Avengers Academy #4

Story by
Art by
Cam Smith, Mike McKone, Rick Ketchum
Colors by
Jeromy Cox
Letters by
Joe Caramagna
Cover by
Marvel Comics

In the second part of "Scared Straight", Mettle, Hazmat and Veil manage to catch up with Norman Osborn, the man responsible for augmenting their powers and threatening their lives. Of course, their plan to kill him doesn't go quite as they were hoping, but then the story was never really about whether they'd succeed or not, was it?

It's the strong characterization of "Avengers Academy," combined with the uncertainty of these characters' fates, that gives the book an edge unseen since the heyday of "Runaways." At the same time, the potential for these characters to slide towards villainy lends an air of the Busiek's "Thunderbolts" run.

It's certainly no bad thing that this book invites comparisons with some incredibly respected series. "Avengers Academy" might be the runt of the Avengers litter (priced at a nostalgic $2.99), but if you appreciate a team book that relies on things like subplots and character exploration over a succession of big stars jostling for space, it's hard not to love this title. It's firmly cast in the classic X-Men/Teen Titans mould, without feeling dated. Even the presence of terminally dull characters like the Wasp (Hank Pym) and Tigra can't bring the title down.

McKone's artwork is the standard (and always-acceptable) superhero fare. The poses and expressions are sometimes a little stiff, and the busier panels seem to lack depth (which may be as much a fault of the inker or colorist), but the storytelling is clear, the composition well-studied and there are nuances to find, such as the character Veil expresses in her movements alone, which are almost Ditko-Spidey-esque in their awkwardness. It might not be so hot it's burning off the page, but a book this traditionally good requires the kind of competent, solid artistry that McKone can provide.

"Avengers Academy" is undeniably still a green book, but it quickly found its feet and is growing with each issue. It's even structured in such a way as to make it a satisfying issue-by-issue read, which is something increasingly rare at Marvel, particularly when the rest of the Avengers franchise seems geared towards collected readings. A great book with great characters, destined for greater things.

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