With the recent news that “Avengers Academy” is scheduled for cancellation with issue #39, the “Final Exam” storyline running through issues #34-37 now holds quite a bit of additional weight. Christos Gage and Andrea Di Vito are pushing quickly through “Final Exam” with “Avengers Academy” #36, though, and it’s starting to feel like they’re under the end-of-series crunch.
“Avengers Academy” #36 gives us lots of big moments for the characters — White Tiger and Reptil each confronting the sources of their powers and making deals with which to get them back, Striker’s new scars, Mettle’s repowering, Lightspeed’s speech about taking control of your life — but they all feel a little muted coming so quickly one-after-another, and in just a few pages. These transformative events are all exciting for long-time readers of “Avengers Academy” because for so many of them it’s been leading up to these moments, but it’s a shame that they all have to happen in such a short period of time. It’s especially ironic that White Tiger’s moment appears now, after being in the book for a year or so; I feel like we’re finally getting a hook for the character just in time for cancellation.
The villains don’t come off quite as well, but there’s one exception and that’s Coat of Arms. The character always looked a little unnerving in her appearances back in “Dark Reign: Young Avengers,” but she’s doubly so here. Gage’s dialogue about how her coat has changed her has a dark, not-entirely-in-control overtone to it, and Di Vito makes her six-armed look always feel a little out of sorts but in a deliberate manner. She’s not supposed to look natural, and the mixture of dialogue and visuals end up making her memorable in a way that the Enchantress and Alchemist aren’t.
Di Vito’s been a good choice for “Final Exam” in general. He’s got a strong sense of how to tell a story, and moments like the assault on Coat of Arms come across with a look of controlled chaos; it’s hectic in the way that a fight scene should be, but still easy for the reader to follow. When it comes to emotion, the scene between Hazmat and Mettle rises above any sense of cliche that you might otherwise have. Di Vito sells the scene, and in a good way.
“Avengers Academy” has been a fun series, and it’s sad that it’s not only coming to a conclusion but is doing so in what feels like a slightly rushed and accelerated manner. Still, there’s more than enough for fans of the series to enjoy here; the ending’s going to be bittersweet, but we’ll have fun getting there.