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Reader beware, there be spoilers ahead!
In reading Strange Academy #1, Skottie Young (Writer) had a bias on my behalf to overcome. In my mind, for better or worse, he’s infamous for his baby covers and that Giant Size Little Marvel: AvX Secret Wars tie-in. While I’ve been told that Middlewest is a good book, I’ve yet to get around to reading it. So, in terms of writing chops and ability to tell a story with depth and substance, this book had an uphill battle.
Suffice to say, that issue #1 intrigued me enough to want to come back and see where things were headed in issue #2. Issue #1 had no less than eleven first appearances complete with character introductions in the notorious Marvel meet-fight technique. CGC graded copies of this book are noting the first appearances of Emily Bright, Doyle Dormammu, Shaylee Moonpeddle, Calvin Morse, Dessy, Herman, Guslaug, Xoe, Alvi, Iric, and Toth in this issue alone. Speculators take notice! There was a lot of set up in issue 1 and there was no way to get away from that. Young had to introduce a whole class (literally) of characters, place them in a setting, give at least one some semblance of a back story, and pack in enough action to get the reader back for issue 2. Mission accomplished, but not much in terms of story there. Now, I’m ready to dig in to some character development!
If issue #1 was about introducing the cast of characters, issue #2 is all about introducing the school itself. As I said, Young has a lot of characters to juggle. In order for this story to take off, he has to plant the seeds of relationship, both good and bad, early on. The mechanism that is primarily responsible for these relationships emerging is the dorm-mate assignments that were handed out in issue #1. Shaylee Moonbright and our main protagonist, Emily Bright are roomies. Doyl Dormammu and Iric of Asgard are bunking together and hate it. Alvi, Iric’s brother, is rooming with the orphan Calvin. Zoe (who we haven’t heard much from so far) and Dessy are rooming. Toth, from Weirdworld, is with Germán and unfortunately, I think our frost giant student, Gus, is alone. Maybe I counted wrong.
To introduce us to the students’ course curriculum, Young takes us through a “day in the life” sort of story. This is complete with all manner of surprising, mystical, and dangerous gags. If each of the classroom settings and course subject matters is slightly different, unfortunately the instructors are all written as somewhat varying degrees of aloof and mysterious. The Ancient One give a short introduction and then unleashes a dangerous Genie, Brother Voodoo pops a quiz, Shaman teacher rules over a strict and somewhat traditional P.E. class, Magik has no tolerance for tardiness as she casts Iric and Doyle into Hell, and Scarlet Witch appears to nonchalantly allow the students to break the fabric of reality with little guidance.
Each of these instructors have their own histories, so perhaps fleshing them out at this point isn’t entirely necessary, however, it was noticeable.
If the instructors have little character notes in this issue, the students do gain a little growth. Emily appears to have a natural knack for most of the course work. Gus and Germán appear to be fast friends and are just letting loose around the dorms when they have some free time. Finally, Iric and Doyle appear to have something in common with their hubris. Speaking of Iric and Doyle, their relationship also appears to be the one with the most growth in this issue.
When Iric arrives tardy to Magik’s class, she casts him down to Hell. When Doyle is found celebrating Iric’s misfortune, he’s also cast down to Hell. While bickering the whole time, unbeknownst to Iric and Doyle, they are actually working together to survive the ordeal. Does this plant the seed of an unlikely friendship? Maybe.
Finally, this issue includes a question and a mystery. In issue #1, Emily is told that all magical abilities come at a cost. While drained by her outburst in issue #1, she seems fit as a fiddle at school where she performs more magic than ever before. Why is that? What cost is being paid? She asks and the questions is swept away. When the issue is taken up the chain to de facto schoolmaster, Brother Voodoo, he too sweeps it away. The price has been paid. That is all. This is the spark of intrigue I think this series needs.
Right now there’s no doubt we need some heavy duty fleshing out of some of the characters for readers to continue to pick this book up month-to-month. However, I think the bones of a successful series are there. All the students have a generic “magic” quality to them without showing much specialized aptitude yet. If that changes, we could see some interesting plays on strengths and weaknesses of the class team. As it stands, everybody has different colored magic blasts coming out of their hands and such.
This question of the price to be paid, however, could hold enough intrigue to carry the entire first arc and maybe an even bigger running storyline. Did the teachers make a deal with a big bad that will come to a head? More than likely.
Ramos’ art is stellar in his own stylistic fashion as always. Every panel is a different interesting angle with details galore packed in to treat the eye. To point out some favorites, I loved the floating P.E. climbing rope gag and the transparency on the library window scene below was beautiful as assisted by colorist Edgar Delgado!
(W) Skottie Young (A/CA) Humberto RamosGo to class with the students at STRANGE ACADEMY! Your class schedule:
• 8:15-9:15 HISTORY OF MAGICAL OBJECTS with THE ANCIENT ONE
• 9:25-10:25 ELEMENTS OF CHAOS MAGIC with SCARLET WITCH
• 10:35-11:35 GYM with COACH TAYLOR
• 11:40-12:10 LUNCH (cooked by MINDFULL ONE)
• 12:20-1:20 INTRODUCTION TO THE UNDEAD with BROTHER VOODOO
• 1:30-2:30 INFERNO 101 with MAGIK
• 2:40-3:20 (Pending survival) STUDY HALL
• 3:30-4:30 MAGICAL PLANTS AND THE CARE THEREOF with PROFESSOR MAN-THING
Rated TIn Shops: Jul 08, 2020SRP: $3.99
Wild Baseless Spec!
And now some speculative hits for this series. If you’re looking for the first appearances of all these students, CGC currently says that is in Issue #1. However, for those that like to debate the issue, there were a number of Marvel comics with a preview backup printed in the back of the issue in January 2020.
Finally, Loth is from Weirdworld. We’ve visited Weirdworld before in the Marvel universe, once during a Secret Wars tie-in with Del Mundo art that was absolutely breathtaking.Of course, we’ve had a few series during the 70s as well. However, the first appearance of Weirdworld was in Marvel Super Action from 1976. If Strange Academy explores Weirdworld or, better yet, some sort of Netflix or other streaming show of the book explores Weirdworld, I think Marvel Super Action and anything from Secret Wars Weirdworld could be on the table spec-wise.