Review by Will Morgan
“I thought they’d reopen the Academy in a day. Maybe two. But this Avengers Vs. X-Men crap just keeps dragging on.“
One of Hazmat’s opening lines pretty much echoes the thoughts of the weary readership, as the Academy’s senior class, in exile, is forced to face their greatest challenge to date without the support of the Academy faculty or campus. Jeremy Briggs, a former Initiative graduate turned entrepreneur, is taking steps to end the endless trauma-drama of hero vs. villain – or hero vs. hero – events, which devastate the world but never actually accomplish or change anything.
By modifying the Initiative-derived SPIN tech (Super Power Inhibiting Nanobots) to a cheaper, quicker to produce and more effective gaseous form, he proposes to de-power all of the superhuman community – but his first customers are volunteers: Hazmat and Mettle, whose powers (her uncontrolled radiation, his metallic epidermis) have inhibited their relationship.
To see their first kiss – and Hazmat’s first glimpse of Mettle’s human face – is very moving, but the sweetness quickly stops when Briggs makes it clear that he’ll brook no opposition to his perfect world. Well, Finesse did describe him, on their first meeting, as a psychopath – and she should know… Mostly deprived of their powers, the students nevertheless stand up to Briggs and his cohorts from the Young Masters, and by various means including guile, Die Hard-style commando tactics and a surprisingly effective soap-opera speech, they win the day, preventing the deployment of Clean Slate (SPIN Mk II) and regaining their own abilities. Once again, Lightspeed demonstrates that blonde and perky doesn’t equate to fluffy and useless, taking on a surprisingly effective leadership role – though another of the group is forced to embrace their inner villain in order to prevent further atrocities.
The series concludes with a couple of ‘breather’ episodes, after all the angst and hard decisions of the main tale. The Avengers Vs. X-Men nonsense is thrown even more shade (writer Christos Gage was clearly not a fan of that foolishness) when the Academy and the X-Men’s Jean Grey School meet in what is promised as the first of an annual social event and football match (American football, not the proper stuff). It’s great fun, with lots of insight among the laughs. And the final chapter is graduation day, where the senior class, to the surprise of no-one who’s been following them this long, don’t accept their reward with the good grace the faculty expect. Some relationships are consummated, other potential ones fizzle out, secrets are revealed, and friendships broken – but overall, things seem to bode well for the Avengers Academy in the future.
Then, literally minutes after the closing panels of this book, several of the regulars are co-opted into the new series, Avengers Arena, beginning with Volume One, Kill Or Die.
All together now: “Oh dear.”