Friday, 21 January 2011

Avengers Academy #8 review

Months ago, Tigra was badly assaulted by the Hood and the incident taped. As the film leaks onto the internet, the Avengers Academy students see Tigra's ordeal and are surprised when she reveals that while the Hood was subsequently locked up, she didn't use the claws of the cat to tear him limb from limb.

Tigra explains that, it's a cliche but it's true, this just ain't what heroes do. The Hood is now powerless, rotting in prison. Striker, Veil and Hazmat are unconvinced, believing Tigra let herself down by pleading while in the Hood's power - she was pleading for her mother's life - and that someone should send a message to the villain community. Learning that the man in prison isn't actually the Hood, they track him down, ignoring the protests of classmates Mettle and Raptor. Sixth student Finesse, whose ability to read, remember and emulate actions is as huge as her inability to empathise, is indifferent. Soon, the teen trio are delivering a painful message to the Hood, and taping the incident for posterity. He's tortured on camera, and forced to issue a (meaningless) apology.

Back at Infinite Avengers Mansion, Giant Man makes the assembled students watch Tigra on a TV talk show, announcing that she's still dealing with her feelings, but the assault is prompting the Avengers to establish a foundation to counsel other trauma survivors. Striker and co aren't impressed, and reveal what they've done by showing the tape they've uploaded to the net. Tigra isn't impressed, and kicks them out of Avengers Academy.

Whew. Christos Gage really shows his chops here as a former Law & Order writer, dramatising the arguments around a moral issue by pinning them to established characters. Striker, Finesse and the rest may have been around only a few months, but spotlight issues and mid-action interaction have provided useful snapshots of their personalities. And the attitudes taken by them here are spot on. 

The fact that Striker, Veil and Hazmat actually expected Giant Man and Tigra to condone their actions is a nice reminder that these aren't mini-adults, they're adolescents, unable to appreciate the consequences of all their decisions.

The way Tigra embraces the students' viewing of the assault tape as a teaching opportunity speaks volumes for her maturity. Yes, she loses it at the end of the book, but I'm not surprised. It's one thing for these kids to be snarky, another for them to set out to use their powers to hurt an ordinary human. You could argue that the Hood doesn't deserve mercy, but as heroes, they should give it - even if the name of the team is the Avengers.

Mike McKone's pencils are a treat, always focussing the eye where it needs to go, while presenting plenty of interesting incidental information. His people are fascinating, his fight scenes compelling. And inker Rebecca Buchman has a lovely liquid line that I want to see more of. Visually, the only change I'd have requested were I editing this issue would be to make Tigra more obviously furry - apart from her tail in panel one, she may as well be a painted lady, not a feline fury. The rest of the art team, colourist Jeromy Cox and letterer Joe Caramagna, maintain the high standards. 

The recap page has been tweaked as of this issue, with a superbly witty roll call of students and instructors. Add in everyone's civilian name and it'll be as perfect as the rest of this series.

6 comments:

  1. One thing that makes no sense is the ending. In this iteration of the Avengers, which has Wolverine on the team, how can they throw anybody off for violent retributive behavior. One of the main problems with having a character like Logan on a mainstream superhero team like the Avengers (might as well enroll Lobo on the Justice League).

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  2. Thanks for a superb point, Erik. Wolverine has no business being on a team of self-proclaimed heroes, but he is and hopefully this point will be brought up next issue.

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  3. Oh, c'mon! The difference between Wolverine and this kids is that Logan uses violence because it's what he does; Striker, Hazmat and Veil beated the crap out of Hood just to give him a lesson. Wolverine knows that clawing his enemies won't stop them coming at him in the long run; our anger-issued adolescents have thought just about that.
    I'm not surprised that Striker (a fame-hungry jerk, which I think is the most at risk to become a villain) and Hazmat (ok, in her case, I can be lenient, being bottled up in that suit forever is kind of annoying) went for it, but why Veil? Ok, she merely filmed the attack, but that means she agreed with the whole thing. Did she do it because she wanted to take a few punches back to a guy who is just like Osborn (because of whom she's disappearing), or because some other things? They should clarify this, in my opinion.

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  4. All superheroes use violence. All superheroes don't get carried away and kill. Wolverine is smart and experienced enough to be able to take people out with minimum force.

    Isn't he? I only ever come across him in team books - not bought a solo issue since that first Claremont/Miller mini.

    As for Striker, he's so obviously the prime candidate for villainy that I'm certain he'll be thoroughly redeemed. Veil though ... it's always the quiet ones!

    Thanks for the comments!

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  5. I'm just saying that this whole series is starting to give me a headache trying to understand the hidden meaning.
    I mean, we all know the Avengers have had their lot of reformed baddies (Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, Sand-Man, Ares...), but they became heroes because they chose so. This whole Academy is all about rounding up all the young superhumans and saying "Ok, let's see, if they can learn to be heroes, good, if not, it's jail time!". How can you expect anger-issued teenagers to learn how to be avengers, with the only push being that if they fail, they are in for incarceration for life?
    I don't see how Striker is supposed to understand and stop being an arrogant idiot, just a little bit less for Hazmat, Veil and Mettle can make it with some difficulty, and Reptil has just the angry-dinosaur little problem to cope with.
    Do you think the writer can make it?

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  6. And there's the hook - can they? How?

    Is my memory rubbish tonight? I don't recall any threat that if the kids don't turn out OK, they're off to the clink for life.

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