I've been loving "Avengers Academy" for the previous four months, and it's one of my favorite new series to come along in a while. So understand that when I say this issue isn't up to par with what we've seen so far, it's not a bad issue. Rather, it's just not a great issue.
Part of the problem is that as each issue has shone the spotlight on another member of the cast, Striker has finally come to the forefront. He's always come across as the least interesting member of cast, and this issue doesn't dispel that feeling. Christos Gage tries his best, giving him an origin that echoes back to the Gary Hart/Donna Rice affair (I do wonder how many readers of "Avengers Academy" know who Gary Hart is, much less Donna Rice), and a domineering mother that uses her son for her own gain. It's very by-the-books, the sort of story that we've seen over and over again.
The real meat of the story this issue is the team getting "outed" to the rest of the world, and it's a shame that it's in a slightly lackluster issue. It never quite falls into place, being centered on Striker, because he just doesn't have the power to carry such an important issue. It's a moment that I wish had been able to come free of these origin stories throughout the first six issues, because if the issue had less of a focus on an individual character, it might've helped the group's public debut stand out a bit more.
It also doesn't help that Jorge Molina steps in this month on pencils; while the overall clean look of the book is maintained (perhaps in part due to regular inker Andrew Hennessy still being on board), some of characters look slightly off-kilter, especially in terms of poses. Characters don't speak in Molina's art, they scream; on the last page that Steve Rogers appears, when he tells the students that he's going to make a few points of his own he looks furious and like he's bellowing. Compare him to Striker on the previous panel, and the two are mirror images of one another. It's unfortunately not the only strange expression in Molina's arsenal, either; when Pym shows where Mettle and Hazmat were hiding, Pym himself appears to be passing a kidney stone. And the less said about Justice's expression while kissing Ultra Girl (if it's that painful, maybe you should stop), the better. These are some seriously strange expressions and poses.
Still, a sub-par issue of "Avengers Academy" is still better than a good issue of many other books. After the high standards set by the previous four issues, this one is just a slight disappointment. Hopefully Mike McKone will be back on pencils next month, presumably just in time for a spotlight on Reptil. Here's to being back to its strengths next month.