Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
The average comic is around 21 to 24 pages of story. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but in all, we can agree that there’s some breathing room in comparison to your standard Sunday comic strip. In those 21 to 24 pages, there is space to tell a story or, in our current state of affairs, part of one. Despite the shaken fists to the sky and grumbles from the masses, there are comic book writers who write for the trade paperback, making each issue a piece of a much larger puzzle. Your monthly comic would then hold a clue or a twist that would add to the readers’ understanding of the over-arcing plot, causing them to come back for more in search of the final resolution.
This creates an audience. Wondering what comes next or “whodunnit” keeps readers turning pages and the writer with some steady income as they bring the story to life in their allotted time and space once a month. It’s hard work these days to keep the public’s attention, so taking a story of significant impact and drawing it out over a few months has a beneficial side if you’re thinking fiscally. This practice can leave a lot of people in the cold, especially those who come in at the middle of the story rather than its start. Let’s say someone wanted to pick up an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, just to see where Peter Parker had gotten himself to lately. Considering he’s working in a high-tech science lab rather than the life of the common Joe might be a little confusing for some, but add to that his side jobs with the Avengers or, more importantly, the Future Foundation, and you have a lot of explaining to do about why he took those jobs and what the heck a Future Foundation is.
To help usher in the new reader and perhaps give long-term readers a little space between major arcs, Marvel released Point One issues: single issues of story to explain a little about the character and where he’s at. Something that began and ended within that book. For the Invincible Iron Man, it was a character study about who Tony Stark was then and who he is now. For Wolverine, it was a well-meant birthday party with his supporting cast and a dust up with some bad guys. Some times more, some times less, these Point One issues were created to communicate the concept of the book, storyline or even just the character in 21 to 24 pages.
But! What if I told you that you (yes you!) could introduce someone to a book, storyline and character in just three panels! Sound amazing? Let me show you how!
(WARNING: this Fifth Color will contain spoilers for Avenges Academy #12. Three panels worth to be exact. If you haven’t read it yet then run, don’t walk, to you local comic shop and ask for it by name! You could also take a car if it’s a long walk.)
Avengers Academy brings old heroes together with a new generation worthy to stand amongst Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. I could honestly write you back jacket blurbs like that for at least another paragraph and a half (Seriously, Marvel! Call me!), but you have probably heard such praises before. There are a lot of websites out there that are going to tell you all about what book is good or what book sucks rotten eggs and even then, you may have an opinion on the book, but it really does take opening the book up and seeing what’s inside of it for the truth to win out. The good news is that Avengers Academy scores one for the win category by having the Avengers in the name right off the bat. Avengers are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes after all, not to mention Earth’s Mightiest Movie Marketing Machine, so the casual fan or curious reader might take a copy of the Avengers off the shelf due to media saturation.
Sadly, no Thor on the cover, just some new characters, one of which is a dinosaur. Bonus for me, not as much a delight for some. Again, there is no easy way to judge a book until you open it and, should you read Avengers Academy, you’d find that each issue tells the reader something new about the book, the storyline or even just a character moment in about 21 to 24 pages. The Wikipedia entry is a quick tally of current events, with each sentence or so of plot adding a footnote corresponding to a single issue. The very idea of a school for teenage heroes is a simple enough concept, but Christos Gage finds a way to succinctly tell you not just an added piece of the story puzzle, but a whole picture in and of itself.
In issue #12, the Academy kids are cosmically transformed into older versions of themselves. Is there a cosmic macguffin in charge of this change? Yes. Do they admit that later? Yes. Moving on, Academy student Veil learns that, when she gets older, problems she faced as a teenager are still there as an adult. In the face of danger, she finds a way to save herself.
She tells Hank Pym of this later in the issue, saying, “When you wish so long for something you want so bad… something that no one else can give you, or won’t… and then it happens. Just like that. I understand now why Norman Osborn and the Hood all want power so much.”
It’s weird to think about because we don’t exactly get phenomenal cosmic power offered to us even on the rarest of occasions, but the merit is still there: wanting something considered impossible and then instantly gaining the means by which to do said formerly impossible thing can go to your head. It’s why some rich people fall into financial ruin or celebrities fall from the public eye. Instant power is not a reward, it’s a responsibility.
Veil knows something of this, because her next words amend herself, “Not that it makes what they do okay.” Hank Pym, no stranger to the corrupting influence or two himself, tells her, “I’m glad that you realize that.”
The next panel shows Veil walking away from the cosmic macguffin and Giant-Man, hand on the door frame as she walks away from the conversation and, perhaps, the past. “Oh, I do,” she tells Pym. “Still… it makes me wonder what I could have done if I had more time.” To herself, thanks to a thought box, she thinks, “And now… I do.” She’s back to being a teenager and has her whole life in front of her. She could gain more and more powers as she gets older and reach the scale of our cosmic adventure this issue. he thing of it is, she has the time to earn it. She has time to learn more, gain more and grow up.
Yeah, I know you’re thinking it. If you’ve been reading Marvel comics for any length of time, it’s right on the tip of your tongue. Essentially, it’s the best credo the company has to define what sets their books apart from the rest of the superhero genre: with great power comes great responsibility. In three panels, Christos Gage and Tom Raney brought to life this simple and oft repeated proverb that resonates throughout the Marvel universe. All the Academy students want something, whether that’s fame or respect or not to live a life in a hazmat suit, and all of it seems impossible. If given the opportunity, having what they want immediately would affect them in a variety of different ways, mostly poorly. But, while the quick fix is sweet, the idea of what you can do in a lifetime is the heroic choice.
This is what the Avengers Academy stands for and this is why you should buy this book every month, possibly also the variant covers and trade paperbacks (don’t forget the hardcover collections!). Excelsior!