REVIEW: Avengers Academy #21

Avengers Academy #21Written by CHRISTOS GAGE
 Colors by JEROMY COX / Letters by JOE CARAMAGNA

Another year, another Marvel catch-all banner. This time we have “Shattered Heroes” and to be honest when it comes to this title it couldn’t be further out of context. There is a scuffle between some of the characters but on the whole, everything seems to be focused and positive. Although what is more apt is the “1st issue of a new era” tag on the front cover. This definitely feels like something fresh is happening conceptually if not within the narrative presented here.

Christos Gage gives us an unremarkable issue here which throws in too many narrative clichés, too little time with the new recruits and only one truly interesting moment. As the Academy is moved to the old West Coast Avengers hangout we are given a ridiculous scene that involves Luke Cage, Hawkeye and Captain America basically reassuring Hank Pym that he’s done a good job. Hank Pym is far more interesting as the over confident scientist supreme as opposed to the depressed one that starts this book. The fact that he “doesn’t pay attention” to his young charges seems a little redundant. Previous issues have clearly shown Hank to have a depth of understanding for the kid’s problems.

But perhaps that comment from Jocasta is actually more about her relationship with Hank. She easily comes off as the more interesting character here. However, if this issue’s cliffhanger is the end of her then that would be a shame.

The whole misunderstanding which leads to a fight angle is an insipid way to add action into an essentially dialogue heavy book. It is utterly unnecessary and really doesn’t serve any purpose in the narrative. The book from its inception has set up the concept that the kid’s don’t really trust adults and to have yet another confrontation around this issue is tedious. They jump to too many conclusions and they come off as a little, well, stupid. Understandably they feel like the new recruits threaten their place on the team, but it is handle in such a heavy-handed manner, as it becomes a narrative cliché that misfires completely.

To add to the books problems are the introduction to three new permanent cast members. Lightspeed, of Power Pack fame, and White Tiger get little more than four panels dedicated to their introduction. What happens with the limited space is that Lightspeed is instantly characterised as the irritating “golly gosh” blond girl. The fact she says Feng Shui is cringe worthy. White Tiger has the most bizarre character introduction this reviewer has seen in a while. Essentially she comes across as a ridiculously mishandled character as she has a go at Reptil for not being more active in the Latino community. To be fair it’s an interesting angle to explore in later issues but here it’s far too much for her opening gambit. Finally, Hawkeye joins the teaching staff for the same reason Quicksilver has. He seems almost turned on by the kids rebellious nature. But to be honest it all reeks of marketing opportunity on Marvel’s part as a certain film heads to theaters next year.

There are glimmers of hope as Hazmat’s unique relationship with Mettle hits another low point. These are the two most interesting characters the book has right now. Add to this the time travel angle and at least there are a few things to come back for.

The art is as sub par as the narrative. Sean Chen is better than this and the book just seems sloppy. Take the double page splash of the new students. Most are recognisable, but some of they’re just off. Penance looks creepy, White Tiger’s footing is messed up and the faces could be better than just slits for eyes. It’s inconsistent as some pages have solid character to work and then others seem rushed. This problem is mainly focused on the crowd sections as Chen at least delivers on close ups. But it just ruins the read.

This book deserves better especially for a new era mantra. The concept is solid, if already played out before in certain X-themed books. The time travel cliffhanger shows promise and there are flashes of its innate charm through out, but bad characterisations, sloppy art and unnecessary moments make sure this new directions starts off on the wrong foot.

WRITING: 2 / ART: 1.5 / OVERALL: 1.75

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