One of the things I liked about the early issues of "Avengers Academy" was how each issue served as a spotlight on one of the members, letting us get to know him. Since then we've had spotlights on some of the instructors, but in many ways I appreciate this issue more than the previous, because it shows that Christos Gage can break the pattern and still deliver a good book.
Now yes, there is a small spotlight on Speedball this month. But it's not a Speedball issue, or, for that matter, an issue focusing exclusively on Veil or Hazmat, the other two characters who get storylines this month. Instead Gage is splitting the focus, and the end result looks good. So we not only get Veil still worried about getting kicked out, but Hazmat finding a potential temporarily solution to her toxic powers, and a better look at how Speedball is coping with the deaths he helped cause in "Civil War."
It's the Veil storyline that stands out the most for me once it's over, perhaps because it's the least flashy of the three. She was the character who received a spotlight in the first issue, and of the six kids she's one of the few that it's hard to see potentially becoming a villain. So here, watching her well-intentioned desperation and struggles, it's the most interesting piece of the issue. It's hard to keep from feeling that for all of Veil's attempts to do right, a huge mistake is just around the corner with her. Her good intentions are amazingly misguided, forever sending her in exactly the wrong direction, and it's a tragedy just waiting to happen.
I suspect it's going to be Hazmat's story that grabs the most readers, though, with Gage addressing the question of, "Why don't they slap a power-nullifier on her?" It's a somewhat reasonable answer given, and the guest star along those lines is a fun surprise. Best of all, though, we see such a different side to Hazmat this month—a far cry from her normally sullen demeanor—that it makes the tragedy of her power that much more memorable. By getting another look at how she could be, it serves well in contrast to how she currently is. And as for Speedball, well... it's a little too pat in places, but I appreciate that Gage is trying to move the character forward from some of the more idiotic things done to him from "Civil War" onward.
Sean Chen steps in on guest pencils, and while I'm happy that Tom Raney takes over next month, I hope someone at Marvel is keeping Chen in mind should they need another guest artist. Chen's clean art fits the overall look established by Mike McKone's time on the title, and in general I like his take on the characters. It's crisp and clean, and he's good with the facial expression and body language. It's also a reminder that it's been a while since I've read a regular title drawn by Chen; hopefully that will change before too long.
"Avengers Academy" continues to be a solid, entertaining book month in and month out; for a comic anchored by six brand-new (or relatively new) characters, that's not an easy feat. Hopefully class will stay in session for some time.