Marvel Comics has been telling stories about teens with special abilities since the X-Men debuted in 1963. And with the Xavier School For the Gifted closed for an extended island vacation, Doctor Strange and Marvel’s other sensational sorcerers have picked up the slack and opened up a school for budding magic users in the mysterious city of New Orleans.
Strange Academy: First Class collects the first six issues of the story as teenage magician Emily Bright and her fellow students learn about their abilities, come to grips with the nature of the universe, and learn that you never, ever want to arrive late to Ms. Rasputin’s class.
Strange Academy is great fun, both for new readers and longtime true believers. Every page is stuffed with big ideas, fun cameos, and dazzling visuals. It’s a great starting point for new readers that introduces the magic of the Marvel Universe without getting bogged down in the details or a tidal wave of continuity. By making the book a magic school rather than a training hall for young superheroes, the book stands a little apart from the rest of the universe and isn’t dragged into any big events or crossovers.
Taking a page from crossover anime hit My Hero Academia, the first class of Strange Academy is an appealing mix of characters from across the multiverse, from Asgard to Weirdworld, and even from the Dark Dimension. The cast of a dozen or so students is new, and they are all vibrant and rich characters. Writer Skottie Young does a great job giving everyone a little spotlight or something to do every issue. American teenager Emily serves as a focus character, but nobody is reduced to being a background character, and each cast member has their own story and personality, from German’s developing ability to summon animal spirits to Doyle’s struggle to defy the destiny of his father, the Dark Lord Dormammu.
Having previously written books like I Hate Fairyland and Middlewest, Young’s writing is a good mixture of sharp and sweet. He does a great job making the large cast sing within a limited amount of page space. These kids are loaded with drive and personality and are way more complex than simply being labeled heroes or villains.
Strange Academy is also stuffed full of cool cameos and enticing hooks that are set out without disrupting the story. In the first issue, Loki drops off Frost Giant student Gus and complains about not being invited onto the teaching staff, which is headed by Doctor Voodoo and includes recognizable faces like The Ancient One, Scarlet Witch, and Nico Minoru from Runaways. Doctor Strange himself doesn’t show up all that often for a school that has his name in the title, though. Regardless, this is a great first book for new readers who have seen the movies or TV shows and want to step into the comics without having to read a library’s worth of back issues.
Humberto Ramos’s art and Edgar Delgado’s colors are also exceptional. They crowd each panel with all sorts of cool imagery without losing the characters, from impossibly huge libraries to the bustling French Quarter, their pages are a delight. The cast’s designs are also great, drawing from all over the Marvel Universe, with Frost Giants, Fairies, and even Demons in the class, everybody stands out and is easy to follow.
Strange Academy: First Class collects the first six issues of the comic in a handy, slightly smaller than trade paperback size. Each chapter closes with a page of fun world-building extras such as a permission slip for extra-dimensional field trips that cleverly bring the world to life. It also has a nice section of character designs and variant covers in the back.
Strange Academy: First Class is a fantastic book about young sorcerers learning the ropes from the best in the business in the Marvel Universe. It is absolute magic.
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