Avengers Academy: Final Exam
By Tim Stevens
Any former or current student knows the horror that exam time evokes. Imagine that plus super powers. The heroes-in-training of AVENGERS ACADEMY find themselves facing that kind of stress in August with the start of “Final Exam.”
Unfolding over four issues—AVENGERS ACADEMY #34 to #37—the arc chronicles the culmination of events building since the book’s debut issue pitting the teenage team against Jeremy Briggs, The Alchemist, and will test not just the adolescents’ abilities, but their integrity.
For writer Christos Gage, the current volatility of the Marvel Universe made this the perfect time to pull the trigger on this plotline.
“This title has a history of undergoing shifts and changes after big events, and with Avengers Vs. X-Men going on, it felt like a good time to bring the Alchemist storyline to a head,” he explains. “I’m also a big believer that if you drag out plotlines too long, they lose their power; you get to the point where people are just tired of it and want it resolved just so it’s over, not because they’re excited to see the outcome. It happens to me as a fan sometimes and I don’t want it to happen here.”
Editor William Rosemann sees validity in Gage’s opinion on the subject.
“Speaking as a comic book fan, I always appreciate seeing creators bring long-simmering plots to an explosive boil,” he concurs. “Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing plenty of emotional and visual fireworks in each and every single issue that I plunk down my hard-earned money for. But if you can add on the culmination or surprising zigzags of character journeys that I’ve followed for months, well, that’s fun to experience in any kind of storytelling medium.”
The timing also gave Gage permission of sorts to focus the action fully on the students and not worry about accounting for the teachers. With the adults still enmeshed in the events of AvX, the teens find themselves very much on their own.
“While we did see Jocasta leave with the Alchemist, so she will be around in some capacity, [the arc] focuses on the students,” the writer says. “I really wanted this to be a crucible for the students—hence the title ‘Final Exam.’ They’re going to have to succeed or fail on their own.”
Success will be no easy task. Briggs has repeatedly proven to be a capable manipulator and already won at least some trust from several allies, including former Academy member Veil. However, The Alchemist did not seem to be satisfied with just one super powered recruit, a fact Gage remains cagey on.
“Veil is definitely part of the story, she’s a major character,” he teases. “I’m going to keep mum on the others for now! [But] you never know what that guy’s been getting up to, do you? I’d say there’s a pretty good chance he might have added to his roster. He seems to prefer younger superhumans.”
The writer plays it similarly close to the vest about what exactly Briggs has in mind for goals, only promising that “Final Exam” will reveal the answers.
“This is definitely where that gets revealed, and put into action,” pledges Gage. “I can’t really say much about it, but it’s related to his feeling that the super hero/super villain paradigm no longer works.”
Despite knowing that this arc had to unfold now, Gage admits a certain amount of concern about putting these characters through this gauntlet.
“It’s pretty serious,” he confesses. “Every single one of the students is going to have to reach down within themselves to find out who they really are, behind the costumes and the code names. It’s going to be tough to write some of the stuff I’ve got planned!
“Fortunately, I know our art team can deliver powerful moments beautifully. We’ve got our regular penciler/inker team of Tom Grummett and Cory Hamscher on the first two issues, and Andrea DiVito handling the next two. Add in the stalwart Chris Sotomayor and the venerable Joe Caramagna on colors and letters, respectively, and we’re in awesome shape.”