Avengers Academy #20

Issue Date: 
December 2011
Story Title: 

Christos Gage (writer),Tom Raney (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Jeromy Cox (colors), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letterer), Billy Tan & Leonardo Olea (cover artists), John Denning & Jake Thomas (assistant editors), Bill Rosemann (editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

Veil has decided to leave Avengers Academy and nothing is going to change her mind. She makes a phone call to another of Norman Osborn’s former victims, Jeremy Briggs, informing him she has decided to take him up on his offer. The other students can only wonder why she’s decided on this course of action. After they defeat three villains, including two former Bastards of Evil, several of them speak to Veil offering advice and they all have their opinions about what she’s up to. Soon after, Speedball decides he’s leaving the Academy too, quickly followed by Justice, who suggests they go on a road trip together. Meanwhile, with the Infinite Mansion destroyed, Hank Pym decides to relocate the Academy to Palo Verdes, the former headquarters of the West Coast Avengers. Quicksilver helps put it back into some kind of order. With two teachers and a student now departed, Jocasta arrives with reinforcements, which include Power Packer Lightspeed and the White Tiger.

Full Summary: 

(The Drake Hotel, Chicago)
Veil watches footage of the final battle between the Avengers and the Serpent, which threatened to destroy the Earth. She learns that Thor is dead, having sacrificed himself for ‘the noblest cause.’ Justice and Reptil call on her to chat about what she said about quitting, but Maddie changes into her mist form, wafts under the door and barks at them that she’s all right before heading back into her room. Justice decides to leave it for the moment.

(Broxton, Oklahoma)
Hank Pym and Tigra ask Hawkeye what they can do. He replies that the danger is over but he’d wondered where they were when he saw Quicksilver. He thought his dimensional doors could go anywhere in no time? Hank face drops as he informs him that the Infinite Mansion has been destroyed. Tigra adds that Avengers Academy isn’t doing much better.

(Avengers Mansion, the next day)
The Avengers are enjoying some food and discussing recent event, in particular Jewel, who wants a safer place to live after her daughter was almost killed. Luke wonders where they could go. Kids were threatened in Queens, Connecticut, Missouri… No place is safe. Veil overhears their conversation and makes a phone call. As she speaks, Hazmat appears and startles her. Maddie calls her Hazmat, but she tells her she can call her Jenny. After all, she was the first person she met at Avengers Academy. Maddie remembers that day well. Their first meeting wasn’t particularly friendly. Even now they’re not exactly the best of friends.

Hazmat, despite that, tells Maddie that she knows things are pretty grim. Thor is dead. The fake Captain America is dead. Maddie misses her old life when the worst thing she had to worry about was zits and mean girls and what to wear at homecoming. She knows full well herself that the life she knew is gone. Even the happy memories are gonna seem like lies. Maddie replies that her old life wasn’t like Hazmat’s. She didn’t have boyfriends or friends or much of anything. Her dad left her when she was two and he’d only visit when the cops made him pay his child support. It was like he was paying for her so he might as well see her.

She continues to mention that her mom popped pills for a back injury that healed years ago and spent all day watching TV and getting fatter. She did all the housework herself and paid some of the bills. She could have gone anywhere to get away from that, but this place might be worse. She killed people. Yes, they were evil Nazi mech pilots, but she killed them. The worse thing? She doesn’t even feel bad about it. She doesn’t feel much of anything at all. The Avengers were her heroes. Her ideal, and now she’s finding out that they’re every bit as screwed up as she is. More, probably. She wants to help people and do something good with her life. But, she doesn’t want to destroy herself in the process.

Hazmat replies that Veil has powers. She’s gonna be a ghost by her mid-twenties. Norman Osborn tortured her and she’s a stone cold killer. It seems to her like it might be too late. Besides, what else is Maddie going to do? She then twigs as to who the phone call may have been made to. “No,” she gasps. “You’re not seriously thinking about…”

They are interrupted when Reptil tells them that Speedball’s back. Outside, Robbie thanks Quicksilver for saving his cat. Reptil tells him they saw him on TV. He’s a massive hero, thanks to all those viral videos he posted turning the tide. Robbie admits that he was only a small part of that, but Hank reckons what he did was phenomenal. He’d like him to talk to Veil as she’s thinking about leaving. Robbie says he’d love to, but explains that he has had his eyes opened up by all that’s occurred and would love to go back out there again. What he’s saying is… he is leaving Avengers Academy.

This elicits a feeling of widespread surprise. Pietro wonders if there’s something in the water. Hank tries to talk Robbie out of it, but Justice cuts him off, saying he wasn’t there after the Stamford disaster. He didn’t see Robbie blaming himself and draw himself away from everyone and everything. If he’s ready for this, then they should let him go. Hank apologizes for being selfish and thanks Robbie for everything. They’ll miss him. Robbie says likewise, but he’s not leaving this minute. There are some bad guys who escaped who kicked his butt that he wants to track down. Anyone up for one last ride?

