Monday, July 19, 2010

Opening Thoughts: Avengers Academy

Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Mike McKone
Today I was flipping through a Wizard magazine I got back in 2006, and I started to reminisce about the amazing comics that came out that year. One of the features of that issue was a review of all the X-Books which happened to have New X-Men in it, and it hit me how much I really miss those characters. In general I just miss having a teen comic book in my pull list because they're usually well-done and with Childrens Crusade being bi-monthly I need something more frequent.

Well, my wishes were answered when I remembered a comment reader Mtti had left about trying out Avengers Academy, and I also remembered that so far it seems to have impressed people even getting a recommendation from The Buy Pile. I admit I was initially hesitant about this title because I'm already in love with the Young Avengers, so I feel like I'm cheating on them if I turn to another teen Avengers book. However, I decided to try it out, and my conclusion is I'm 100% on board with this book especially since it seems it has answered my cry for the return of New X-Men in a way....we'll get to that in just a sec.

The Avengers Academy begins with the idea that these students have been chosen as the young superhumans with the most potential to become tomorrow's Avengers. However, at the end of the first issue it is revealed that this is actually a lie made up by the senior staff to give these students a break as the truth is they're really considered to be the young superhumans who are either the most dangerous or at greatest risk of becoming villains. This is also due to the fact that all of these character had interaction with Osborn during Dark Reign and in some cases he screwed them up in a terrible way.

The senior staff generally have checkered pasts themselves (though I'm not familiar with all of them). Remember when I bitched that the current Avengers team have no variation and need to explain all the character in Limbo? Here be the dumping grounds for the excess. Leading them is the ever-redeeming founding Avenger, Hank Pym, who is your out-of-touch dad figure. When Finesse approaches him about her concerns about not fitting in, he decides to have her watch a video on Quicksilver alone and then follows up afterwards asking what she thought about it. How middle-aged, no-idea-how-to-talk-to-kids is that? No complaints here, I totally laughed when he did that, and I'm looking forward to the day he warns the kids of the "life-damaging effects" of marijuana. Anyway, let's meet the rest of the staff:

It seems Speedball has now done his
penance for what went on in Stamford, CT during Civil War (ohhh the punning). Anyway, he's done ripping off costume ideas from Soul Calibur's Voldo and back to wearing his old costume while still sporting the fragile psyche of his recent appearances. He's hardly bouncing off the walls like he used to, but at least he's not cutting himself to feel anymore.

There's also Tigra who I am now calling Tygra (as in Tyra Banks) due to her looking even more model-esque in this series especially with the hair. Also, I'd like to mention the my spell check corrects me when I put in Tigra, but not when I put in Tygra. Obviously it's a sign from Jean. By the way, if any of the brats are sent home she'd better be the one to send them. In an exaggerated. over-emphasized. way. Seriously, it'd be a crime if she didn't; I'd simply believe there is no Jean Grey. Also on staff is Quicksilver who, like his dad, is good again, and is now snarky on such a level that I have trouble buying his heterosexuality. Like this is some drag queen-level snark. Oh and the last staff member is Justice who I don't know. Moving on, let's chat about the students:

Now remember how I said my New X-Men wishes were answered? It's because these characters bear an interesting similarity to the New X-Men. Someone else actually saw this too [Here], but I believe my version is better because A. I got the whole New X-Men team besides Dust (who can just be added on to Veil's) and B. it's my idea. Realize these comparisons are just for fun, I'm not criticizing Gage or calling him unoriginal because I'm certain these characters will be expanded on to be very different. I'm just noting an enjoyable initial similarity. Moving on, introducing the students of the Avengers Academy:

Veil a.k.a. Madeline Berry
Which New X-Man is she? Mercury (and partially Dust)

Why? An awkward redheaded teenage girl who as a crush on an unattainable guy and whose power includes transforming from solid to another state of matter. And for Dust, they both have powers that turn them into flowing particles and also have been tampered with so that they'll kill them eventually (thought Dust's problem was sort of resolved).

The first issue is through Maddy's perspective in all her awkwardness, and immediately I find her adorkable. While characters like Cessily have been simply social awkward, Maddy on the other hand is a total nerd and a lovable one at that. She's got a total innocent, notebook-doodling crush on her teacher, Justice, and compares him to Rob Pattinson. While typically any reference to Twilight would tick me off, Gage does it in a way that endears Maddy to the reader. Also, she's physically awkward as well as socially, and it makes her so much more relatable. In this case it's because she's flat-chested which I LOVE because I have a lot of female friends (who all talk about their breasts at one point or another) and they generally fall into two types: either well-endowed to the point where they've considered surgery or in the A-Cup range and pissed about it. Also, a flat-chested superhero is more believable because there is no way the many well-endowed women of the Marvel universe could have breasts that big and not have severe back problems especially considering their line of work. Anyway, Maddy is an awkward, lovable mess and my current favorite.

