This week, Marvel‘s introducing a new group of young magic users—and a new location for the kids to call home. Strange Academy #1 presents a new school for witchcraft and wizardry, with professors from all corners of the Marvel Universe. Does the series debut establish its premise, and its many new characters, well?
Then, travel back into the Spiderverse for an all-new adventure featuring everyone’s favorite hard-boiled hero, Spider-Man Noir! What mystery does the black-and-white webslinger find himself embroiled in this time?
We’ve got discussion and reviews of these titles, plus a Rapid Rundown of other new releases from the House of Ideas, all ahead in this week’s installment of The Marvel Rundown!
Strange Academy #1
Written by Skottie Young
Illustrated by Humberto Ramos
Colored by Edgar Delgado
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover by Humberto Ramos & Edgar Delgado
Joe Grunenwald: The Marvel U’s next generation of magicians has arrived! Team, what were your initial impressions of Strange Academy #1?
Hussein Wasiti: This is exactly the kind of book the Marvel universe needed. While there’s a lot of attention, and deservedly so, pivoted towards the X-line of books, it’s nice to have a completely fresh and original story about magical teens set within the Marvel universe. Sure, it takes a lot of obvious inspiration from a lot of sources but that doesn’t nullify the undeniable charm on display here.
Chloe Maveal: I am thrilled to say that I have almost nothing but good things to say about this first issue for me. It was a lot of fun and very like…Harry Potter meets My Hero Academia in a way that is really fresh and geared towards readers of a much larger demographic.
Grunenwald: If there’s one thing that I think this first issue did extremely well, it’s that it introduced a boatload of characters and established something memorable about all of them. I may not remember all of their names off the top of my head, but I know there’s a girl who can control life and death, and a set of twins from Asgard, and the son of Dormammu, and a half-dozen others. The plot of this issue—a bunch of students arrive at a school for magic—owes basically everything to the Harry Potter franchise, and if it had been just that, I’d’ve been bored out of my mind because I’ve read that already. But the characters are memorable and entertaining, and that’s enough to make me want to come back for more.
Wasiti: What Skottie Young was able to do in this single over-sized issue is such an accomplishment in my eyes. Not only did he set up all these interesting characters like you said Joe, but he’s created these fascinating dynamics between them and not all of them are upfront about who they are which is just great time-bomb storytelling.
Maveal: I agree with the idea that this could have easily been really stale as a rip-off of Harry Potter. But even the tropes that the issue falls into read as really enjoyable, like having stereotypically rival teens disliking each other. Or a really excitable fairy. For all intents and purposes, this should be boring as hell but instead it feels really lively and new. That’s quite the feat considering the repetitive nature Marvel stories have been kind of falling into lately.
Grunenwald: I agree with both of you. The dynamics between the characters are ripe for future drama, and the tropes from books like the Harry Potter series, or even something like New X-Men, are definitely evident, but they’re played in such a way that it’s really entertaining. I also think a lot of credit has to go to Humberto Ramos and Edgar Delgado‘s visual. They’ve given all of the students (and the new teachers) very distinctive looks, and Ramos’s page composition definitely helped make an exposition-heavy issue feel active and energetic.
Wasiti: Ramos gives such a youthful exuberance to these characters, which is why his presence on the book made immediate sense to me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ramos visit this side of the Marvel universe so the visuals themselves felt just as fresh as the characters or story. And I love his depiction of Doctor Strange.
Maveal: “Youthful exuberance” is a really good way to sum it up, Hussein. There’s a playfulness to the facial expressions that keeps it young and the colors pop and draw the eye around the page without being overwhelming. It’s just good to see Ramos’ name attached to this series. It was a good way to guarantee at least good artwork right from the get go.
Wasiti: I think this is also such a great highlight of how far Young has come when it comes to writing. I think his overly-cute covers from recent years has blindsided us to the fact that he can really write a story with engaging characters. His Image series Middlewest already proved that but that won’t be as widely read as Strange Academy. It’s completely new-reader friendly too, so the fact that I can give this to one of my sisters is a satisfying feeling.
Grunenwald: This is the first thing I’ve read that Young has written, and overall I really enjoyed it. As I’ve said I found the characterization to be really strong, which it needed to be to carry the issue through. Some of the dialogue was a little repetitive—we get it, ‘nothing is what it appears to be,’ it’s MAGIC—but I could get past that because I was enjoying the issue so much otherwise.
Maveal: Having dabbled with Young’s I Hate Fairyland in the past, I wasn’t surprised to see a group of ragtag kids do so well for the story. But it does hammer in nicely just how well-suited Young can be to telling these sorts of stories. Comedy and fantasy and coming-of-age go with Marvel titles as well as peanut butter and jelly, so overall this was just a great fit.
Grunenwald: Was there anything that didn’t work for either of you? Or anything that you hope gets better as the series goes on?
