Strange Academy: First Class review – Marvel’s top magical characters come together

Marvel brings all its magical characters together for the first time in Strange Academy: First Class. The world has mysteriously changed in such an alarming way that Doctor Strange has finally done what he has avoided for decades – established an academy for the Mystic Arts! Young people from around the world with an aptitude for magic are brought together in New Orleans to study under Stephen Strange, Brother Voodoo, the Ancient One, the Scarlet Witch, Magik, Daimon Hellstrom and other fan-favourite Marvel mages. But with so many new and deadly magical menaces lurking out there, is the Academy too little too late?!

This is a series that for the most part plays more on the light-hearted side of the Marvel Universe. And Marvel have put the perfect creators for this style of series on the job. Skottie Young has worked on a variety of titles aimed at all-ages such as the Eisner Award winning Oz and a Rocket Raccoon series he both wrote and drew. He is therefore a perfect choice for this Marvel meets Harry Potter style story. Art duties are handled by Humberto Ramos who has worked on almost every major Marvel character there is – including various runs on Spider-Man – and has a similar approach to Young when it comes to visual storytelling.

Whilst the series initially focuses on Emily Bright, a teenage girl who has developed magical powers she can’t control, it quickly shifts to an ensemble cast featuring several intriguing new characters and Marvel’s most popular magic users. It would be easy to direct the focus of the series to Doctor Strange, but Young instead uses the series to develop the new younger characters, which helps a great deal in establishing the more light-hearted tone he is going for. These new characters make a strong impression, with Doyle – the son of the all-powerful demon Dormammu – being a particular standout. And despite their magical powers and the supernatural setting, these are all students going through everything normal children go through too.

The academic setting also allows Young to put the established characters through new challenges. Despite all his skills in the mystic arts, Doctor Strange never appears to be completely at ease at overseeing children’s education and clearly would rather be off fighting a demon in another dimension. X-Men/New Mutants mainstay Magik is also a great fit as a teacher, having experienced a lot of what her students have gone through in her time at both Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and Limbo.

Ramos’ art is brilliant as usual. His time on Spider-Man and X-Men has obviously prepared him well for the more dramatic moments, but he also has plenty of experience of working on series involving magic both in and out of Marvel which he brings to the forefront here. His new character designs are very memorable, with Doyle Dormammu once again standing out.

This opening volume is a promising sign for things to come, as Ramos and Young prove to have a perfect handle on both the classic and new generation of Marvel magic users. With vibes of both Harry Potter and classic X-Men, this will appeal to magic fans young and old.

Strange Academy: First Class is out now from Marvel  (9781302919504, p/b, £13.50)

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