Avengers Academy #37
Avengers Academy #37
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Christos Gage
Pencils: Tom Grummett


With only two epilogue issues left before this series wraps, the task of preparing oneself to say goodbye to these characters for awhile becomes all the more difficult given just how good Gage's farewell arc has been. The conclusion to "Final Exam" is not just a fitting capper to this arc, but indeed all of the phenomenal work Gage has done on this title with this cast of almost entirely new characters.

This is an action heavy issue, with most of the pages devoted to a very brutal but viscerally satisfying fight scene. The two stand out players this time around are Veil and Finesse. It is a testament to Gage's ability as a writer that each member of his large cast has been given a chance to shine in this arc, even Jocasta who has been a sidelined supporting player for much of the book's second year.

The emotional core of this issue comes from the showdown between Finesse and Jeremy Briggs. Separated from her teammates, Finesse is able to defeat Briggs by using the claws of her unconscious teammate X-23 to sever his vital arteries, thereby forcing him to surrender in exchange for Finesse to tie tourniquets before he bleeds out. While Finesse is applying the first aid, Jeremy points out that this is a hollow victory, as the government will be more than willing to cut him a deal in exchange for his super-power removing technology, and he will be able to start up right where he left off, this time with government funding. Recognizing the truth in his statement, Finesse unties the tourniquets and lets Briggs bleed out.

Finesse was always the most pragmatic of the group, struggling to experience human emotion and interaction the way most people can. Her decision makes sense for her character and serves as a nice reminder that the journey these characters are on is not over, and that they can still fall. As Finesse said herself, it was not the heroic potential of these kids that led to their selection to Avengers Academy, but rather than villainous potential.

Finesse did what she did for the good of the world, but she knows that the act would be considered villainous. She hides the truth from her teammates in the most tragic twist of all, allows her closest friend to shoulder the blame, saying it was X-23 who killed Briggs in the midst of a berzerker rage brought on by Briggs' attack. A story far easier for her teammates to accept than the truth, and another death to join the many already weighing on Laura's conscience. Furthermore it seems that even the usually cold Finesse does feel guilt over letting her best friend take the blame, as the final pages suggest that their relationship will never be the same.

Tom Grummett returns to finish out the art for this arc, and while it's a shame he could not pencil the entire arc himself, he and Andrea De Vito mesh styles so well that the change is hardly jarring. Grummett may embrace a more conventional panel layout than most but his skill as a storyteller is so polished that I'm not one to complain, there's a reason why the classics are classics. As for the aforementioned sequence between Briggs and Finesse, Grummett sells the power and visceral emotions of the exchange in his art, allowing the moment to be as shocking and moving as it needs to be to fully complete Gage's gut punch.

I know a lot of readers, myself included, are concerned over the fate of these characters once this title ends. Those fears have been compounded ever since it was announced that a number of them would be appearing in the Hunger Games-esque Avengers Arena debuting in December. But I have to say, regardless of what happens next, Gage and company have made their mark with this series. As strong on the day it closes as it was on the day it debuted, Avengers Academy has been a character driven thrill ride that has dealt with some very weighty themes as well as some very timeless and universally relatable themes. This book has been top notch throughout it's brief but satisfying run, and I take solace in the fact that Gage can drop the mic and walk off stage knowing he has raised the bar for the writers of teen centric comics for years to come.

Grade: A-

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