A quick summary of this issue would make it sound like “An After School Special,” which, naturally, would show my age. I’ll give it a go anyway: the Academy kids find the video of Tigra getting punked by the Red Hood and decide to avenge their instructor. This is easily the most Tigra-centric issue to date, as it deals with not only how her young charges at Avengers Academy perceive her, but how Tigra perceives herself.
Gage does a nice job of balancing the two, without making the “right” point of view seem heavy-handed or contrived. In doing so, however, Gage puts the difference in perception – an age gap, for lack of a better term – on prominent display. Gage walks the Avengers students through the wrong way of doing things and sets up a subplot that will thread through the Avengers line for the near future. From there they learn a lesson that looks to alter the complexion of this book.
That complexion – the visuals on the page – is produced by Mike McKone in this issue, and I’m glad he’s back. McKone’s work is clean and smooth and his backgrounds look like they’ve been lived in. Some of his figures lack fluidity in their movements, but their expressions make up for any deficit posture might place on this book’s art.
“Avengers Academy” continues to be a book about learning, whether it is the students learning how things are done the “Avengers Way,” or whether it is the teachers learning about themselves, their limits, and their abilities. There is a learning opportunity in each issue. Sometimes those learning opportunities come in the form of the Avengers further endearing themselves to the world they inhabit, as another Avengers charity spins out of this issue.
My first experience reading a comic with Tigra in it was “Avengers” #214, an issue that saw the team as it was then (Captain America, Wasp, Thor, and Tigra) teaming up with Angel to take on Ghost Rider. Since then, the character has fascinated me. She’s endured a number of “evolutions” and “de-evolutions” since, but in this one issue, Tigra has a chance to shine. Gage gives Greer Nelson a chance to show up, to face her fears, and to react to the world around her. He does so marvelously in this issue, and he even packs in some action sequences for Tigra, having her heave the Slug by his fat jowls. Gage lets Giant-Man tag along through most of the issue, serving as a foil to Tigra’s emotions, and the end result is a strong comic.
Sure, this issue does have a service announcement educational-type quality to it, but it does so in a manner that improves the story. What happens to the Academy from here is unknown, but with the work that Gage and McKone put into this issue, I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next.