Strange Academy #3 Review

by Charles Martin on September 30, 2020

Strange Academy #3 Review
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Colourist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The Strange Academy students endure a lesson on the Eye of Agamotto from the Ancient One before hitting the streets of New Orleans, tackling beignets, voodoo fortune-telling, and hateful thugs with equal aplomb.

The balance of characterization is split between Emily, who's the only one to successfully unlock the Eye, and Doyle Dormammu, who's the focus of a fortune-teller's ominous prognosticating. (Alvi, the Asgardian bro who gets rolled by thugs, earns a distant bronze medal.)

The rest of the students fall into the background, which is the first of my only two criticisms of this comic. Skottie Young delivers sharp dialogue, but it blends across the student body and discourages the reader from thinking about who said what and what it says about their characters.

But losing track of the individual students is virtually inevitable with a cast this large. And the issue does hold up if you want to go in with a microscope and examine the characters individually. They may not stand out in a casual read, but they are still distinct.

Overall, the story is wonderfully breezy and digressive in the best possible way. We're watching a fascinating pack of children take a magic lesson and then explore one of the world's most fascinating cities, and it is an absolute delight.

This issue has the same "slice of teenage life" vibe as Marvel's very best teen hero stories. It reminds me of the glory days of New Mutants in the hands of Claremont and Sienkiewicz. It's profoundly character-driven and natural; the words and actions of these kids are inherently realistic.

Humberto Ramos's art, like the script, is mainly character-focused. And that brings me to my second criticism: This comic doesn't show off its setting with much distinction.

As an ex-Orleannais, I can testify that the settings are accurate, but the art doesn't go out of its way to show off New Orleans. Our belle ville has incredible sights to offer, but Mr. Ramos doesn't make much use of them. 

I must emphasize that this is in no way a deal-breaker, though. The artist has grasped the fundamental DNA of New Orleans, and though the Strange Academy students neglect to spend time gawping at, say, St. Louis Cathedral, the landscape they move through is eminently realistic. This is definitely the Vieux Carré (French Quarter), even if the characters don't pose in front of the local landmarks.

And what characters they are! Mr. Ramos has outdone himself in rendering each student with distinctive personality. His close-ups are highly emotive, and the art does a lot to forestall the potential interchangeability of the students threatened by the busy script.

Colourist Edgar Delgado provides plenty of support, throwing beautiful depth onto the characters with nuanced shading. He also makes the most of a challenging scene when Emily unlocks the Eye of Agamotto. The setting goes into monochrome to emphasize the wildly-coloured magic creatures she sees, and the contrast is brilliant.

Also, Mr. Delgado absolutely crushes a wild colouring job when Emily gets coated in rainbow monster puke. It's a sight that lives or dies based on its colours and Mr. Delgado makes it thrive.

Strange Academy #3 extends the love-at-first-sight romance with its endearing magic students, pitting them against the perils and wonders of New Orleans. Glorious art and snappy dialogue put a real shine on a completely believable teen story. Skottie Young and Humberto Ramos, with their collaborators, are filling the "hero school" niche with vibrant, must-read energy.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
I 100% endorse the description of New Orleans as a "wretchedly humid place". When I moved there, I started sweating from places I did not know it was possible to sweat from.