Avengers Academy #21

Issue Date: 
January 2012
Story Title: 
Welcome, Students

Christos Gage (writer), Sean Chen (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Jeromy Cox and Veronica Gandini (colorists), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letterer), Rodin Esquejo (cover artist), 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: 

Several new, part-time students have arrived at the ,academy including Hollow, Ricochet, Power Man and Wiz Kid. The original students mistakenly get it into their heads that, because the new students have arrived, they will be discarded. This leads to a confrontation with the teachers and two visiting Avengers, which gets ugly. When calmer heads have prevailed, namely Jocasta’s, the teachers explain that they were actually going to discuss giving them extra tuition, not to get rid of them. Later, they are introduced to two new full-time students, Lightspeed and the White Tiger. The students accept them but they then discover that Jocasta has been murdered. They rush to the scene and Quicksilver determines that the killer is still among them.

Full Summary: 

(Avengers Academy)
Hank Pym is in the hallway with Captain America, Luke Cage and Hawkeye. They are looking at a photograph of the original members of Avengers Academy: Finesse, Hazmat, Mettle, Reptil, Striker and Veil. Hank tells them that it was all about them. Osborn found them. They were innocent kids with powers at the mercy of a psychotic murderer with delusions of grandeur. He saw them as living weapons which he could mold. He augmented their abilities and then tormented them physically and mentally. He turns to his friends and says that they are the Avengers. They shouldn’t have let this happen. But, they did, so it was their duty to save them.

He adds that he thought it was going well. Then, their very first student, Veil, left to join another of Osborn’s victims, who is now an amoral sociopath! He admits that he’s failed again, which he guesses is why they are there. Captain America says they don’t blame him. Those kids had the odds stacked against them from the start. Cage says it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have tried. Clint applauds his efforts. He reckons the idea of Avengers Academy is a winner, and what he’s done to their old WCA compound is a thing of beauty. So, why doesn’t he quit beating himself up and they can get out there and meet the new class?

They head outside into the California sunshine and find the new recruits, plus a few more that have arrived, training with Quicksilver and Tigra. Machine Teen plays basketball with Juston Seyfert and Spider-Girl, while Power Man indulges in a little tug of war against the new She-Hulk, helped by Ricochet, Turbo and Hollow. White Tiger practices combat with Tigra and Rocket Racer uses the place to practice his skills. Meanwhile, Whiz Kid flies around as Lightspeed chases after him.

The original students are training nearby, and Hazmat for one isn’t impressed that the school has been opened to other guests. She wonders who they think they are. “’New students’ my radioactive butt,” she sighs. “We’re Avengers Academy.” Striker asks her to wake up as he blasts at Finesse who is trying to capture their flag. Hazmat asks him to unclench. She’s on it. She points her finger at Finesse and fires a non-lethal dose of radiation which floors her opponent. She explains that it’s just like the government’s active denial system. It heats the water in your skin and does no lasting damage. She’d like to see “double rainbow Barbie” (Lightspeed) learn to control her powers like she has.

Mettle replies that, since he doesn’t have skin, their flag is his. Reptil, though, has other ideas. He transforms into a mini Triceratops and butts Mettle out of the way. Hazmat asks if this doesn’t bother them. First they get desperate and recruit anyone with acne and a cape. Then, the big shot Avengers pay a visit. Her dad says that then the home office shows up… they bring pink slips.

Mettle asks her to chill. They just moved into the West Coast Avengers compound which means the Academy is legit. They must believe in them. Finesse looks across the compound and spots Captain America and the others. Reptil takes to the air and asks if she can read their lips. She admits that she can’t from that distance. Not much, anyway. She can tells that Dr. Pym is praising the new students and saying the Academy is now open to any young superhuman who wants training. He also mentions that most students are part-time to accommodate their schedules. They’re setting up new class tiers.