(the next day)
Everyone decides to join Speedball on his quest and it doesn’t take them long to track down Icemaster, Ember and Aftershock. Robbie asks Veil if she’s really quitting, but Maddie reminds him that he’s quitting too. Robbie asks if she’s ready to do that, but Veil replies that she doesn’t know. She just knows that she’s ready to be done with this. Down below, the students and teachers have the three villains trapped, but they are surprisingly defeated with ease by Jeremy Briggs who arrives by helicopter.

Reptil flies up to meet him, but Jeremy simply gloats about how he took down the villains with no major injuries. Reptil warns him that after what he did to them he’s been dying for an excuse to take him down. Briggs replies that he wasn’t expecting hugs, but he just took out three violent fugitives. A thank you would have been good manners. Hank asks Humberto to take it easy. Briggs hasn’t made a hostile move. He then turns to Briggs and warns him that he’s watching him. His students briefed him about their encounter and the second he finds evidence he’s committed a crime…

Briggs interjects, telling him that he won’t because he hasn’t. His students are kinda loopy and see conspiracies everywhere. All except one. She has seen the light and he just wanted to deliver his message personally. “Veil… the offer is most definitely still open,” he shouts. “Any time you’re ready, there’s a six-figure position waiting for you at the Briggs Foundation.” The helicopter turns around and departs, with Briggs adding they could do great things together. “Hope to see you soon.” The students look at Maddie, amazed by what just happened.

(two hours later)
Everyone has an opinion on this subject, and they’re not shy in sharing that opinion with Maddie, one by one. Tigra doesn’t even wish to speak to Maddie and Humberto reminds her that Briggs as good as killed that kid. Maddie replies that he didn’t, but Humberto says he’s lying. She can ask Finesse. She always gets this stuff right. Finesse explains that his microexpressions indicated deception, of course. He’d spent the entire week deceiving them in various ways. Can she say without doubt that he was responsible for the boy’s death? No, she can’t.

Pietro tells her that what Briggs did was calculated manipulation. He put her on the spot in front of everyone, forcing her to choose whether she’s ready or not. The boy is a weasel. That said, he adds, the pay is quite good and no one offers dental these days. Mettle is more sympathetic. He knows Maddie has around ten years before she gets ghost-like so she should enjoy it. If he knew this was gonna happen to him, he would have spent a lot less time in school and a lot more on the beach!

Once outside, Hank Pym apologizes to Maddie for not finding a cure for her condition, but Maddie tells him he did the best he could. Without Pym, she’d probably be on drugs, in jail or just a useless mess like her mom. Maybe being an Avenger isn’t for everyone. Hank agrees, but tells her that Briggs is a sociopath. Maddie reckons most billionaires are but he helps kids in Haiti and Russia and Japan, cleans up oil spills. He may be a bad person but he does good things. And he doesn’t fight psychos who kill innocent kids or alien gods whose minds feel like maggots dripping acid. She just… she just wants to try something else. She has to.

(an hour later)
Maddie is in her room when Justice appears at her window. She opens it and he says he’d like to talk. She tells him that was rude. What if she’d been naked? Vance replies in that case, she’d have closed the curtains or the guys at the office across the street would be fighting for window space. Plus, the last time he tried knocking it didn’t go so well. Maddie continues packing her bags, informing him that she isn’t really in the mood for a lecture. Vance replies that he isn’t there to give one. He says he was curious as to why she made the choice she did. He hopes it doesn’t have anything to do with him. Maddie replies it has nothing to do with the schoolgirl crush she had on him.

She sits down and explains that, basically, this life isn’t what she expected. It’s hard doing what they do, and if you do it one more day, you’ll end up hating everything you used to love, starting with yourself. Vance admits he doesn’t know that feeling. He grew up worshipping Captain America, wanting to be a hero. Then, he was and it was wonderful. Sure, he admits, there were hard times, but when he put on the suit, all the problems at home went away. He saved people, saved the world, and he had friends - really good friends. He has some serious concerns about Jeremy Briggs and advises her to watch him closely. But, if being in Avengers Academy makes her feel the way she says she feels, she should quit. He pauses a moment, before adding, “I think I’m going to quit, too.”

(the next night)
Robbie asks Vance what all this is about him leaving. Vance quips that he guesses Robbie is a bad influence on him. He explains that, after college, he thought he’d take some time off, just get in a car and go see America. Stuff got in the way, however. Robbie tells him that he had the same idea. That’s kinda what their reality show was supposed to be about. Go places that didn’t have heroes and show how they could help. It all went out the window when they switched on the cameras. “So,” replies Vance, “No cameras. You and me. For real this time. What do you say?” A broad smile works its way across Robbie’s face.

