Speaking as someone who is generally averse to teen-centric books (and is yet completely taken with Avengers Academy thus far), the one thing I can say for them is that it's definitely where creators have free reign to introduce characters of differing sexualities. If writer Christos Gage had tried to make Hank Pym or Hawkeye or any of the Stan Lee crew even bisexual, the pasty neckbeard internet rage would just embarrass the hell out of our entire little nerdy community. But latter day creations like Julie Power of the Power Pack or any of the new kids of Avengers Academy are fair game, and given the amount of revelations in issue #23, it could even start a revolution in a good way.
Ostensibly, this was supposed to be #23 for X-23, aka Laura Kinney, who recently had her own series axed and has been folded into the young hero school. That was going to be the big deal. As far as it goes, Gage has brought her into the fold in an interesting way that's managed to dispel most of my aversion to the concept of a "teen hooker clone of Wolverine." Her tortured trained-as-a-killer-from-birth past fits much more easily into these kids on the brink of supervillainy than she ever would into the X-Men, even given her Canucklehead genetics. She's just fine and looks to be an interesting addition – and she apparently even plays a role in whatever crazy future shenanigans are going on with the AA's older selves meddling in their own pasts. This IS still a comic book after all.
That plot will come into focus in subsequent issues, and we'll discuss it more then. For now, the thing everyone will talk about in #23 is that not only does Julie Power essentially come out as bisexual, but Striker, the most obnoxious member of the original AA crew, has removed a layer of jackassery and actually come out as gay. The dialog in this scene feels fairly accurate, at least with my straight dude experiences with talking to gay and bi friends, and Gage has more than earned trust in that department with how good this book has been with interpersonal relationships so far. The pacing of the conversation feels a little off, though, but that might have more to do with how artist Tom Raney chose to depict this scene – because it also contains a much darker revelation about Striker's childhood sexual abuse. Oddly, it's a brightly lit scene in the sunshine on a playground, and the layout makes the emotion of the sequence feel more forced than it should. It might just be something about the way the one panel of Striker sobbing it out looks that feels off.
Otherwise, Raney is pretty good in this issue, with a bit of inconsistency here and there. Finesse's mask looks like an awkward pair of Elton John glasses, but the bit where X-23 addresses the class with blunt honesty about her dark past where she has these perfect dark circles under her eyes which really convey the burden of her awful life experience. But there's the thing with Hawkeye dressing like he does in the Ultimate universe. I know that will likely be his look all year to coincide with the movie, but at least lose the crap purple sunglasses.
Oh, and then there's the OTHER revelation – the one that Future Finesse and Future Reptil have a kid… but that's the comic-book plot action. It's time travel, and stuff is "in flux." It's hard to talk about any of it until we really know what the hell's going on here. Instead, I'll just say 'go get this issue. And the last two. Or hell, the whole series.' You won't be disappointed.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 8.3/10