She concentrates hard on what Hank is saying. Now he’s saying ‘as for the old class’ but he turns away. She can see from Captain America, Cage and Hawkeye that they are tense and Dr. Pym seems sad. The kids stop their training and Mettle, who now has his opponent’s flag, rubs his head and reckons Jenny must be right. They’re gonna shut them down! Reptil doesn’t believe so. They spent millions fixing up the campus and brought in all these new kids. It just doesn’t make sense for them to pull the plug now. Mettel explains that he didn’t mean Avengers Academy. Just the part that’s not working. Them!

Striker says he’s right. They’re replacing them with newer models. “Welcome to L.A.” They are George on Grey’s Anatomy. They ran out of ideas for them so they brought in fresh faces. And now, here comes the speeding truck! Mettle can’t believe he watches Grey’s Anatomy, but he smiles and tells Ken to shut up. “My mom likes it.” Jocasta wanders over and says she couldn’t help overhearing, but they are mistaken. Henry values them highly. Finesse replies that the problem is he’s not himself. She’s been studying psychology and she sees this as a reflection of Pym’s fear of failure. He blames himself for Veil’s defection and, to overcompensate, he adds new students… ones more likely to succeed. Now he’ll push them away before they can leave him.

As Jocasta uses her eye beams to weld a frame together, Finesse adds that Jocasta’s personality is based on Hank’s late wife’s. She knows him better than anyone. Is she right? Jocasta feels it’s inappropriate to discuss Hank’s feelings, but Finesse points out that Captain America is a military tactician. From a strategic standpoint, continuing to teach Avengers’ secrets to potential traitors is suicidal! Hazmat adds that if they were being kicked out, does Jocasta think they’d tell them? “Come on, Jocasta. They treat you like a combo maid and tech support.” Jocasta tells her that this speculation is unproductive, and then she receives a message. It’s from Pym and Captain America. They’d like to see them. Reptil asks if she means all the students. She informs him that they mean just them.

They head over and find Hank ready to talk to them. However, Striker’s hot-headedness gets in the way first. He asks Hank if he thinks he’s gonna stand there and let a wife-beating, killer-robot-building nutcase judge him, he’s crazier than he thought. Hank is shocked at this outburst, but Cap asks him to let Striker talk. From his previous experience, it seems Striker cares more about fame than about being an Avenger. Striker gets into Cap’s face and says that’s right. He’s a troublemaker. He doesn’t want to take orders from the ‘living legend’. Maybe it’s because he managed to get his sidekick Bucky killed… twice!

That comment is a step too far for Luke Cage. He stands before Striker and reminds him that the man fought the Nazis, so he’d have the freedom to be a spoiled little punk. “What have you ever done besides your hair?” he asks. “What gives you the right to even talk to him?”

Mettle backs up his friend and smacks Luke Cage in the jaw before leaping on him, asking him what gives him the right. He says he has no idea where they’ve been or what they’ve done. Hank calls for them to stop, but Striker and Hazmat both go on the offensive. It takes a powerful outburst from Jocasta to bring a halt to the fight. She tells them that they are behaving irrationally. She feels that Hank and Cap are showing no sensitivity to what the students have recently experienced. They have fought in a war, lost a friend and now they believe they are to be removed from Avengers Academy.

“They what?” gasps Hank. Cap informs them that if that’s what they believe then they’re wrong. With the departure of two teachers and an increase in part-time enrolment they want to be sure they get extra tuition. They wanted to discuss one-on-one mentoring, but after what just happened, he’s not sure there’s any point. He asks them to go to their quarters. They’ll let them know when they’re ready for them. Striker is still furious, but he leaves with the rest, with Finesse helping Reptil to his feet.

Once they’ve gone, Hank admits he didn’t realize they were so on edge. Jocasta replies that it’s because he doesn’t pay any attention. Hank asks her for her input. As she leaves, she tells him that she will gather data on the children’s experiences and compare them to developmental psychiatry texts. She will then provide him with a report. “And you,” she adds, “Will always do as you wish… as always.”

Luke finds her departure strange. He didn’t want to say anything because he figures Hank is on it already, but Ultron’s back and he’s got a history with mind control. Last he heard, Jocasta was married to him. Hank explains that it’s strictly for convenience to create a truce and keep him in check. Jocasta claims she hasn’t heard from him in months. Plus, she’s proved herself a dozen times and he doesn’t wish to insult her by asking to scan her systems.