As the two heroes make for the gate, Maddie too is on her way. Striker asks if she’s sneaking out the back. She stops and tells Brandon that everyone’s either mad at her or confused or just sad. She didn’t want to make it worse with some drawn-out goodbyes. Anyway, he adds, everybody already told her what they think except him. She guesses he’s her best friend at the Academy, so he’s earned his right. Brandon admits that he’s too messed up to offer anyone advice. He just wanted to say that just because she’s a traitor super villain now doesn’t mean they can’t hang. “So good luck, and don’t be a stranger, okay?” Veil gives him a big hug and smiles.

Watching from a window, Hank Pym tells Tigra that they failed her, but Tigra says they gave her everything she needed and she has to accept it. Hank tells her she was pretty hard on Mattie, but Tigra says she isn’t going to pretend what she’s doing is right or even good for her. They still have five students which is more than she thought they’d have. They should forget Veil. They have to rebuild the Infinite Mansion and start over with the rest. Hank replies that the Infinite Mansion has been destroyed and it should stay that way. He thinks their problem is that they kept their students away from the world; away from kids who weren’t tortured by Osborn. Plus, between Dr. Octopus and the Absorbing Man, his dimensional door tech is too compromised to continue using it. They need a new headquarters, one rooted in the real world. Tigra asks if he’s got one in mind. Hank just happens to have a place they’re both familiar with that’s just sitting empty, waiting for a second chance.

(Briggs Chemical, Manhattan)
Maddie arrives at her new work place. Briggs hopes she likes the office. He will have an apartment for her by tonight and her expense account is active, so she should go nuts. Maddie can’t believe it and she thanks him. She then asks what it is that she’ll do. Briggs opens his arms wide and says, “What do we do? Anything we want.”

(Palos Verdes, California, former HQ of the West Coast Avengers, later)
Pym and Tigra arrive at the former headquarters of the West Coast Avengers. Pym says it kinds of makes one nostalgic for the old days doesn’t it. Tigra replies, with a hint of sarcasm, that it does. Her cat side was taking over and she cheated on him with anything with pants. Then she went feral and Pym shrunk her down and put her in a cage. They shouldn’t forget that he put a gun to his head. “Good times.” Hank laughs and tells Greer that she never lets him avoid reality. That’s one of the things he loves most about her. Tigra pauses. “Did… you just say…” Hank turns to her and tells her he loves her. He realizes that may be more than she’s looking for right now, but…

Tigra lays a kiss on his lips and Hank responds eagerly. Quicksilver appears carrying some timber. He tells them it wasn’t demeaning enough being treated like a groundskeeper. Now he’s being subjected to the two of them behaving like animals on heat! Hank asks how the place looks. Pietro reckons it’s like the House of Usher. But, he’s made sure it won’t fall down before they can have it refurbished. It’s a bit big for just five students, though, doesn’t he think? Hank reckons it is, which is why he’s opening up the facilities to any young superhuman who wants instruction. Jocasta’s been busy recruiting and this is just the start. Their full-time students will continue to be their focus, but why limit themselves? Why limit them? This is a new era for Avengers Academy.

Pietro looks over to a quincarrier which has a bunch of new students getting out to explore their new home: Batwing, Butterball, Lightspeed, Juston Seyfert and his Sentinel, She-Hulk II, Thunderstrike II and the White Tiger.

Characters Involved: 

Mettle, Finesse, Hazmat, Reptil, Striker, Veil (all Academy students)
Jocasta, Justice, Hank Pym, Quicksilver, Speedball, Tigra (all Academy teachers)

Luke Cage, Hawkeye, Jewel, Spider-Woman, Thing, Wolverine (all Avengers)

Danielle Cage
Aftershock, Ember and Icemaster

Jeremy Briggs
Niels the Cat
Batwing, Butterball, Lightspeed, Juston Seyfert and his Sentinel, She-Hulk II, Thunderstrike II, White Tiger

(in flashback)
Absorbing Man (Greithoth)
Doctor Octopus
Dr. Strange, Iron Man, Spider-Man (all Avengers)

Red She-Hulk

Attuma (Nerkodd), Grey Gargoyle (Mokk), The Serpent

Story Notes: 

The “Fake” Captain America is James “Bucky” Barnes, who seemingly died in Fear Itself #3, though it was later revealed he survived, becoming the Winter Soldier again in Fear Itself #7.1.

The House of Usher comes from The Fall of the House of Usher, a story written by Edgar Allen Poe which was made into a movie, House of Usher in 1960.

Aftershock and Ember were members of the Bastards of Evil, who first appeared in Young Allies (2nd series) #1.

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