Strange Academy #2 Review

by Charles Martin on July 08, 2020

Strange Academy #2 Review
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Colourist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics

It's the first day of classes at the Marvel universe's new magic school, and Strange Academy's big student ensemble lines up against an equally-broad range of familiar faculty faces.

The result is, inevitably, magical.

While muggle-born Emily Bright (let's just roll with the shameless Harry Potter parallels, OK?) remains the title's protagonist, this busy comic makes space for perfectly-executed actions and interactions across its entire enormous cast. 

This really should not work. The SA student body is twice as big as a typical superhero team; 11 students vs. the usual five-to-six heroes. But the creators pack their pages full to bursting to make sure everybody gets at least a moment -- a line, a panel, a background gag -- to shine.

Skottie Young isn't just doing a brilliant job of juggling 11 students; a big part of this comic's appeal is that he characterizes the Marvel stalwarts in the faculty with superlative skill.

The portrayal of Magik, lead teacher for Inferno 101, deserves particular applause. Mr. Young nails down a perfect combination of paper-dry wit and decisive action. She makes droll jokes about Wolverine setting a bad example as a teacher -- and banishes fractious roommates Iric and Doyle Dormammu to Limbo for minor classroom offences.

With great character work and classroom montages filling up the pages, you might not think there's any space for a bigger-picture plot. Wrong! Emily takes care of that by dropping a bombshell question on Zelma. It links strongly to their first meeting in #1, and the way the faculty chews on it later confirms that it's the arch supporting the title's first arc. 

And then there are the visuals. Frequent collaborators Humberto Ramos and Edgar Delgado are working closely to stretch some boundaries together. Mr. Ramos has sharply refined his art, employing a wide range of line-weights and delicate shading to deliver far more detail and realism than in his previous, chunkier style. 

Mr. Delgado delivers perfect support for these intricate lines by combining strong cartoon-style colours with more nuanced pastel work and line colouring. The heavier colours are used in dark and middling areas, while the pastel and line effects smoothly extend the vibrant colouring into the brightest parts of the panels.

I'm a fan of the Inferno 101 scene for the spectacular artwork as well as the terrific dialogue. Illyana's stepping discs have never looked quite so hellish, and the talented fusion of strong and soft colours produces incredible results.

Marvel has done tons of "teen heroes getting super-educated" comics. They've taken many shots at Avengers Academy/School/Bootcamp/Juvie/Battle Royale titles. The Future Foundation has had good and bad and heinous incarnations. And of course, there's the grand-daddy of the idea, the cavalcade of different X-School titles. Some of them have been all-time great comics (and some are best consigned to the memory hole).

But if I'm up to date, Marvel's not doing any other "teens in hero school" series now. Except for Strange Academy. And they don't need more as long as SA's creative team keeps up this remarkable performance. Dense content, delicious characterization, delightful art, dangerous magic -- Strange Academy delivers just about everything you could want in a Marvel school comic. And a magic school story in general. It's still early days, but two powerful issues back-to-back make this title look like a can't-miss.

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Man-Thing teaching herbology? Yes!