Is This Just Me?

Is this just me, or does everybody secretly wish for an alien invasion? Or something of that ilk, the kind of situation where a person could credibly sacrifice himself against tremendous odds to save the world?

Where a man could carve a legend for himself simply by standing up to the powerful oppressors and saying no?

Where a population could rise up and unanimously tell the invaders "No more. I reject you. With a Molotov cocktail!"

No? Just me?

Yeah, I figured as much.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Avengers Academy Retrospective

Several months ago, Avengers Academy finally concluded. A comic best described as  "Teen Titans but with psychological damage" the series followed a group of brand new characters to the Marvel universe, all of whom had received their powers during the Dark Reign storyline, when Norman Osborne managed to get control of the government...somehow.

I warn you now, this retrospective will contain spoilers, so please, if you care about plot twists being revealed, stop reading now.

Norman then proceeded to take the main cast and brutally experiment on them, pushing their powers beyond their safe limits in the hopes of turning them into more deadly soldiers for his army. Thankfully for all involved, he was later deposed and locked away. Apparently, the Marvel Universe doesn't have a death penalty, because if it did, attempted genocide of the Asgardians would probably rate it. But that's not the point.

The point is that the Avengers now have a bunch of kids with superpowers they don't understand, and trauma on a massive scale. With their powers, they could be the next generation of Avengers.
Left unguided, in their current state, they could be the next Masters of Evil.

So with that in mind, I thought I'd take a look back over the course of the series and try and explain how I feel about some of it. Naturally, a series like this thrives on its characters, so that's what we'll be discussing here.


Madeline Berry, also known as Veil, first discovered her gas shifting powers after she was humiliated in front of her entire school, turning into gas to outrun the shame. Then, when Norman Osborne got hold of her, he extended her powers way further then they should have gone. Now, Madeline is slowly drifting apart, losing her cohesion. With time running out, she sees Avengers Academy as her only hope of being cured before it's too late. In many ways, Veil is the main character of the series. The series opens and closes on two images of Madeline walking through her high school, one where she gets humiliated, and one where she annihilates a bully using nothing but her fists, highlighting the subtle character development that she underwent over the course of the series. She is a polite, well meaning girl, only really losing control or becoming angry when she thinks she or someone around her is being threatened.

Humberto Lopez, known as Reptil, possesses a mystical artifact capable of transforming him or any part of him into that of a variety of prehistoric animals. First appearing in the Avengers: The Initiative run, Reptil was later captured by the US government where experiments were performed to broaden his control of his various powers. Strongly motivated to become a hero in the hopes of finding his long disappeared parents, Reptil jumped at the chance to join Avengers Academy, and later proved one of its more stable individuals. Despite, or perhaps due to, his lack of desire for authority, he was elected by the group as their leader, and much of his character development in the early run of the series dealt with him coming to terms with this, as well as functioning as the "Only Sane Man" of the group, often acting as an intermediary between members of the group who were fighting. Later as the series went on, he would enter into a relationship with Finesse, an incredibly well written romance sadly left hanging by the series.

Jeanne Foucault, Finesse, has a history largely shrouded in mystery. Her parents were trained by the supervillain Taskmaster, and like him, she possesses photographic reflexes and an eidetic memory, leading many, including herself to the suspicion that she is the daughter of Taskmaster. Jeanne began the series closest to the dark side, a willing participant in Osborne's experiment, and lacking much in the way of social graces, or even empathy or emotional connection to others. Through her experiences with the Academy however, she went on to become one of the more moral characters in the series, with a very well defined moral code that she was willing to stick to no matter the cost to her own conscience. Finesse's largest points of character development come from her relationships with others. The first, her relationship with Reptil, grew out her believing that Reptil was only interested in a physical relationship, being the only kind she understood. His insistence at wanting something more led to Finesse reevaluating a lot of her previous beliefs, and endeavouring to be less detached. The second was her relationship with Quicksilver. Finesse is unique among the cast of Avengers Academy in that she had a very strong relationship with one of the staff of the Academy, initially hoping to learn the things Quicksilver had been taught by Magneto, they quickly grew to respect each other, and several times during the series say Quicksilver coming to her aid, most notably against his own father. The final relationship is the unspoken relation between her and Taskmaster. Taskmaster's photographic reflexes have rendered him incapable of remembering anything but fights, skills or the people he fought, and Finesse feared she might end up the same, leading her to question the sense in getting close to people she might be forced to forget. A future storyline would show Finesse in the future, exhibiting symptoms incredibly similar, to the point where she could not even recognize her own daughter, causing immense strain on her marriage with Reptil. As a person with a relative with severe Alzheimers, I found this arc incredibly moving, not to mention well written.

