It’s the first day of classes for the students in Strange Academy #2, released by Marvel Comics on July 8. The students of Dr. Strange’s academy for magic users get their first taste of just how hard it will be, not only to hone their magical abilities but to get along with each other. Writer Skottie Young along wither artist Humberto Ramos, colorist Edgar Delgado, and letterer VC’s Clayton Cowles give us a glimpse into the day in the life of this “strange” (yeah…I know) school.
We spend a good chunk of the issue spending time with the students, as they get to know each other and work through potential conflicts, and their eccentric faculty, including such venerable Marvel characters as The Ancient One, Scarlet Witch, and Magik (more on her in a bit).
One gets the impression reading this comic that Young is writing a young X-Men story, but with magic users. It isn’t too hard to imagine the character of Emily as a Kitty Pryde or Jubilee (specifically from X-Men: The Animated Series) type of character. She is a young girl thrown into an extraordinary world with fellow students from extraordinary places. In issue #1, her parents were scared of the possibility that others could find out what she can do (much like Jubilee’s foster parents from the aforementioned X-Men series). Anime fans might also get a My Hero Academia vibe from it.
There aren’t a lot of stakes in the story. Sure, there is the threat of possible expulsion for failure, but for the most part, we just get to walk with the students through their first day. And sure, Magik sends some students to Hell as punishment for tardiness and rudeness, but it’s mostly played for laughs.
One plot point to watch for in future issues concerns “the cost of magic.” In issue #1, Zelma explained to Emily that there is always a cost to magic. To use magic, “here” requires taking something from somewhere else. When Emily asks Zelma why she doesn’t feel the same draining sensation at Strange Academy that she did at home, Zelma evasively explains that the faculty have “taken care of it.” Later in a faculty meeting, this is brought up, with some ominous undertones that indicate that not all may be well at Strange Academy.
Speaking of Magik, one of my favorite panels from this issue involves her….let’s call it an “instructional lesson” to her students. When Iric, the Asgardian, shows up late to her class, challenging her to do something about it, Magik does “something about it,” and sends him to Limbo or “Hell.”
Iric’s roommate, Doyle Dormammu, takes some delight in seeing the teacher punish his annoying roommate (a relationship that I’m sure will grow from animosity to grudging respect as the series progresses)…perhaps TOO MUCH delight.
Ramos does good work here, communicating Magik’s displeasure with Doyle and his subsequent disappearance. The cracks in the wood of the desk are a nice touch!
Delgado’s colors and shading are beautiful in this issue. Following the situation mentioned above with Doyle and Iric, Magik notes Doyle’s mistake: he neglected to realize that the person next to him (in Doyle’s case, his roommate), could mean the difference between life and death, a lesson the two boys learn in Limbo.
As Magik gives this speech, Delgado’s use of colors and shading almost gives Magik (and this issue) a watercolor look at times.
While Ramos’s style is a little bit too cartoon-y for my tastes (although I think that fits the tone of the book), Delgado’s coloring, particularly how he shades them, is gorgeous.
In a book with a lot of characters from many different dimensions, Cowles’s lettering helps to give each character their unique voice. Doyle’s Dark Dimension dialect is kept separate from the Asgardian dialect of Iric, while Gus the Frost Giant is given his own unique blue lettering in contrast to Dessy’s pink lettering, which is somehow able to communicate a torturedly sweet yet demonic tone. It does seem that, with all of the other non-human students having some kind of unique accent on their lettering, that Shaylee the Fairy should have some sort of unique addition to her lettering as well.
This is a fun series so far, and one that I think would be a good jumping on point for young adult and teen readers, given “group of misfits coming together and forming a quirky friendship group” vibe of the book.
I do find it interesting that Magik and Scarlet Witch are in the same issue. As a Krakoan, Magik’s people are being taught to despise the Scarlet Witch. I wonder if any of this will come up in their interactions or how any future conflict between Krakoa and the Scarlet Witch might affect her and Magik’s professional relationship at the academy. That may, of course, depend on how self-contained Strange Academy remains from other titles.
What did you think of Strange Academy #2? What do you think the faculty is hiding from the students? Tell us in the comments below!