When "Avengers Academy" first began, we got a shock at the end of the first issue; the kids weren't selected because they had great potential for becoming heroes, but rather because they had the greatest potential for becoming villains if left to their own devices. With the tie-ins to "Fear Itself," it looks like we're starting to see some of that bear fruit.
Christos Gage began ramping this story up last issue, with Veil's snapping and killing some of the bad guys with her gas powers after they killed an innocent woman. Here, he doesn't let up at all; we see the entire team in action, their different methods, and most importantly how the idea of killing bad guys affects them.
The most interesting part of the comic for me was watching Veil and Mettle interact, perhaps because of how each of them reacts to killing within battle. It's a bit of a reversal from what you might expect to what we actually got, and Gage also lets it feed into the budding relationship between Mettle and Hazmat and provide a speed bump for the pair of them. It's good old fashioned superhero soap opera, but the conflicts feel natural and believable, perhaps because Gage has spent just over a year developing the personalities of his six young leads.
This is more than just a character study issue though; when the bad guys rally and attack, well, let's just say that I'm glad we have another issue of "Avengers Academy" also scheduled for this month. It's a fun turn of events, and it shows some of the vulnerabilities to living in Infinite Avengers Mansion when you really stop to think about it. Best of all, though, Gage is making this story feel like anything can happen. Could he wipe out half of the cast in one fell swoop? Quite possibly. He's pushed his kids to the brink of disaster, and it feels like not all of them will be able to step away from the edge so easily.
Sean Chen is back this month for pencils, and having been a big fan of his previous work on the series, this issue does not disappoint. From the look of Infinite Avengers Mansion as a string of mansions in nowhere space, to the various relaxation states of the kids, I like how he tackles each subject and makes them look real even in the face of impossibility. Veil in particular looks so sad and lost and confused under Chen's pencil, and that's just what the script appears to ask for. The only quibble I had is actually with Jeromy Cox's normally more subdued colors, which feel overly bright and garish this month. They definitely take away a bit of the impact of the art; it looks rather cartoonish in places.
Don't let the "Fear Itself" banner scare you away; this is turning out to be a pivotal story for "Avengers Academy," and easy to understand even if you aren't reading the "Fear Itself" mini-series. For those wondering when the proverbial shoe was going to drop ever since the first issue? It looks like it's just around the corner.