Brandon Sharpe, Striker, possesses the power to generate and control electricity. His mother, a flash in the pan actress with her five minutes of fame firmly behind her pushed Brandon into child fame as soon as possible. In one of the series darker, more serious moments, it was revealed that the agent his mother had hired to manage him had repeatedly molested him throughout his youth, and when he attempted to tell his mother what was happening, she scolded him for "lies". Brandon's powers finally activated when his molester attempted to go farther then usual, with lightning incinerating the Agent and leaving Striker with a white streak in his hair and a scar on his face. Like Finesse, he joined Osborne willingly after being coerced with promises of wealth and fame, only to find it not to his taste. His character was very much that of a braggart, keen to play up his fame and success with the ladies, early on insisting he should be the leader, as well as continuously hitting on the female members of the team in a particularly obnoxious way. Despite this, Striker was a valuable member of the team, and easily one of its most competent fighters. His largest development would come mid way through the series when he revealed that he was gay, and only hit on women so often as to deflect suspicion, even expressing concern that his sexuality might have been influenced by the abuse he suffered as a child. Brandon more then anyone changed over the course of the series, becoming more relaxed and less worried about his image. One of his last actions in the series is to turn his back on the fame his mother wants for him, instead opting to avoid the limelight, something that he would never have been able to do at the start of the series.

Jennifer Takeda, or Hazmat, had an origin incredibly similar to that of the X-Man Rogue: while making out with her boyfriend in preparation for their first time having sex, he began to choke and feel incredibly ill. Her powers of emitting radiation and toxins of various kinds made her parents incredibly sick, killed her dog and her boyfriend was put in hospital. Then, taken and forcefully experimented on, her powers grew uncontrollably. Whereas before she could have learned to control her powers and use them responsibly, now her sweat, saliva, and even her breathe, her very presence were lethal in long exposure. Forced to remain inside a sealed hazardous materials suit for the rest of her life, Jennifer hoped that Dr Pym would find a cure for her. Hazmat was incredibly angry, her explosive personality resembling her powers, she had a strong sense of justice but it was often clouded by her anger into becoming more about vengeance, the most obvious examples being the times she lead a group of the Academy students into the Raft in order to punish Norman Osborne for what he had done to them. Additionally, upon finding out about her teacher, Tigra, at the hands of the criminal Hood, she and two others tracked him down and mercilessly beat him into the ground. Hazmat was by far the most powerful of the group, her future self being able to generate an antimatter blast large enough to trouble a physical god. After spending a day with the mutant Leech, who could suppress her powers, she declined seeing him again, as it left her vulnerable to attack the next day, her body having not recharged since. Her commitment to becoming a hero meant she assumed a second in command role, being close friends with Veil, due to their similar situations. Her relationship with Mettle grew out of their mutual desires to be normal, and the time spent comforting each other over their new bodies. An incredibly well written relationship which saw them dealing with the after effects of what had happened to her old boyfriend. Despite Mettle being immune to her powers, she was still terrified of sleeping with him, for fear that he would become ill as well. Mettle for his part, accepted her nervousness on the subject and backed off, but some strain was inevitable. Overall, Hazmat was probably the closest member of the group to truly going to the dark side, particularly in the early run. Her high emotions, fuelled by her own anguish at being trapped inside her containment suit left her unbalanced and headstrong, and her desire for vengeance would certainly have led her to ill had she not found a home in Avengers Academy.

Ken Mack, Mettle, discovered his powers while surfing. Losing control of his board, it smacked him in the face. On the beach, he was confused as to why people were recoiling in horror at the sight of his face. The skin covering it had come clean off, revealing a red metal skeleton beneath. Rushed to a "hospital" Norman Osborne proceeded to bring out his full powers by ripping all his skin off. Now, super strong, nearly invulnerable to harm and barely able to feel through his new metal skin, Ken was normally a gentle soul, laid back and relatively stable. But when confronted with those responsible for his condition, particularly Osborne, he came very close to murdering him out of revenge. Mettle didn't get as much individual development as the others beyond discussing his anger and frustration with not being able to do the things he used to, like being too heavy to surf now, but remained a solid, likeable character who felt very much like a real teenager just trying to make the best of a mixed up situation. His strongest characterization probably grew out his relationship with Hazmat, showing him as a kind, caring soul without making him into a saint.

The characters were supported by an excellent secondary cast, but an exhaustive list of such an enormous cast would serve only to bore you. With this in mind, I leave you simply with my heartfelt recommendation that you seek out and read Avengers Academy. I promise you, you will not regret it.

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