Wasiti: One thing that bugs me about certain comics is the whole “quippy dialogue during fight scenes” thing. I don’t blame anyone, it’s got more to do with my sensibilities as a reader, but I understand that this comic isn’t necessarily aimed at me so I’m not terribly bothered by it.
Maveal: As much as I like the tropes and how they’re being used, I’m hoping that maybe they’ll break free of them a bit more as the series goes on. They’re fun to lean into and, again, in this first issue it somehow works but to keep that freshness going they’re going to need to get a little bit more original. But ya know, I say that and kids are happy to read the same things over and over. So maybe this is a “if it aint broke don’t fix it” scenario.
Grunenwald: Kids do love their formulas. I’m hopeful that the series breaks away from those tropes rather quickly as well. Use them in the first issue or two to get people into things, and then do something different. And I agree, Hussein – excessive quips during fight scenes has always struck me as odd (though it works for Spider-Man, for some reason). Is there anything else either of you wants to add, or are we ready for verdicts?
Wasiti: I’m slapping a big ol’ BUY on this bad boy. It’s fun, instantly charming, and fresh. I genuinely can’t wait to read more.
Maveal:I think that pretty much sums it up for me. I’m giving this a strong BUY! It’s rare right now to find a Marvel title that knows exactly who it’s for and what it wants to be, and this succeeds at doing all of that on multiple levels. I’m glad to see something so fresh and charismatic being offered.
Grunenwald: I have to admit, I was really skeptical going into this book, and Young, Ramos, and co. won me over. This is a BUY for me as well.
Final Verdict: Strange Academy #1 gets a unanimous BUY verdict from the Rundown crew!
Spider-Man Noir #1
Written by Margaret Stohl
Illustrated & Colored by Juan Ferreyra
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover by Dave Rapoza
Reviewed by Joe Grunenwald
Spider-Man Noir is a character who’s been kicking around for a while now, but he’s not one that I was particularly familiar with before seeing Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse on the big screen. I imagine the same is likely true for a lot of people, and I pretty quickly grew attached to the Nicolas Cage-voiced Spidey of the 1930s. I was curious when a new Spider-Man Noir miniseries was announced, and I’m happy to report, after reading the first issue, that it’s an absolute knockout.
Creators Margaret Stohl and Juan Ferreyra turn in fantastic work with this debut issue. Stohl’s script establishes the hard-boiled tone of the story immediately, and Ferreyra’s art drives it home with heavy shadows that are sure to leave ink on your fingers in a good way. This issue could easily have fallen into the realm of parody, but Stohl and Ferreyra instead play it straight, crafting a loving pastiche of pre-WWII film noir (which happens to be an era of film I love, so this was right up my alley).
Ferreyra’s work must also be called out for its spectacular action sequences. Spider-Man Noir’s trenchcoat adds a lot to the image of the figure swinging through the air, and Ferreyra plays it up perfectly, and rarely have Spider-Man’s webs had as much energy as they do when they’re flung from Spidey’s wrists in this book.
Final Verdict: Spider-Man Noir #1 is a wildly entertaining comic. If you’re a fan of action, film noir, or just damn good comics, do yourself a favor and BUY this one.
- Doctor Doom #6
- Christopher Cantwell is really drawing on some ooooold Fantastic Four and it’s worth absolutely everything. But more than anything else, this issue in particular reads very much like the “two disgruntled protagonists” trope that continues to make both Victor and Kang much more fleshed out than we’ve seen them before. Really the beauty of Cantwell’s Doom is proving to be his ability to make Victor both the villain and the victim. Still falling in love with this series, and with good tropes, deep cuts, and subtle betrayals still on the menu, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. — CM
- Magnificent Ms. Marvel #13
- The first appearance of new character Amulet is a solid one-and-done story that’s emblematic of the consistent level of quality that writer Saladin Ahmed has brought to this series. Ahmed and regular inker Juan Vlasco are joined by guest-penciller Joey Vazquez for this issue, and Vazquez delivers strong storytelling and character work. This is a great jumping-on point for the series, and a lot of fun. — JG
- Marvel #1
- I won’t give much away because this issue is a good collection of material from a group of astounding — nay, legendary — creators. However, despite the characters we know and love taking center stage with some delightful art, the page layout makes this issue quite the monster to tackle. Dozens of bubble overlap paired with intertwined panels can make things hard to follow for sure. But really, once you figure things out, the story is just enough to make it worth it. Also, Steve Rude. We just really love Steve Rude. — CM
- Savage Avengers #11
- I’ve been enjoying the adventures Conan and the grittiest of Avengers for some time and I was extremely happy when I heard Butch Guice was joining writer Gerry Duggan to do the art for this issue. The story itself is a quick sidestep as Doctor Strange takes an astral journey through time to discover the secret origin of the book’s villain Kulan Gath. And that’s where this issue shines as Guice does his usual standout art for this dark tale with nice flourishes that are very reminiscent of Gene Colan. All in all a good stand-alone issue that still helps move the overall story along. — GC
Next week, Cable’s new solo series begins!