Hazmat a.k.a. Jennifer Takeda
Which New X-Man is she? Surge

Why? An asian teenager with a bad attitude and superpower that requires her to wear something or she'll cause harm to the people around her.
So far Hazmat's panel time has been limited so it's hard to figure out how I feel about her. So far it's in the "meh" area though considering her attitude.

Reptil a.k.a. Humberto Lopez
Which New X-Man is he? Elixir

Why? So far appears to be generally good guy whose wrestling with dark things that he's both experienced.
Glad to see someone from the previous series Avengers: The Initiative being used. Not because I read it, but because character Limbo sucks. So far he hasn't been worked with much in the series since he's already had some spotlight and apparently just recently had it in Enter the Heroic Age #1. However, he did have a moment last issue where it was revealed he hasn't kissed a girl yet, and it lead to an entertaining moment with Finesse. I'm sure his romantic inexperience and following awkwardness is going to play a part in his story again somewhere down the road, and I'm so in for that.

Which New X-Man is he? Hellion

Why? An arrogant showoff with a desperate need to be the center of attention.
The similarity here is so strong it's ridiculous. Actually, you know how in Christianity, Eve was created by God taking one of Adam's ribs and making her out of it? In this case Striker was created by Jean Grey taking Hellion's hands and making him out of it.
So far his being an egomaniac has served to irritate me, but he's also proven to be smart enough to recognize the students need to play along even though they've found out the truth about their purpose. He reasons that in the Heroic Age, rejects like them are less tolerable, and it becomes a more glaring problem for them to either prove themselves as heroes or be considered a villain. Which totally makes sense to me.

Mettle a.k.a. Ken Mack
Which New X-Man is he? Rockslide

Why? A teenager with a power that gives him a weird appearance and makes him physically numb.
While Rockslide changed his rock form every five seconds without seeming to give a shit, Mettle is aware of and insecure about his appearance which is a much more believable take. He also seems to be more intelligent than Rockslide considering when Speedball's appearance was met by uncertainty from his classmates he noticed that Speedball was the perfect person to be teaching them. His reasoning was that considering Robbie's been through redeeming himself after a dark period it makes for a relatable topic considering the team has all been manipulated by Osborn.

Finesse a.k.a. Jeanne Foucault
Which New X-Man is she? X-23

Why? Team badass who's the most likely to turn evil, and also has severe difficulty interacting with others due to her trouble with emotions. Intelligent and able to recite information word-for-word from memory.
The second issue is told more from Finesse's perspective and you'll probably find yourself having ambivalent feelings about her like I do. Her skill is that she's a "polymath" which I've just translated to team know-it-all. And of course, know-it-alls can be extremely annoying especially their insensitivity and that crap. The thing is I feel like the readers are supposed to dislike her initially, and then realize they love her later on when she's redeemed. She's not altogether terrible; so far she's called Striker out for his manly posturing and has had some honest moments about her being frustrated over not understanding people to the point where she wonders if she has Asberger's syndrome. Which is perfect for a comic book because odds are a decent amount of us are intelligent but have difficulty fitting in or just understanding how people interact. It definitely speaks to me in a very big way. Anyway, last issue she also had a good moment where she tried to interact with Pym by using what she's learned of student-teacher interactions by watching Maddy and Justice and accidentally ended up hitting on Pym. It was an awkwardly good time. Oh and now she's blackmailing Quicksilver into mentoring her on what he learned while in The Brotherhood. By the way, if you don't see the similarity between her and Laura, here's some additional evidence with Finesse's old costume being revealed to pretty much be Laura's old New X-Men costume.

Avengers Academy is only two issues into its run right now with the second issue having just released last Wednesday so if this post has given you an interest in trying out this series then know that it's still a great time to get on board.

1 comment:

X-23 said...

God, you're absolutely right! I had no idea, but now I can totally see it, too. Gosh, I liked the book a lot, and I loved the New X-Men like nothing else, but I somehow missed that this two teams were basically identical on what concerns the members' personalities. Doesn't spoil the fun, though, because the team dynamics are different, there is a completely different thing going on, so one can't complain that the book is not unique. It is and it's amazing.
Personally I like Finesse the best, which made me think just now, that I don't really like any of this characters outside of the team, It's like they're fun together, but a little blank separated... The book is working it's way towards showing us the personalities, though, so I'm positive that it won't be the problem. I like that Gage is giving characters some personal time and lets them interact with each other, flirt, fight and so one. I hope this book lives a loong time, because I would LOVE to see what it would look like after 12 or so issues of that kind of good work on the characters.
As always - thanks for the cool article)