Review by Will Morgan
After Fear Itself, the Avengers Academy was in disorder; one student and two teachers left, the Infinity Mansion was destroyed, and the entire future of the program looked in doubt. But Hank Pym, Giant-Man, never the most decisive of the superheroic community, surprisingly toughened up and made the decisions needed to get the school back on its feet.
In a new location – the former West Coast Avengers compound – with Hawkeye on the teaching staff and an expanded cast of around twenty new students, the changes refresh the concept without taking the focus off the original class, now our ‘seniors’. Gentle giant Mettle, skill-siphoning sociopath Finesse, electrical egotist Striker, noble idealist Reptil, and Hazmat, the ‘Toxic Avenger’ in terms of both powers and personality, remain our central figures. The senior class is joined by three additional ‘primaries’. The White Tiger, third bearer of that name, seldom rises much above a one-note ‘Proud Latina’ trope, but the two other incomers achieve rather more. Julie Power (Lightspeed of the Power Pack) demonstrates that sweet and sunny doesn’t have to be boring and insipid, and X-23 – Wolverine’s clone daughter (don’t ask) – evolves beyond her desperate Logan-With-Boobs origins to provide some of the more genuinely heartrending moments, as elements of her horrendous past are revealed.
In the primary story, reminiscent of our heroes’ temporary aging-up in Will We Use This In The Real World, we are once again introduced to an adult set of our senior class, including the departed Veil, but this time it’s the real deal, and our future Academians are invoking a Terminator/Days of Future Past ‘Hail Mary’, projecting the mind of the adult Reptil into his present-day teenage body as a ‘sleeper agent’, to steer history into a specific direction. The kind-hearted Reptil, vividly reminded of how much he cared for these long-departed comrades, develops qualms with his mission of selecting who must die for the greater good. When the dust settles, devious boy entrepreneur Jeremy Briggs returns, making the students an offer which several of them choose not to refuse.
After the setting-up chapters illustrated by Sean Chen, old reliable Tom Grummett does the artistic heavy lifting on the main tale, and very creditably too, bringing forth the warmth and charm of our likeable, if emotionally volatile, ensemble.
In an unrelated two-parter, the senior faculty, Giant-Man and Tigra, face an emotional quandary when the Runaways cross the path of the Academy. Two of the Runaways, Molly and Klara, are super-powered minors, and the ‘olds’ feel an obligation to take them forcibly into the Academy or another protected environment. Needless to say, the senior Runaways, as well as several of the Academy’s own students, feel differently. This entertaining character piece, guest-illustrated by Karl Moline, enjoyably re-introduced the Runaways (whose once-popular franchise had fizzled out into a series which never actually concluded) back into the Marvel Universe.
Avengers Academy, despite its considerable merits, had one of the most irritatingly confusing numbering sequences, with entire chunks of the narrative being left out of the ‘official’ count because of crossovers. Second Semester, despite being officially number 3, is actually the fifth Academy graphic novel in the series, and continues into the un-numbered Avengers Academy: Avengers Vs. X-Men.