The Magic Of Forgiveness: Reviewing ‘Strange Academy: Finals’ #2

by Scott Redmond

Overview

‘Strange Academy: Finals’ keeps doing what the series does best, hitting deep emotional moments with these magical characters who feel like they’ve been part of the Marvel Universe forever. This is a series that continuously improves and entrenches itself deeper and deeper into both the magical and non-magical side of Marvel, a series that any Marvel or comic book fan should be checking out.

Overall
9/10
9/10

A bit of harmony has returned to the halls of the Strange Academy. Students that originally left with Emily have returned, and the hatchet has been buried as the student body comes together once more, trying to rebuild what they once had. All this is just in time to pull off a daring ill-advised move to try and save one of their own who took a dark turn. 

Sure all the magical stuff that this series has put into play, helping deepen the realm of magic at Marvel in magnificent and terrifying ways, but what has helped really been special is the character work. None of these students existed before this series began yet all of them feel so fleshed out as if they’ve been in the Marvel Universe all along. Skottie Young gives us so many really thoughtful, enriching, and just emotional moments with these teenagers which makes them such rich characters after roughly two years of existence. It would have been easy to drag out hurt feelings about what happened but having Doyle, then then the others, forgive and welcome back Zoe and the others because they are friends who cared about one another was so much better. 

We’re shown more of that when later this group of kids wonders about Calvin, only to find out his fate and they risk everything to save him from Gaslamp. After all the adventures they have been on and the things they’ve dealt with, seeing them planning and being smart about their overall plan (even if Gaslamp saw through it) was an easy way to show the character growth we’ve now reached. Also, I think the choice to have the first half of the issue be the reconciliation and then magical school cleaning (and a feast) is a great call because it reconfirms the lighter magical side of this series before going back in for more heaping helpings of the darker side. 

Darker isn’t just for the tone of the issue either, as the art moves freely between the light and dark side of the color spectrum from one half of the issue to the next. Through all the reviews I’ve spoken about how great Humberto Ramos is at just making this magical world feel deep and weighty and beautiful capturing all the emotions perfectly on every single page. Another thing that should be spoken about is how well Ramos sits between the two worlds mentioned at the start of this paragraph. Right away one can see the whimsical feeling that comes from Ramos’s artwork where things are realistic with leeway to just dig deep into how different this world truly is, yet at the same time that more whimsical look does nothing to take away from the darker more serious elements. 

In fact, I would say that having the two together makes everything that much stronger. They bounce off one another, making each other stronger as a team. We get the lighter more emotional fare that is fun and magically wild but then there is the sharper edge to that magical wildness, such as how the issue quickly pivots from lighter teen reconciliation and magical cleaning to life and death as they take on Gaslamp. 

We see this too thanks to how wonderfully Edgar Delgado brings the colors into play, with lots of bright popping colors and ever-present accentuating shadows that keep the darkness in play. Delgado’s color palette is full of more toned-down shadowy versions of colors in many areas but knows when to go all in on the more vibrant bold coloring, such as for many magic effects, letting them play off one another on the page. It works to ground the world in a sense, but also allows the more supernatural types of elements to stand out even more against the things that on the surface mostly appear ‘normal’ to us the reader. Marvel has long called itself the world outside our window, and Delgado nails that feeling that lets the stuff we won’t see outside our window pop even more. 

A series like this is very fun for all involved because of all the wild magical things they get to bring to life with each issue. That can fully be felt in the lettering work that Clayton Cowles provides because it does all that it needs to do (capture emotion, set volume/tone, and flow naturally through the pages) while getting to add in tons of fun little bits. I always love how the fonts and bubbles just change from person to person, giving them a unique visual for their speaking voices which points to how their voices of course would sound very different. From the Asgardian style font for Alvi’s words to the jagged bubbles and shifted font for Doyle or the shift in Zoe’s font/bubbles when she shifts between illusion and reality to just the white on black that comes from Gaslamp’s eerie bubbles. 

It adds that bit of fun that the rest of the visuals are bringing to the page too, especially when you add in all the colorful and bold SFX that come into play. Adding to the big bold personality that this book brings to the table. 

Strange Academy: Finals #2 is now available from Marvel Comics. 

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