When Strange Academy was announced, my first thought was, “oh cool” followed up by, “wait, why didn’t Marvel think of this earlier?” The X-Men is a hugely popular series about gifted youngsters who have crazy powers and even crazier lives, so why not just do that in a new way? It appears Marvel is pulling the trigger on this idea, but in many ways, it’s far different as well. Out this week, Skottie Young and Humberto Ramos bring together some of the greatest magical superheroes (and villains) together to teach bright-eyed and brand new kid heroes for the next generation.
This is the kind of comic you can tell was written over a long period of time. When you close it you realize Young and Ramos covered all their bases and may have completed a perfect first issue. It’s paced and plotted well, with action and intrigue at the right moments while also detailing the rules and premise of the school and personality traits and quirks of all the students.
There’s plenty here for young kids to relate to (like one child calling another a clever name) and by extension draw interest in each character. It does the whole ensemble thing well but also plugs us into who Emily Bright is who acts as the “main character” of the book and surrogates for the reader just figuring out her magical abilities. On top of all this, there are subtle nods to Marvel fandom, familiar faces, and it all closes on a spectacular action sequence too. Like I said, well paced and well plotted.
It’s tricky business introducing new characters in a superhero universe and for the most part, I think Young and Ramos have succeeded. I’ll admit magical heroes aren’t my favorite, but there’s a flavor to this book that makes it feel new and imaginative as far as magic goes in the Marvel universe. One character points out magic has been restored in the world and thus we’re really starting with a full tank of gas raring to go to new places. That’s exciting, which is the base for why each of these magical kids is interesting and unique in their own right. Ramos and Young have done a great job setting up an eclectic group, and your head will be spinning to figure out how the dynamics between the group will form and change. Two kids who might be enemies in this issue may become the best of friends down the line. Another two might become bitter enemies but seem perfect chums here. There is a lot to work with and it’s clear the creators have stacked the deck.
Ramos and color artist Edgar Delgado do a wonderful job, from character design to magical effects (there are a lot of them) and establishing shots of the school itself. Ramos is excellent at drawing younger characters, especially at this age, and the gangly and sometimes awkward shapes Ramos is known for work with this select group. There are some unique powers at work here too, which Ramos and Delgado capture well in vivid color and detailed clarity.
Strange Academy is a blast worthy of the attention of kids and adults alike. There’s a character for everyone with equally unique powers, set in a magical school rife for exploration at a time at Marvel Comics when magic could take these characters anywhere. It’s an adventure I’ll be looking forward to just as much as these kids. This is a new kind of X-Men for a newer generation.