Gage Prepares A "Final Exam" For "Avengers Academy"

When Marvel launched "Avengers Academy" in 2010, the title's storyline chronicled the adventures of six super powered teenagers. Before enrolling in the Avengers-run school, the teens had all been captive by the villainous Norman Osborn who subjected them to a battery of physical and psychological tortures in an effort to augment their powers. The Avengers rescued the kids and, in order to counteract the emotional damage Osborn inflicted upon them, began training the teenagers to be heroes.

The six inaugural students of "Avengers Academy" weren't the only super powered teenagers in Osborn's custody though. Another teen that Osborn preyed upon, Jeremy Briggs (AKA the Alchemist), seems to have adjusted to life pretty well, utilizing his super ability to amass a fortune.

Jeremy appears to be using his ability and fortune to help the world around him, but the kids of "Avengers Academy" are fairly sure he's not the hero he claims to be. Briggs is extremely manipulative -- and might even be a murderer -- so they've rebuffed offers to join his organization twice. This August, he'll force them to reconsider that decision in "Avengers Academy" #34 when writer Christos Gage and artists Andrea Di Vito and Tom Grummett kick off a new story arc titled, "Final Exam." We spoke with Gage about the arc.

CBR News: In this market, a storyline with the word "Final" in its title can cause alarm with fans. That said, what does "Final Exam" mean for this series? Is this the end of "Avengers Academy?"

Christos Gage: It's the culmination of a long-running storyline, that of the Alchemist and his almost anti-Avengers Academy, which he created to serve as an alternative to the hero/villain paradigm he says the Avengers promote. It's also when the kids will have to face a moment of truth and discover who they really are, beneath the powers and the costumes. If you think of a final exam as what all your work has been leading up to, where everything you've learned to this point is put to the test, that's what it is.

As you say, the series has been building towards this showdown with Jeremy for a while. What can you tell us about Jeremy's ultimate goal? He seems like a guy who projects one front and hides who he really is.

He's complicated. He definitely is the kind of person who will manipulate others to get what he wants, but a lot of our readers have said they feel he makes good points about there being better ways for super humans to benefit the world than putting on costumes and smacking each other. Is that something he really believes? Or does he have some nefarious hidden agenda? Does he, as he claims, want to do good, and he sometimes uses less than exemplary methods? Or is he just misunderstood? All will be revealed in this story.

"Final Exam" doesn't begin until August. What can you tell us about the "Avengers Academy" stories leading up to it and sort of physical and emotional shape the kids will be in when this story arrives?

The previous stories will have been the "Avengers vs. X-Men" tie-ins, and that worked out quite well, because those stories will have seen the kids forced to look at what their elders are doing and decide how they feel about it, and in some cases, take a stand against it. Given that "Final Exam" will see them operating without the guidance of their teachers, they'll have been prepared for it by the "AvX" storyline. Also, the events of "AvX" will lead directly to a big moment at the end of issue #33 that sets the stage for "Final Exam."

I can't get into it any more without spoiling our "AvX" tie-ins, so I will just say that, in a general sense, "Final Exam" will see a number of both plotlines and character journeys coming to a head.

Who are the teen protagonists you'll be focusing on in "Final Exam?" Will it just be the original six students? Or will some of the new Academy students like White Tiger and X-23 play a role as well?

It will be the original six students, yes, including Veil, who now works with Jeremy, plus White Tiger, Lightspeed and X-23.

Will the kids be facing off with Jeremy's group of younger heroes? If a fight breaks out, will they be more than a match for the Avengers Academy kids? And since you say this is a storyline where the kids have to stand on their own, where does that leave the faculty?

Veil is the only one I'm promising. The others, well, you'll have to wait and see. There will be some super-powered teens on Jeremy's side; I'm just not ready to reveal who they are.

The faculty will play a smaller role -- I really wanted this to be a big test for the kids. As for the part time students, they won't be around. We're narrowing our focus with this storyline.

You're working with Tom Grummett and Andrea Di Vito on "Final Exam." Which of their artistic strengths do you want to play to and bring out in this storyline?

Andrea worked on an issue of our "Fear Itself" crossover storyline, and I thought he did a fantastic job getting across the intensity of the situation as well as the emotions the characters were experiencing. We needed that again. Our regular artist, the phenomenal Tom Grummett, excels at it, but given that this story will be shipping twice monthly, it was inevitably going to require the services of two artists.

Our editors, Bill Rosemann and Jake Thomas, agreed with me that Andrea's handsome, classically heroic style of art meshed well with Tom's -- these guys are distinct talents, but their strengths lie in the same areas, and they're exactly what we needed for this tale.

Finally, you hinted a little bit about this at the beginning of our talk, but can you offer up any more clues as to where "Avengers Academy" is headed after issue #37, the final issue of "Final Exam?"

Again, I will have to keep mum, but I will go so far as to say that another long-anticipated meeting with another group of teenage characters will follow. "Final Exam" is a big deal for the kids. It's a cliche to say "after this, nothing will be the same!" But it's true.

"Avengers Academy" takes its "Final Exam" in August.

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