In August, the end begins for Avengers Academy, as the students we’ve known - and loved - are about to take their “Final Exam,” during a four part arc by writer Christos Gage and artists Tom Grummett and Andrea Di Vito. Starting in issue #34, shipping twice a month through September, the arc will take the core roster of students, lock them in a building with arch... Enemy? Friend? Benefactor? Well, arch something or other The Alchemist, and force them to choose sides, as the billionaire industrialist gives them the opportunity to be free of their powers forever.
Though this isn’t the end of the series by any means, we will find out once and for all who in the Academy will go on the path to becoming a hero, and more importantly, who’s headed to becoming the next great Marvel villain. We chatted with Gage about all of this, how long he’s had this plan in place, and whether the next arc will have any special guest stars (you may be surprised):
MTV Geek: The title of this arc set off little alarm bells in my head…Is this the end of Avengers Academy? Or just the roster we know and love (which would also, of course, make me very sad)?
Christos Gage: It’s not the end of the book. But it may be the end of Avengers Academy as we know it! After all, we have a history of big changes following big events.
Geek: Now that you’re in the thick of it, is this the end-game you’ve had in mind for the kids since you started? Or have you found that where you’ve taken them over the last thirty-odd issues has changed their individual journeys? Striker, for one, seems far less likely to turn out to be a villain now than he did back in issue one…
CG: For a while now, certainly the past year to year and a half, I’ve had a definite end point in mind for where I would want to leave these characters as a group. It allows for specific character journeys to change, and characters to come in and out, but in a general sense, I’ve known where I’d end things if the time came…Which, in today’s market, for a title that hasn’t been around since the sixties, is something I think you have to at least consider. I’ve also had specific thoughts on where I’d leave each character. Some of those points will be reached in “Final Exam.”
Geek: I think he’s been pretty up front about it, but what is Alchemist’s agenda here? And are we going to find out once and for all if he does have a secret agenda behind the agenda?
CG: Yes. You will find out once and for all what he’s up to. My take on him is that he hasn’t necessarily lied about his agenda – I think it would be a cop-out for him to pull off a mask and turn out to be Loki, for example – but he definitely seems like a guy who has more going on that he’s telling you.
Geek: The plot almost seems like we’re getting our own L’il Civil War (or Civli’l War, if you want)… If so, who is Cap in this scenario, and who is Iron Man? And to push the strained metaphor even further, who is Speedball? Is it, in fact, Speedball? I don’t even know what I’m asking anymore.
CG: I wouldn’t say it’s quite that cut and dried. Rather than two sides pitted against each other, with two leaders and two specific points of view, it’s more that each individual character will have to decide for themselves what they want their life to be going forward. Which is pretty heavy, but also something we all have to do as young people. I mean, it’s funny… You can go through some pretty big upheavals later in life. Change careers, get married or divorced, have kids or, hell, get a sex change. But at no point is there more pressure to make decisions about the REST OF YOUR LIFE than when you’re young. That’s what these kids are facing…in the typically ramped-up fashion of a superhero comic, of course.
Geek: Is it down to just the students? Or are we going to see the teachers get involved too?
CG: I’m trying to avoid spoilers here, but for a variety of reasons, issues #34 through #37 are very much centered on the students. And by that I mean the core students, as those who feel their stories have gotten off track with my focus on folks like Sentinel may be glad to hear.
Geek: I’m sure you can barely talk about this, but once the students have made their choices… Are we going to see the introduction of a new Dr. Doom level villain? Since that’s what the threat is all along, it almost seems like SOMEONE has to go in that direction, right? Right???
CG: I feel like that’s a constant threat. Just as when you’re a kid, and you could screw up your life by doing something stupid like driving drunk or getting addicted to drugs or dropping out of school or whatever, at any point one of these kids could make a choice they can’t come back from. But that said, I think none of them is exactly the type to suddenly cackle “Mwah ha ha! I now embrace EVIL!” and do a heel turn like the wrestlers I grew up on. I think for our guys it would be more of a gradual thing getting to that Dr. Doom point. Even Dr. Doom started out as just kind of a jerky rich kid rooming with Reed Richards, didn’t he? He put on the armor after a series of momentous events. So I think we’d be less likely to see the kids get to that Dr. Doom point… More likely to see them take that first step onto a road there’s no turning back from. Will that happen in this story? Read and find out!
Geek: After this apocalyptic arc is all done, are we going to see the kids head into an arc called “Summer Break?” Or hopefully, “Summer School,” where the remaining students get special guest taught by Mark Harmon and Kirstie Alley?
CG: Don’t forget Courtney Thorne Smith. Actually, there will be a bit of a palate cleanser in issue #38…a more light-hearted story. But like “Summer School,” it will have a very deep and meaningful subtext.
Avengers Academy: Final Exam begins in issue #34 in August, and runs through issue #37 in September, from Marvel Comics!