Cap tells Clint that he’s been uncharacteristically quiet. He’d like to hear his thoughts. Hawkeye thinks back to when he was a hothead and had his own run-ins with Cap. He smiles and replies that he’s thinking that karma is a funny thing. He turns to Hank and says he’s heard there’s an opening for a teacher.

(the student lounge)
Hazmat asks Striker what the hell his problem is. Striker says he thought she hated the place. And anyway, it was her boyfriend who threw the first punch. Mettle admits that he doesn’t know why he did that. Finesse reminds Hazmat that it was she who convinced them that they were going to be thrown out in the first place. She can quote her exactly. Hazmat replies that she can go quote herself. She grabs Ken by the hand and leads him to her room where she’s free to remove her helmet.

Once there, she asks Ken if he’s okay, but he reckons he hasn’t been okay in a while. She asks if he remembers when they thought they were going to die and she said there were things she wished she’d done. Well, she adds, they might send her back to San Francisco and him back to Hawaii. She doesn’t want to feel that way again. Ken asks what it is she’s saying. Jenny starts pulling at her zipper and says she’s saying… it’s time she got out of the suit.

Moments later, she pulls her helmet back on and rushes for the door. She apologizes, but she thought she was ready. Ken replies that he gets it, but Jenny says he doesn’t really. She explains that it’s all to do with what happened to her old boyfriend, Greg. They were all set to go when he started choking. Ken assures her that she can’t hurt him like she hurt Greg, but Jenny tells him she keeps seeing it in her head. That’s what started everything. Her parents, the suit… her whole life going to hell. She turns with a tear in her eye and says she just needs some time, but it’s really not him. As she leaves, Ken looks at his reflection in the mirror and wonders if that’s true.

Jocasta witnesses the exchange, unseen. She feels that there is so much to these people. She thought she was built to be complex, the bride of an artificial intelligence in love with the man who created her creator. Her personality and mind patterned on his ex-wife. She has often felt she was given no choices. The times she sacrificed her happiness and her life were all based on a persona forced upon her. But, she now feels that she has as much choice as any human born to parents not of their choosing. It’s just a chaotic swirl of genetics, nurture and environment. Her statement to Hank was not a sudden whim. Since Veil left them, she has been studying the children attempting to determine what they require and she has learned a great deal. The secrets, the things Hank does not know… the things the students themselves are ignorant of. She feels that there will be difficult times and pain, but at long last she believes she has found the answer. She knows how to save them. She sits herself at her computer and plugs herself in.

(some time later)
The Avengers call for the students, Mettle is the first to hold his hands up and admit that what happened before was his fault. He was way out of line and everyone else was just backing his play. Hank replies that what happened was unfortunate but they all agree that they can put it behind them. Cap adds that Hank told him about their experiences during the battle against Dark Asgard and he wasn’t aware. He tells Mettle that he’s killed people in combat and understands what he’s going through. Ken replies that, with all due respect, he doesn’t think he does. Cap says he might be right, but he knows that, in war, ideologies and borders lose their meaning. Ultimately, you’re fighting for the people next to you; your friends. And, he agrees that the best place for them is right there. He apologizes for being too harsh with him earlier.

Luke tells Ken that he got an apology from Captain America. He’d best appreciate that. Hawkeye adds that it’s Luke’s way of telling him not to expect an apology from him. As for himself, he plans to work out any lingering aggression on the training field. Hank informs them that Hawkeye is joining their full-time faculty. He explains that Clint faced issues early on in his career as well and he thinks his presence will be of great benefit to them. And, he’s not the only new face.

He turns and motions to Quicksilver and Tigra who arrive with two new full-time students - Lightspeed and the White Tiger. He tells them that they’ve been working closely with the two students. Hazmat turns away and quips that she just barfed into her helmet. Pietro informs them that Julie is barely older than them but she has years of experience with Power Pack. They can learn a great deal from her and he knows she’ll make a fine teaching assistant. Finesse is surprised and asks rhetorically, “You’ve been working with her, too?”

