Best Shots Advance Review: STRANGE ACADEMY #1

Strange Academy
Credit: Humberto Ramos (Marvel Comics)
Credit: Humberto Ramos (Marvel Comics)

Strange Academy #1
Written by Skottie Young
Art by Humberto Ramos and Edgar Delgado
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Credit: Humberto Ramos (Marvel Comics)

Meet the next generation of Marvel magicians in Strange Academy #1. The school itself is a sort of mishmash of Hogwarts and Brakebills College founded by some of the 616’s heaviest magical hitters like Doctor Voodoo and Hellstrom. But while Strange Academy comes to the table with a novel premise and a cheeky YA charm thanks to writer Skottie Young and a highly kinetic art team, this debut doesn’t quite gel as well as one would hope.

Its large cast hamstrings the title pretty quickly. As soon as Emily passes the gates of the Academy, Skottie Young kicks into narrative overdrive, introducing a whole host of characters, all with their own quirks and attitudes, both on the student and teacher’s sides. This gives the title a very overstuffed feeling as Young is having to rush through introductions and initial character dynamics while never fully fleshing out either. So none of them are given much time for characterization as the title is too busy rushing through the rules, stakes, and geography of Strange Academy. Moving at a pace that can comfortably be called “breathless,” Young barrels through the narrative groundwork of the Academy which leaves a lot of texture lost in the wake. The potential is surely there, but Strange Academy #1 could have been used to offer more steak along with the sizzle.

Credit: Humberto Ramos (Marvel Comics)

It’s frustrating as some of the characters have a real spark. Characters like Doyle Dormammu - a preppy, popped collared spawn of Dormammu who serves as the title’s “jock.” Emily Bright’s roommate from Otherworld Shaylee Moonpeddle, a fairy with hair of crystal, also brings a real twee sparkle to the title acting as Emily’s hyperactive instant BFF. But disappointingly, we aren’t given much time with these characters or the rest of the sizable cast to really latch on to any one “favorite.” Young has a lot of narrative track to lay out and really only has time to introduce them before vaulting onto other bits of introduction.

Credit: Humberto Ramos (Marvel Comics)

Artistically, the title fares much better. Moving from a cramped negative space to the streets of New Orleans to a rapturous double page splash of the Academy grounds, Ramos and inker Edgar Delgado display keen senses of space and tone as they carefully walk readers alongside Zelma and Bright through each “set,” leaning into the unreality of magic and using the full breadth of the pages for each. This sense of space also extends to the interiors of the Academy as well. Though the rooms are always shifting and changing, Ramos and Delgado lay out a neat, impossible geography for the school. Presumably showing us all the main interiors we will be seeing throughout the remainder of this series. This is all really fun stuff and gives a nice, splashy visual language for the YA tone the issue is going for.

Strange Academy #1 is fun enough and looks great, but it could stand to have a few more components to cast a stronger spell on new readers. Had Skottie Young given his characters a more clear narrative function or maybe spaced out the “first day” of school a bit more, this debut could have stood out all the better. That said, Strange Academy #1 has plenty of flash. Though I’m not sure it will be enough to distract from the lack of substance and breakneck pacing.

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