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.”
‘Avengers Academy’ Takes Its “Final Exam” Starting In August
MTV Geek: The title of this arc set off little alarm bells in my head…Is this the end of Avengers Academy? Or just the roster we know and love (which would also, of course, make me very sad)?
Christos Gage: It’s not the end of the book. But it may be the end of Avengers Academy as we know it! After all, we have a history of big changes following big events.
Geek: Now that you’re in the thick of it, is this the end-game you’ve had in mind for the kids since you started? Or have you found that where you’ve taken them over the last thirty-odd issues has changed their individual journeys? Striker, for one, seems far less likely to turn out to be a villain now than he did back in issue one…
CG: For a while now, certainly the past year to year and a half, I’ve had a definite end point in mind for where I would want to leave these characters as a group. It allows for specific character journeys to change, and characters to come in and out, but in a general sense, I’ve known where I’d end things if the time came…Which, in today’s market, for a title that hasn’t been around since the sixties, is something I think you have to at least consider. I’ve also had specific thoughts on where I’d leave each character. Some of those points will be reached in “Final Exam.”
Geek: I think he’s been pretty up front about it, but what is Alchemist’s agenda here? And are we going to find out once and for all if he does have a secret agenda behind the agenda?
CG: Yes. You will find out once and for all what he’s up to. My take on him is that he hasn’t necessarily lied about his agenda – I think it would be a cop-out for him to pull off a mask and turn out to be Loki, for example – but he definitely seems like a guy who has more going on that he’s telling you.
Geek: The plot almost seems like we’re getting our own L’il Civil War (or Civli’l War, if you want)… If so, who is Cap in this scenario, and who is Iron Man? And to push the strained metaphor even further, who is Speedball? Is it, in fact, Speedball? I don’t even know what I’m asking anymore.
CG: I wouldn’t say it’s quite that cut and dried. Rather than two sides pitted against each other, with two leaders and two specific points of view, it’s more that each individual character will have to decide for themselves what they want their life to be going forward. Which is pretty heavy, but also something we all have to do as young people. I mean, it’s funny… You can go through some pretty big upheavals later in life. Change careers, get married or divorced, have kids or, hell, get a sex change. But at no point is there more pressure to make decisions about the REST OF YOUR LIFE than when you’re young. That’s what these kids are facing…in the typically ramped-up fashion of a superhero comic, of course.
Geek: Is it down to just the students? Or are we going to see the teachers get involved too?
CG: I’m trying to avoid spoilers here, but for a variety of reasons, issues #34 through #37 are very much centered on the students. And by that I mean the core students, as those who feel their stories have gotten off track with my focus on folks like Sentinel may be glad to hear.
Geek: I’m sure you can barely talk about this, but once the students have made their choices… Are we going to see the introduction of a new Dr. Doom level villain? Since that’s what the threat is all along, it almost seems like SOMEONE has to go in that direction, right? Right???
CG: I feel like that’s a constant threat. Just as when you’re a kid, and you could screw up your life by doing something stupid like driving drunk or getting addicted to drugs or dropping out of school or whatever, at any point one of these kids could make a choice they can’t come back from. But that said, I think none of them is exactly the type to suddenly cackle “Mwah ha ha! I now embrace EVIL!” and do a heel turn like the wrestlers I grew up on. I think for our guys it would be more of a gradual thing getting to that Dr. Doom point. Even Dr. Doom started out as just kind of a jerky rich kid rooming with Reed Richards, didn’t he? He put on the armor after a series of momentous events. So I think we’d be less likely to see the kids get to that Dr. Doom point… More likely to see them take that first step onto a road there’s no turning back from. Will that happen in this story? Read and find out!
Geek: After this apocalyptic arc is all done, are we going to see the kids head into an arc called “Summer Break?” Or hopefully, “Summer School,” where the remaining students get special guest taught by Mark Harmon and Kirstie Alley?
CG: Don’t forget Courtney Thorne Smith. Actually, there will be a bit of a palate cleanser in issue #38…a more light-hearted story. But like “Summer School,” it will have a very deep and meaningful subtext.
Avengers Academy: Final Exam begins in issue #34 in August, and runs through issue #37 in September, from Marvel Comics!
Source: MTV Geek
Christos Gage Administers AVENGERS ACADEMY’s ‘Final Exam’
Newsarama: Christos, first, just looking for some clarifications — I may very well be jumping to conclusions here, but with a story called “Final Exam” and the promise that this is a story that’s been building since the beginning, is this Avengers Academy starting to wrap things up?
Christos Gage: It’s not the book coming to an end. But for Avengers Academy as we know it – specifically, some of the characters that have been there from the start – we are reaching a major decision point, and things may never be the same.
Nrama: “Final Exam” is the Avengers Academy versus Alchemist’s team — who can we expect to see in the latter group?
Gage: Well, we have seen that Veil, Jocasta, Rocket Racer and Machine Teen, as well as some former Initiative recruits like Cloud 9 and Hardball, were working with the Alchemist. But this is less of a “Team A vs. Team B” situation than one where the kids must make some tough decisions about the direction of their lives. Although let’s face it, there will probably be punching.
Nrama: Also, does this story involve just the main Avengers Academy cast, or also the extended group introduced since the move to the west coast?
Gage: I’m stepping back a bit and focusing on our core cast of students. Finesse, Hazmat, Striker, Mettle, Reptil, White Tiger, X-23 and Lightspeed.
Nrama: And while the Academy students are trapped in Alchemist’s building, what kind of role will the Avengers Academy faculty have in the story?
Gage: It’s really more about the kids. Some of the adults will still be quite busy with AvX matters.
