There’s something slightly annoying about the idea of the “plus one” initiative from Marvel. Not the fact that it’s telling stories that are supposed to be new-reader friendly and stand-alone, I quite like that concept. But how someone can casually walk along the racks and see that this is “Avengers Academy” #14.1 and jump to the conclusion that a “.1” at the end of an issue means “great for new readers” is beyond me. (Of course, existing comic fans who are deep in the know will understand the point one, but are those people who are fully tapped into the comic book news cycle really the people who need to know more about a series’ basic concept because up until now they’ve known nothing about it? I suspect they’re the comic readers who already knew the idea of the series, and the back history of the creators attached.)
At any rate, this is a long way of saying that “point one” issues are at a slight disadvantage with me. But despite that handicap, “Avengers Academy” #14.1 turned out to be an excellent comic.
Christos Gage takes the kids from the academy in a direction I hadn’t seen comic, as they look up one of the other super-powered teens that Norman Osborne had kidnapped and experimented on. Unlike our six leads, though, Jeremy Briggs didn’t get taken in by the Avengers and put in their academy to try and keep from becoming a super-villain. Instead, he started his own business and is now a billionaire.
As the story progresses, while we see what Jeremy’s been up to, you can see a lot of the conclusion coming. It’s to Gage’s credit that it ultimately doesn’t matter. He lets us see that Jeremy’s true intentions are just as transparent to some of the characters as they are to us, and then doles out additional information that we might not have guessed. And then, the ending hits, and it’s perfect. Gage offers up a tiny twist of the proverbial knife to his characters; it’s not mean or sadistic, but it’s just the right sting to remind them (and us) that they’re still young and learning. They make some mistakes, they get outclassed, and over time they regroup and get better. This is a comic full of flawed individuals (both students and instructors alike) and this is a reminder of how to make some of the flaws a little less flashy, but no less effective.
Sean Chen wraps up his stint on pencils here, and I’ll say it again: any time he wants to come back to lend a hand, he’s welcome in my book. All of the kids look like, well, kids. (Which is rare in comics, sadly.) He takes great care in their costumes, and the little details like Veil’s strips all come across carefully designed and executed. Best of all, his faces are beautifully expressive; Chen’s art makes the quieter moments of Gage’s script sing. Something as simple as a close-up on Finesse’s eyes while they’re in Haiti speaks volumes, and this is another reminder of why I’ve been a fan of Chen’s for so long.
All in all, a satisfying issue, one that sums up the series as a whole and is entertaining for both long-time readers and those giving the comic a whirl for the first time. Gage and Chen take a slightly silly concept and turn it into one of the stronger issues of the series to date. This is another pleasant reminder why “Avengers Academy” is one of Marvel’s better series right now. Ignore the general silliness of a “point one” issue and check it out for yourself.