With “Avengers vs. X-Men” around the corner, it’s time for all Avengers-related comics to start wrapping up their existing storylines. That includes “Avengers Academy.” It won’t start tying into that storyline until issue #29, but it means anything planned between now and then needs to wind down, and for now that includes the first west coast “Avengers Academy” story.
Christos Gage’s use of the obscure villain Hybrid has been both in the comic’s favor and against it. Because he’s not a big name, there was the initial “what the heck is that?” moment, plus being able to surprise readers since they don’t know who he is or what he’s capable of. The downside, though, is that at times it feels like Gage is pulling abilities or power levels out of a hat; is there anything that Hybrid can’t do? Apparently, no. He’s such a powerful villain that this goes beyond the team being out-matched and into the realm of it being hard to believe that he’s defeated.
The end result is what feels like a few deus ex machinas all roaring out of nowhere. It has to result in some sudden changes of heart that don’t feel organic, and some surprise appearances in the last pages. And while there are a lot of little moments that are good — for instance, having some of the supporting cast students contribute to the defeat of Hybrid — it’s also hard to avoid noticing that several of the main characters contribute little to nothing here.
What the script of “Avengers Academy” does have going for it, though, is that despite a few rushed flaws it still feels fun. When the characters are able to temporarily beat back Hybrid, Gage makes you want to cheer. And while some of the conflicts set in the future feel a little too easily resolved, there’s an emotional heart in them that is hard to ignore.
Tom Grummett’s pencils are remarkably consistent; it feels to me like he’s drawing now just like he did when I first encountered his work on “Adventures of Superman” back in the day. Clean, uncluttered character designs; a heroic look to the characters; muscular and anatomy that makes sense. When Grummett draws a fight scene across a two-page spread, you know it’s going to make good use of that extra space and feel energetic and exciting. That’s a kind of consistency the comics industry could use more of.
“Avengers Academy” #25 isn’t the final issue in this storyline, with an epilogue around the corner. Hopefully it will push the comic back up to the higher levels I’ve come to expect. This issue isn’t bad, but I expect great from this title, not just good. With any luck, great will be back in our next installment.