The idea of Magneto visiting the Avengers Academy seems to write itself. Here, unfortunately, it didn’t and it feels like a wasted opportunity. The combination of Magneto, ultimate reformed bad guy, paying a visit to the kids that are being trained specifically so they don’t turn out exactly like him should be gold, but a combination of too many characters, too many plot threads, and mediocre writing and art leaves us with something shockingly dull.
In this issue, the X-Men, and very specifically Magneto, have been invited to Avengers Academy at the behest of Hank Pym in order to help him establish what happened to Jocasta and to evaluate whether they have a traitor or infiltrator in their midst.
Christos Gage is a writer I have come to like quite a bit, and his recent work on the “Angel & Faith” series for Dark Horse has been especially strong, but this is not his best work. A combination of too many characters on the field (a quick count brings up at least 16 with significant lines) and characters Gage is not familiar enough with conspire to drag this story down painfully. Character voices feel very off, both those Gage may be more unfamiliar with (Magneto, Cyclops, and Emma Frost) and at least one that he should have well in hand, Pietro. As a result, the relationships feel forced and sometimes straight up false. Add to that the feeling that the kids who are supposed to be the stars in this book are playing serious second fiddle to all the A-listers. The book ends up a jumbled mess. The plot isn’t much to speak of, but with such compelling relationships just waiting to be explored it’s not the plot that’s missed, it’s those rich character opportunities.
The art by Sean Chen is equally unimpressive. There’s nothing egregiously wrong with it, it’s just dull and feels full of missed visual opportunities. The story is easy enough to follow, although the action sequences are not as clear (or as compelling) as they could and should be. It’s not so much a case for what is “wrong” as it is just a superb example of perfectly staid work. There is some nice expression work, but there’s also some that feels tonally off, the same way that some of the character voices do – played too loudly, or missed entirely. The colors by Jeromy Cox are flat and uninspiring. They’re accurately bold for a superhero book, but there is no nuance or depth to them.
“Avengers Academy” is a book that has been hit and miss for me since it began but it’s obvious now that the book desperately misses artist Mike McKone. It would also do well to pare back its cast to a more manageable level, and to limit its big A-list guest stars until these new characters are more assimilated. Magneto casts a long shadow and if you don’t know what to do once you’re in that shadow, things can only go badly.