Julie tells them that she knows the guys have a history and she doesn’t want to mess up their feng shui. She hopes she won’t be too much of a pain. She admits that she never had formal training like them. In fact, for a while she was trying to live like a normal person, which was a total disaster. Anyway, her brother really loves being with the FF and she thinks this could be good for her. She hopes they’ll give her a chance. Striker smiles and says he’ll give her more than one. In fact, he’d like to sign up for private tutoring. Tigra asks him to behave and introduces the White Tiger. They may have heard the name but she’s new to it.

White Tiger explains that it’s a family legacy. She turns to Reptil and says she’s been meaning to ask him why he’s not more active in the community. “The what?” he replies. She informs him that her brother Hector was the first high-profile Latino super hero. He sacrificed everything to open doors for them and it would be nice to see him trying to pay it forward. Tigra adds that Ava a little intense but she’s talented and very disciplined. She thinks the group could use a little of that. They don’t want to force anything on them but she hopes they’ll accept her.

The original members have a group huddle. Finesse reckons that tactically, they’re a good fit although they know nothing about them. Mettle says that after their Avengers foul they kinda owe them one. Reptil wonders what Ava’s problem is. He’s proud of his heritage but he doesn’t see why a Hispanic super hero has to be a ‘Hispanic’ super hero. Hazmat just thinks what the hell. They were getting too testosterone heavy anyway.

Hank is pleased with the response and knew that they could work it out if they talked like adults as Jocasta said. He looks around and notices she’s missing. He asks if anyone’s seen her. “Just a minute,” replies Quicksilver before dashing away. A moment later he returns with a look of shock on his face. “To the nerve center. Quickly!”

Everyone hurries to the nerve center and there they find Jocasta still seated but with her eye socket damaged and sparks flicking from her chest. Hank can’t believe it. He mentions that she can project her consciousness into other bodies, but Pietro explains that he’s checked them already and run a complete systems check. Her mind is nowhere to be found in the complex or any Avengers databank. Someone murdered her.

Many of the part-time students appear to see what the commotion is and Luke asks them to back up. Hawkeye asks if Jocasta can be killed. Cap reckons that, if anyone can help Jocasta, it’s Hank. Their immediate concern is who did this to her and are they still there. Pietro replies that he’s checked the security systems and found that they were shut off from the inside. Whoever did this to Jocasta… it was one of them.

Standing at the back, Reptil speaks in whisper on a hidden communication device. He explains that he can’t talk long but they were right. This was the perfect time. The idiots are in a panic and have no idea what has happened. It’s not exactly as he remembers but it’s close enough and will have to do. This is definitely the tipping point. From this moment, anything could happen. He’s in a perfect position to make sure the future belongs to them.

(somewhere in time)
An older Reptil is trapped inside a large clear tube. Standing before him are older versions of Hazmat, Veil, Finesse, Striker and Mettle. Reptil cries out, “Hey! Can anyone hear me? I’m with the Avengers. My code name is Reptil! You’ve got to let me out. Something really bad has happened!”

Characters Involved: 

Finesse, Hazmat, Mettle, Reptil and Striker (Academy students)

Lightspeed and White Tiger (two new full-time students)

Hawkeye, Jocasta, Hank Pym, Quicksilver, Tigra (Academy staff)
Captain America and Luke Cage (both Avengers)

Batwing, Butterball, Hollow, Power Man, Ricochet, Rocket Racer, Juston Seyfert and his Sentinel, She-Hulk (Lyra), Spider-Girl, Turbo and Wiz Kid (new part-time students)

Finesse, Hazmat, Mettle, Reptil, Striker and Veil (older versions)

(in flashback)
Captain America and Hawkeye

Story Notes: 

George O’Malley, played by T.R. Knight, was set to join the army when he was hit by a bus whilst saving a young girl on the way to tell his mom about his career change. This occurred in the final episode of season five.

Lightspeed tried living like a normal person whilst with Excelsior / the Loners.

Written By: