A year into “Avengers Academy,” it’s clear that Gage has taken a team full of blank slates and managed to turn them into some of Marvel’s most engaging new characters since… well, the Young Avengers, probably, but that’s not exactly a bad point of comparison even if the concept is eerily familiar.
Still, as this issue reminds us, the chief difference between “Young Avengers” and “Avengers Academy” is that these are the problem kids; And if they’re problems when they’re kids, it’s even more interesting to see what they’ll be like after they’ve had a taste of their eventual fates, thanks to Korvac’s female counterpart, Carina, placing them temporarily within their adult bodies as pulled from various possible futures.
It makes for interesting scenes in a story that could otherwise have fallen flat. As a villain, Korvac himself isn’t especially compelling; He has the nebulous motivations and illogical thought processes that only god-like beings are ever afforded in order to prevent them from instantly winning any fight they have. That the team manages to defeat him feels less like a testament to their abilities than one to Korvac’s sheer lack of imagination. Gage gives us some nice scenes of the kidults in action, but the logic of Korvac’s defeat doesn’t quite work. He spends most of his time trading blows when, really, they shouldn’t get within 10 miles of him.
Even so, it’s the character work that makes the book interesting, and Gage gives everyone their moment. In particular, it’s interesting that Veil – who up until now, has seemed like the most stable character and an odd inclusion in the “problem” class – should be the one to display such morally questionable action as taking reality into her own hands. It’s not a particularly corrupt act on the face of it, but her less-than-concerned attitude towards what she did suggests that maybe her inclusion wasn’t quite the oversight it initially seemed.
The most powerful scene in the book is, undoubtedly, the book’s final note, in which Mettle and Hazmat – the two characters most devastatingly afflicted by their powers – take comfort in the shared knowledge that their situations might not substantially improve if the appearance of their future selves is to be believed. It’s a nice moment where Gage dials back his narration and dialogue and lets Raney’s storytelling do the work.
“Avengers Academy” might be largely confined to its own world right now, but the day these characters step out into the wider Marvel Universe will be an enjoyable one for us all. For now, it’s safe to say that “Avengers Academy” is a fantastic addition to Marvel’s canon, and one worthy of the name Avengers. Let’s hope year two is as much fun.