The irony is somewhat amusing when you've got ostensibly mature, adult superheroes shooting at each other instead of having a grown-up conversation in the big Marvel events like Avengers vs. X-Men, while in the less-publicized books like Avengers: The Children's Crusade and now Avengers Academy #28, you've got teenaged characters acting with ten times more wisdom than their supposed role models do. In the former, the Young Avengers tried to solve problems while the big-name teams fought and yelled, and in the latter, the conflict between the AA kids and the Runaways, sparked by the well-meaning intentions of the teachers at the school, is resolved not with fisticuffs, but with everybody listening to each other and trying to understand each other's points of view.
The result of which is that the big blockbuster event looks to be viscerally fun to watch but pretty dumb overall, while the smaller story gives you the feeling that your intelligence is being respected and engages your higher brain functions. Sounds like the entire medium of film. Go figure. Perhaps that's the point – these big event books are supposed to be 'check your brain at the door' entertainment, and maybe they require a whole different way of appraising them. Then again, The Descendants never had to incorporate plot elements from The Twilight Saga.
Anyway, the two-part guest-starring role of the Runaways makes for a great book in Christos Gage's hands, as the kids find their lost dinosaur Old Lace in another dimension, and then the magic rod (*snicker*) wielding Nico Minoru reveals that she spied on Professors Hank Pym and Tigra and learned that they plan to take the youngest members of the Runaways – Molly Hayes and Klara Prast – out of the teens' custody to try to find them homes and families, constituting ultimate betrayal. Yes, a fight starts, but they actually talk to each other, and more importantly, listen to each other. They allow competing thoughts to co-exist in their heads, and they weigh the pros and cons of both sides of the issue. In fact, the stalwart young Reptil even comes up with the idea for Nico to use her magic rod (*snicker*) to cast a spell of understanding, so they can all get into each other's heads and truly comprehend the experiences that brought them to this impasse. It's a pretty intense and personal experience for everybody involved. The rift is then resolved with concessions on both sides and everyone leaves as friends. Hell, Julie Power's even going to start dating Karolina Dean. You go, rainbow girls. And hey, Chase Stein appears to be getting it into his head that maybe he can go back in time to rescue his dead love Gertrude Yorkes.
All of that, and it's still a highly entertaining read. The focus is on the characters, not showing off powers. But Giant Hank Pym climbing up trees like a monkey is still fun, regardless.
Gage's writing is completely engaging, as usual, and we like all of these people. The art from Karl Moline is also pretty sharp, doing a very good job at juggling this huge cast of characters and managing all their expressions deftly. Avengers Academy is one of the best things Marvel has going for it right now, and the fact that they can publish stories like this that completely undercut their blockbuster endeavors without fear speaks well of them. There's room for all kinds here – and there's no better illustration of that than Avengers Academy, where all kinds mingle free and relatively easily.