marvel Comics awaits!
STRANGE ACADEMY #4
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor: Nick Lowe
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: October 28, 2020
Previously in Strange Academy: The students at the Strange Academy blow off their homework for the craziest game of tag ever! Every door of Strange Academy holds a surprise: One takes you to Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, another to Weirdworld, another to Asgard; and some doors’ destinations are unknown even to Strange himself. The students plan on stepping through every door, and at least one of the students will bear some significant consequences of their actions.
WHO ARE THE HOLLOW?
Somewhere, in a sinister swamp, a group of strange tree-like creatures is meeting in a secret circle, discussing the loss of magical power, and how SOME PEOPLE (read: our main cast) are wasting the ancient powers on children. Their ominous words take us straight to the library of Strange Academy, where Doyle Dormammu has been charged with returning a number of volumes to their rightful place in his own arrogant style. While that is going on, we learn Zoe’s hidden secret, thanks to Dessy’s lack of decorum (she’s apparently undead) while fairy child Shaylee starts a dangerous game of door tag, sending her and her friends through time and space. New York to Asgard to Weirdworld and back they chase, all the while wondering if would be safer to have stayed in the library.
Spoilers: It would not.
“JUST TRY NOT TO DIE.”
This series is just openly taking all the tropes and settings of Harry Potter and transcribing it into the Marvel Universe, but thanks to the sheer madness of 8 decades of storytelling, it actually seems wilder and more inventive by a large margin. As this issue ends, Calvin is stranded in the swamp (which is likely Man-Thing’s Nexus of All Realities, if I know my comics) at the mercy of The Hollow, setting up a new threat, and it’s a very successful cliffhanger. Less successful is Ramos art, which has the wild inventiveness part down, but lacks in proportion and balance for me. When Spider-Man makes his cameo, he is even more scrawny and twisted that Ditko’s classic take on the character, and it’s very disturbing to me. The story has nice moments as well, including one Watchmen-style transition that had me laughing out loud, but eleven main characters is stretching the scripting to its limit, it seems. We’re four issues in, and several of our main characters have only been in focus for a moment or two, which makes it all feel imbalanced towards the flamboyant Doyle and Iric and away from quieter folks like Gus and Toth.
BOTTOM LINE: A *LOT* OF CHARACTERS
In short, Strange Academy #4 is an issue of a book still finding its legs, managing to nail the fun and frippery of the early Hogwarts chapters with a cast that feels a little unwieldy and art that is very much an acquired taste, but still holds together well enough to earn a respectable 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. I like this book both in concept and in execution, but there’s still room to improve if it’s going to really make all these disparate concepts and characters come together successfully.
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STRANGE ACADEMY #4
There's something flippant about the treatment of magic here that just doesn't jibe with the general vibe of the Marvel Universe, but it's a likable Harry Potter pastiche nonetheless