Avengers Academy #30: Sebastian Shawshank

The amnesiac ex-leader of the Hellfire Club escapes while the A-kids and X-kids butt heads with each other.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Avengers Academy #30

In Avengers Academy #29, Christos Gage did a good job gently pointing out the faults of the entire Avengers vs. X-Men brouhaha, but in AA #30, he gets into the meat of it while the Academy kids and the Utopia kids intermingle with varying results. Some get along swell, others can't stand the thought of being stuck at the Avengers Academy as a mandatory measure while "the adults who oughta know better are actin' like jerks." Still others don't know which side they're on, and we follow Laura Kinney, aka X-23, through her journey of trying to decide whether not she stands with her new classmates or her old ones.

In the meantime, Sebastian Shaw has escaped from his prison cell, revealing he's more powerful than ever, while taking out the entire adult staff at the school one by one. What plans does the amnesiac ex-Hellfire Clubber have for the torn-apart teens? We get the feeling it can't be good, since he may not remember his past life, he's recently become aware of it… and it seems he knows plenty about his own powers now, as well as how to be a jerk.

Gage's strength – and the strength of Avengers Academy in general – is that it's always densely packed with character interactions, and the action is always second fiddle, in a good way. It's more of a distraction, because these characters are so interesting and well-drawn that you can't wait to see how they respond to things – moreso than the things they're responding to – and AvX is a big cause of varying reactions among the vast cast of this place, doubled in size thanks to the X-kids. Most of the issue consists of teens debating the severity of the situation, with some having a blast like it's a summer camp, and others feeling caged like it's an internment camp. The fact that one of AA's students happens to be a kid genius with a repurposed Sentinel doesn't help matters. Laura's bond with the equally aloof Finesse continues to grow as they analytically examine the core AvX conflict, and her animus with Hazmat is put aside as the latter confesses how emotionally wraught-up she is about her issues with her boyfriend Mettle – much emotional nuance that Laura has problems grasping… just like Finesse. I never thought I'd like Teen Hooker Wolverine Clone, but Gage has made it happen.

Tom Grummett's art works for the most part, although occasionally one gets the sense that he's trying to be Mark Bagley. It's very solid, straightforward superhero stuff, but he's also able to make Hazmat, whose face is hidden mostly behind a helmet, emote rather effectively, which is necessary considering how volatile she tends to be.

There's just always so much going on with Avengers Academy that it's one of the first books you want to read when a new issue is in your stack, and AA #30 is no exception. It's just compelling character drama, the kind that can make an iffy "event" good.