Review: Avengers Academy #14.1

As if these trainees weren't questioning themselves enough, now comes their lamest villain ever - and a new Avengers-dissing sales pitch that might be too realistic to refuse.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Avengers Academy 14.1

Avengers Academy #14.1 is Christos Gage launching an assault on our suspension of disbelief, and then trying to find a way to bring it back.

After the aspiring heroes of the AA struggle to fight Z-list villain Ruby Thursday and don't even get the chance to finish the job before the adults clean up the mess, they find themselves curious as to whether or not they're really in danger of becoming supervillains as they've led themselves to believe.  That inspires them to track down the other survivors of Norman Osborn's cruel experiments to see whether or not they're better off not trying to be Avengers, and it brings them to the billion-dollar doorstep of Jeremy Briggs,

Briggs has used his power of transmutation not to go be a superguy Alchemist, but rather to found a huge corporation to exploit his power of synthesizing chemicals no one else can.  This friendly, affable Zuckerberg-styled young billionaire spends the entire issue completely deconstructing the comic book concepts of superheroes and supervillains as a distraction and a complete waste of time, showing the kids another way of doing things.  It seems Briggs keeps track of all of the "alums of Osborn U," as he puts it, and one of them is a healthy normal dude in college, another is healing all sorts of people in devastated Haiti, and the one kid trying to do what Avengers do got himself killed by a Wendigo.  It all goes to prove Briggs' main point – that the whole concept of superheroes is stupid.

"Sure, it started out with a purpose," Briggs explains.  "Fighting Nazis and Communists and all that noble stuff.  But we don't live in that world anymore.  Most of the guys running around in tights these days are doing it to get revenge on someone.  It's like what's wrong with politics.  It's not helping anymore.  All it's doing is perpetuating itself."

"What the hell are you guys doing?" he continues, selling them hard on his much more practical, real-world ways of helping people that don't involve outmoded notions of costumes and punching.  "You're VHS tapes, you're typewriters.  You're unpaid interns on the Titanic."  And he makes perfect sense, ratcheting up all the inanities of the superhuman lifestyle while trumpeting the stuff you'd want actual super-powered people to do for the world if they really existed – and fighting and exploding things in busy downtown streets isn't one of them.

He makes perfect sense.  To the point where someone reading it kinda doesn't want to read comic books anymore.

Gage tries to bring us back by having Finesse, the most detached of all the Academy students, be the one to see the darker truths about Briggs – that all of the other Osborn U graduates' situations were things he orchestrated – including bringing a Wendigo to Buffalo to snuff out the one kid poking a hole in his theory.  Back at the prom, Finesse wondered aloud if she even grasped the distinction between hero and villain, but she's the only one able to call Briggs out, thanks to being a human lie detector.  "You're using your power to manipulate everyone around you.  If that's not a villain, what is?"

That manages to snap the AA into action, only to realize that "The Alchemist" is also an amazingly difficult guy to fight, considering he can turn the air in your lungs into water instantly and kind of do whatever he wants.  Ain't that just the way with super-rich guys?  How can you make a smug zillionaire even more obnoxious?  By making him un beat-uppable. 

Still, Briggs being a Machiavellian douchebag doesn't invalidate his words, and the fact that the AA can scarcely even fluster him makes him that much more frustrating a character.  The set up is there for him to be a truly dangerous archenemy for the AA, no matter how much he may publicly deride the concept, since he's now got his hooks in their insecurities and promises to help them more than the Avengers have managed to so far.

Gage is treading a very shaky line here.  Comic books filled up with talk about how stupid comic books are ain't that fun.  But as it stands now, the AA kids don't necessarily have to choose between hero and villain anymore – they have the option of just being well-paid corporate employees, too, just like regular schnooks.  For emotionally stunted kids in need of normalcy, this might be the way they wind up going.