Nrama: On the story, you’re joined by Tom Grummett and Andrea Di Vito — they’re two very different artists, but in what ways do you think their styles complement each other well?
Gage: I think they both have what you could categorize as a “classic” superhero style… clean, dynamic storytelling, exciting action, powerful character moments… and the story comes first. Neither one of these guys feels the need to say, “Hey, look at me!” by doing flashy stuff just for the sake of doing it. They can bring the flash, for sure, but only when it’s called for. They’re consummate pros who are all about telling the story in the most effective way possible.
Nrama: Final Exam will be twice monthly, as the series has been much of the time recently. What are the advantages of working at that pace?
Gage: It kind of allows you to step up the pace, like a weekly TV show… something like Justified or The Sopranos, where you can make every installment feel important, and hopefully there’s just enough time in between to make the audience really want to see what’s next, but not so much they pick up the next issue and don’t quite recall what happened in the last one. It can be hectic, but that’s part of the fun!
Final Exam arc is issues AA34-37! So AvX lasts from AA29-33.
And I was worried with this title that AA was gonna be cancelled after this, but Christos Gage mentions in the last question, that he at least has plans for the AA kids to meet another group of teens after this arc, maybe the Young Avengers? or the X-kids in Westchester?
Anyway I think I’m really looking forward to this, as it seems much more interesting than the AvX tie-in and I’m really happy that the focus will be on just our main kids this time around. And it sounds like Laura stays with them after all the AvX stuff too which I’m very glad about too.
GAGE PREPARES A “FINAL EXAM” FOR “AVENGERS ACADEMY”
CBR News: In this market, a storyline with the word “Final” in its title can cause alarm with fans. That said, what does “Final Exam” mean for this series? Is this the end of “Avengers Academy?”
Christos Gage: It’s the culmination of a long-running storyline, that of the Alchemist and his almost anti-Avengers Academy, which he created to serve as an alternative to the hero/villain paradigm he says the Avengers promote. It’s also when the kids will have to face a moment of truth and discover who they really are, beneath the powers and the costumes. If you think of a final exam as what all your work has been leading up to, where everything you’ve learned to this point is put to the test, that’s what it is.
CBR: As you say, the series has been building towards this showdown with Jeremy for a while. What can you tell us about Jeremy’s ultimate goal? He seems like a guy who projects one front and hides who he really is.
Gage: He’s complicated. He definitely is the kind of person who will manipulate others to get what he wants, but a lot of our readers have said they feel he makes good points about there being better ways for super humans to benefit the world than putting on costumes and smacking each other. Is that something he really believes? Or does he have some nefarious hidden agenda? Does he, as he claims, want to do good, and he sometimes uses less than exemplary methods? Or is he just misunderstood? All will be revealed in this story.
CBR: “Final Exam” doesn’t begin until August. What can you tell us about the “Avengers Academy” stories leading up to it and sort of physical and emotional shape the kids will be in when this story arrives?
Gage: The previous stories will have been the “Avengers vs. X-Men” tie-ins, and that worked out quite well, because those stories will have seen the kids forced to look at what their elders are doing and decide how they feel about it, and in some cases, take a stand against it. Given that “Final Exam” will see them operating without the guidance of their teachers, they’ll have been prepared for it by the “AvX” storyline. Also, the events of “AvX” will lead directly to a big moment at the end of issue #33 that sets the stage for “Final Exam.”
I can’t get into it any more without spoiling our “AvX” tie-ins, so I will just say that, in a general sense, “Final Exam” will see a number of both plotlines and character journeys coming to a head.
CBR: Who are the teen protagonists you’ll be focusing on in “Final Exam?” Will it just be the original six students? Or will some of the new Academy students like White Tiger and X-23 play a role as well?
Gage: It will be the original six students, yes, including Veil, who now works with Jeremy, plus White Tiger, Lightspeed and X-23.
CBR: Will the kids be facing off with Jeremy’s group of younger heroes? If a fight breaks out, will they be more than a match for the Avengers Academy kids? And since you say this is a storyline where the kids have to stand on their own, where does that leave the faculty?
Gage: Veil is the only one I’m promising. The others, well, you’ll have to wait and see. There will be some super-powered teens on Jeremy’s side; I’m just not ready to reveal who they are.
The faculty will play a smaller role — I really wanted this to be a big test for the kids. As for the part time students, they won’t be around. We’re narrowing our focus with this storyline.
CBR: You’re working with Tom Grummett and Andrea Di Vito on “Final Exam.” Which of their artistic strengths do you want to play to and bring out in this storyline?
Gage: Andrea worked on an issue of our “Fear Itself” crossover storyline, and I thought he did a fantastic job getting across the intensity of the situation as well as the emotions the characters were experiencing. We needed that again. Our regular artist, the phenomenal Tom Grummett, excels at it, but given that this story will be shipping twice monthly, it was inevitably going to require the services of two artists.
Our editors, Bill Rosemann and Jake Thomas, agreed with me that Andrea’s handsome, classically heroic style of art meshed well with Tom’s — these guys are distinct talents, but their strengths lie in the same areas, and they’re exactly what we needed for this tale.
CBR: Finally, you hinted a little bit about this at the beginning of our talk, but can you offer up any more clues as to where “Avengers Academy” is headed after issue #37, the final issue of “Final Exam?”
Gage: Again, I will have to keep mum, but I will go so far as to say that another long-anticipated meeting with another group of teenage characters will follow. “Final Exam” is a big deal for the kids. It’s a cliché to say “after this, nothing will be the same!” But it’s true.
“Avengers Academy” takes its “Final Exam” in August.