Owner Of A Broken Heart: Reviewing ‘Strange Academy’ #16
by Scott Redmond
As the end of the first semester approaches, emotions and various plotlines are spiraling around the Strange Academy as the kids continue to find their way in the magical and non-magical parts of the world. A fantastically realized series that fits the Marvel mold while doing so much more, and proves that teenage-led books very much do have a place within the publisher in this day and age.
High school is an awkward place where hormones are flying free, drama is around every corner, and everyone is just trying to find themselves and figure out what their place in the wild community and the world truly is. That becomes doubly more awkward and harder when said high school is also a magical high school.
After everything, the students have been through from Calvin’s coat turning out to be the villain Mister Misery in disguise, who tried to kill everyone, and their headmaster Doctor Stephen Strange being murdered, the students deserve a nice night. Thus, a school dance is happening, and everyone seems excited and ready for this night. But, as stated before drama is always lurking.
Skottie Young has done a great job in this title of focusing on the characters and really delving into their motivations and their interpersonal relationships and the prices that are being paid around them both magically and life-wise. While Calvin’s choice to give into Gas Lamp and dealing wishes to other students is wrong, his grief at losing his magic and losing the one place he felt he belonged is more than understandable. So is the weight upon the shoulders of Doctor Voodoo as he tries to hold the school together following the aforementioned death of Doctor Strange.
Over these sixteen issues, we’ve seen the characters grow and change a lot and all of it feels quite natural and also very realistic to what teenagers often go through, even though they have all the magical baggage to boot. With only two issues to go before the book goes on a hiatus, I’m curious to see where some of these plots will go and what will or won’t be wrapped up in the time left.
Humberto Ramos and Edgar Delgado continuously present a world that is whimsical and fantastical but also deep and dark and real with their work. All of the varied emotions can be felt on the faces of these characters, and the weight over them is very apparent. Things are bright and magical, sorry I had to, color-wise but there are also a large number of shadows and darker colors in play as things aren’t as fun or loose as the kids might have expected them to be at this point.
The way Ramos lays out the panels helps in a great way as it makes certain moments bigger or smaller depending on the given mood, mixing in close-ups or establishing shots that can tell us even more about a character or moment. This is a world that feels lived in and deeply invested in because artistically nothing is left untouched. Even the smallest details are clear and bright and there to be seen so that this school and the area around it feels real and touchable rather than sterile or only partially there (in the sense of only seeing the ‘needed’ things for a given action).
Clayton Cowles always delivers letters-wise, this issue not being an exception. All those emotions and personality that were mentioned are not just showing up in the artwork, but through the dialogue and captions and other lettering as well. Changes in font size or color or placement help to showcase anger and yelling or whispering or sadness in very clear distinct ways that help make everything felt more on the page.
Strange Academy #16 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.