Avengers Academy is steeped in recent Marvel continuity, but Christos Gage still makes this book reader friendly. That amazes me. Only two points remain fuzzy. Who is the blue chick in the flashback, and who is the guy in white and black talking about jellyfish to the cadets? I understood everything else.
Gage also makes this continuity interesting. He weaves it into the story and the narration. So it’s not just there as a reminder. “Oh, and by the way, the New Warriors, during their battle with loser villain Nitro, blew up a chunk of Stamford.” It means something to the characters. Speedball returns to Stamford to face his personal ghosts and teach the cadets lessons about responsibility and making costly mistakes.
I’m not suggesting that I suddenly realize that Civil War was an act of genius. No. Absolutely not. I still see Civil War as an ill-conceived rectal exam conducted by near brain-dead orangutans. However, now thanks to Gage, I understand Stamford’s place in Marvel history. Because of Gage, the place becomes more than just a catalyst for a Big Stupid Event. It gains resonance.
Gage is quite willing to call Marvel on certain items that just really cannot be reworked to carry impact. For example, he casually dismisses the New Warriors’ reality show as a bad idea. I agree. I just learned about the added insult to injury in Avengers Academy. If I were a New Warriors fan I’d feel pretty raw about turning the group into vainglorious celebrities.
Thanks to the forum, I learned that Speedball turned into Penance, the refugee Cenobite that appeared on numerous covers during the Civil War. Another bad idea, but Gage utilizes that character assault to build on Speedball’s persona. He employs the blemishes to give Speedball weight, and maybe that’s not how Speedball began, but it’s a better evolution than readers could have expected.
Speedball’s history and his former identity setup an intriguing subplot between he and Veil. Last issue, Tigra almost booted Veil out of the Academy. So, she is desperate to become the perfect superhero. Veil makes so many mistakes, most forgivable, but others appear to cinch her expulsion. I hope not though. Gage understands the difference between fallibity and ineffectiveness. Veil is still young and inexperienced, and these factors, elegantly presented in the writing, bestow believable flaws. Gage also demonstrates her potential. She wants to do the right thing, and she doesn’t give in to peer pressure. Artist Sean Chen incidentally illustrates the dualism of Veil’s nature. Her posture and body language changes with each fluctuation. She seems young in some panels and older thanks to lessons learned.
When Gage turns his attention to Hazmat, she of the toxic touch, he brings in a character named Leech. As you may have guessed. Never heard of him. Gage however informs the reader that Leech is part of the new Fantastic Four. That’s knowledge I really didn’t care about, but Gage makes Leech integral to the plot. That matters. Leech possesses the ability to dampen superpowers, and with his help and some high tech Henry Pym temporarily negates Hazmat’s power.
There are so many assets to this story thread. Hank reveals this surprise to Hazmat in anger management. Now, Hazmat has every right to be angry, but Hank doesn’t pull some kind of Dr. Phil pop psychology nonsense. He applies science to the problem. He asks for help. All I can say is. Way to go, Hank! This is exactly what Batman should have been doing for Barbara.
So, in summary, Gage reinforces Hank’s newfound sanity and heroism while using a continuity fixer-upper to try to give Hazmat a respite from her condition. At the same time, Gage convinces me that Leech is actually worth getting to know and instills even more curiosity in the new FF title. These moves and the willingness of everyone to help grant greater cohesiveness to the Marvel universe. Once again, Christos Gage builds on the foundation of the Heroic Age. This is why I’m making mine Marvel.