Hero Or Villain Of The Story: Reviewing ‘Strange Academy: Finals’ #4

by Scott Redmond

Overview

‘Strange Academy: Finals’ #4 continues to build upon the solid character-first foundation that the series started with, allowing us to know and feel the energy of these characters over and over again no matter how much happens around or to them. What this creative team has brought together is simply extraordinary and has and will continue to impact the Marvel Universe and comics even if it does come to an end very soon.

Overall
9/10
9/10

There is a very thin line between the realm of hero and villain within spaces like the Marvel Universe. Characters cross over that like it’s nothing almost routinely. When it comes to Strange Academy one character seemingly destined to be a villain, based on appearance/genetics, might be the truest of heroes while the perceived hero of the story is very much the true villain of it all. 

We’re moving closer to the endpoint for this series, it’s unclear if there will be another volume/season or not, and things are progressing quite rapidly. Yet, the series has not lost even a step when it comes to how Skottie Young fleshes out the characters and their world depth-wise. There is always so much going on and it all feels organic and connected no matter how different the elements might seem. There is an actual final exam, tying into the series title, in Limbo followed by the students doing what they can to help save New Orleans from a historic storm, while their foe Emily falls further down the villain scale as she fully commits to the will of Dormammu. 

Inverting what we get with Doyle Dormammu from what the first arc and various characters expected is such a great hook. After all the drama and issues Doyle is just a solid person with empathy and caring and just a tremendous hero helping out however he can. There was plenty of space where things could have been amped up drama-wise but instead, Doyle is the voice of reason over and over helping invite back in their confused friends that chose to stand with Emily. He had plenty of reason to read Iric the riot act and push back against his former roommate, once Iric realized Emily was the villain and fled, but instead he patched up the issues so that Iric could return to them and his brother Alvi. 

I’d read a whole issue of dad joke-dropping headmaster Doctor Voodoo. 

It probably feels like I’m on repeat with these reviews but what Humberto Ramos and Edgar Delgado pull-off issue after issue is just so wonderful. They are able to capture the magical feeling that the series needs mixed beautifully with a more grounded/realistic sort of feeling since this is about the magic and regular world mingling often. We’re in a number of different places within these issues quite often and each space requires a different energy and approach but Ramos brings the same level of detail, care, and weight to every single page/panel. No matter if it’s characters standing around talking or coming together to protect the town or a fight taking place in the Dark Dimension. Hell, just that Limbo page is a perfect example with the depth of the panel and detail that all just moves and shows the chaotic dangerous nature of the realm (could not resist the Doctor Voodoo-level dad-like joke there). 

One of the strengths of this book I’ve noted is the diversity of characters of all types, shapes, and origins that make it a fleshed-out book. Having to bring to life so many varied characters seems like a breeze for Ramos as they all have their own motion and energy and personality on every page and it makes sure everything always feels fresh and moving forward. Not to mention all the facial/body language is so well rendered that we can instantly feel their emotions right in our hearts. 

It’s an emotional series with a lot of heavy weight upon the characters and world but also a lot of bright and more hopeful moments, and Delgado makes sure that the chosen color palate works for both sides of that spectrum, sometimes at the same time. There is a darker rougher quality to the colors that match some of the rougher edges that are naturally part of Ramos’s artwork, but the rest of the colors are often far more vivid and in line with the fantastical elements as we see lots of greens and purples and reds and other colors dominating certain pages and moments. Yet, they are never so overpowering in their vivid nature to stand so far apart from everything else, just enough to make them pop against more toned-down backgrounds. 

As I noted there is a ton of emotions flying around the page from anger to forgiveness to sadness and all of it is captured easily upon the faces and bodies of the characters. That means we see it clearly, but we also very clearly can ‘hear’ it as we read through the issue thanks to the work of Clayton Cowles. All that lettering flows through the pages in logical and helpful ways as it gets the information across and often helps frame a moment or guide us through the panels. It also is infused with tonal energy that makes sure that every bit of emotion, even if it’s just a raised voice, is clear to us so that as we’re reading we hear that in our heads. The same goes for the always delightful changes made to bubbles or fonts in order to showcase the different ways that some character talk compared to the more standard speech bubbles that other charters are connected with. 

I’m very intrigued to see where this all goes and how these characters will be affected. This has been such a fun journey and I love these characters a ton and hope we see them elsewhere for years to come. Strange Academy: Finals #4 is now available from Marvel Comics 

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