REVIEW: Avengers Academy #20

Avengers Academy #20Written by CHRISTOS GAGE
Art by TOM RANEY & SCOTT HANNA
Colors by JEROMY COX / Letters by JOE CARAMAGNA

So the threat is over and the kids aren’t dead. But there is a lot of fallout from Fear Itself and this final tie-in issue clears away the debris and pitches a new direction for our heroes. Even though the changes of the book are welcome, the execution could be a little more interesting as it is little more than talking heads. However it is packaged in such a way that even the most cynical comic book reader might enjoy it.

This issue focuses on the decisions that lead to three members of the cast leaving, which isn’t a bad thing. But it is the decision to use Veil as the major narrative focus, that is. Apart from perhaps Striker, Veil is the least interesting member of the team. Her whole gimmick of “I’m going to die very soon” isn’t really that compelling. However her decision for leaving is actually a very heartfelt one as she realizes that the heroes she idealizes are as screwed up as she is. Add to that the fact that she no longer wants to be in an institution that has lead to her committing murder and you have a pretty interesting point of view.

Christos Gage does his best with his script and like a lot of the better Academy issues it’s all about the characters. He really gets inside Veil’s decision and although it sometimes descends into to much melodrama/angst, it does work. Her decision to leave them to craft her own path with a suspected villain could be see as hypocritical on her part, but Gage balances her decision by giving her a naïve belief that she can do some good there. She won’t be gone for good and it will blow up in her face but at the end of the day you believe her decision.

Which is more than you can say for Justice who basically just wants to go on a road trip with Speedball. This actually damages the character a bit, especially after his emotive conversation with Veil. It’s fine that he has an epiphany when he finishes his talk with Veil, but the whole lets go on the road trip angle just seems trite. However Speedball is handled well and he really seems like he has gone on the biggest character journey out of the cast.

The rest of the cast do get exposure. Hazmat and Hank Pym are the standouts of the book. Hank Pym’s decisions to move on are given a lot of weight in light of the recent crisis. Hazmat has really come on in leaps and bounds since her introduction and her conversation with Veil highlights Gage’s talent for writing these types of characters.

Tom Raney continues his strong work on the book and manages to capture the characters emotions in his line work. However in this issue it is the background moments that allow Raney to shine. Quicksilver just looks fantastic as Raney gives him an aloof and irritated demeanor, which accentuates the writing. Quicksilver doing anything in this book is a visual treat as he whizzes around the panels. Raney throws in a one-panel team fight and a single page rendering of events from Fear Itself #7, which showcase his penchant for action. Jeromy Cox keeps the colours toned down for most of the issue, which suits the sad subject matter. But everything brightens up for the final two pages, as the future for the book seems brighter than ever.

“Endings” is an apt title for this issue as it does feel like the end of an era. Although the decision to take Veil, Justice and Speedball out of the equation might upset some people it maybe a blessing in disguise. Gage and Raney handle this emotional issue well and the last page reveal restores faith that the book will recapture some of it’s appeal. It isn’t the best the book has been but it is a wonderful little character issue that reminds us why this book was the better of the Avengers titles upon it’s release.

WRITING: 3 / ART: 3.5 / OVERALL: 3.25

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