Avengers Academy #4

After getting treated to Mettle’s stomach-churning origin (Hawaiian surfer-dude gets his face demolished in a surfing accident — but wherever he loses skin or cartilage, there’s just shiny red metal behind it. And then Norman Osborn gets hold of him and makes it worse.), we get into the meat of the story. The kids from Avengers Academy — selected not because they’re going to be great heroes, but because they have the potential to become great villains — are visiting the Raft, a maximum security supervillain prison. Mettle, Hazmat, and Veil have taken advantage of a blackout to go looking for Norman Osborn to get revenge on him for the way he screwed up their lives. But Osborn talks them down, saying that he’s made them great and promising that he can “fix” them.

Soon enough, the other supervillains start breaking out of their cells and giving the Academy kids and the Thunderbolts trouble. Mettle gets into a fistfight with the Juggernaut and has a little too much enthusiasm for it. Man-Thing shows up and scares the heck out of everyone. Hazmat threatens to give a convict cancer. And eventually, everyone gets the prison back under control, and the kids get kicked out of the prison.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A huge amount of fun. This is a great concept for a series — teen heroes who might turn out to be teen villains — and I love how it’s all progressing. Christos Gage and Mike McKone are both doing great work on this series. And I also like how this crossover between “Avengers Academy” and “Thunderbolts” was handled — they’re telling the same story in both comics, but with different points-of-view. If you don’t read one series, you don’t miss out on half the plot.

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #20

It’s the final showdown between the Marvels and Black Adam — and everyone gets their first big surprise when Mary says her magic word and transforms — not into the pint-sized superhero we’re accustomed to — but into a grown-up Mary Marvel! In the confusion, Black Adam escapes from the Rock of Eternity and unleashes all of Captain Marvel’s greatest foes on Fawcett City. Cap ends up taking down all the bad guys almost single-handedly, but Black Adam has one more nasty little trick hiding up his sleeve.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s the next-to-the-last issue of this series, and it’s wrapping up quite well. Art Baltazar and Franco are doing some of the best writing they’ve done on this comic, and Mike Norton is producing some really charismatic, fun art. It’s kinda weird to see a grown-up Mary Marvel — we’ve had a lot of time to get used to Mary as the super-speedy super-kid. Clearly, the creators planned to do this eventually, and the cancellation of the series just pushed it (and the introduction of Captain Marvel Jr. last issue) forward much sooner than planned. Still, great story, great art — let’s hope they can keep it going for the finale.

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