Skottie Young and Humberto Ramos’ Strange Academy has been a fascinating read thus far in that the narrative has been quite a slow burn, allowing the characters to be fleshed out. Classes have resumed at the titular school of magic, and Doyle goes to therapy.
Strange Academy #8
Clayton Cowles (Letterer), Edgar Delgado (Colorist), Edgar Delgado and Humberto Ramos (Cover Artists), Humberto Ramos (Artist), Skottie Young (Writer)
February 3, 2021
While most of issue #8 is about returning to a sense of normalcy, its emotional center is in the opening pages as Doyle sits in a therapy session with X-Statix member Dead Girl. This is an important narrative decision on Skottie Young’s part as it enables Doyle to slow down for a moment to ease himself back into the story. It is a way of telling the reader, “This has to be talked about. We won’t have this character just jump back into things.”
Dead Girl’s opening line, “No one is FINE after being dead” works to set the tone of the issue. It is equal parts reassuring and forceful, making Doyle face the reality that he will be affected emotionally and/or psychologically and it’s better to confront that now rather than push it to the side and ignore it. There is also an added level to Doyle being told this by Dead Girl. Due to the X-Men’s history, Dead Girl is speaking as much as a therapist as she is a mutant. Thus, she is all too familiar with the effect death has on those who’ve been brought back.
This discussion on death soon gives way to Doyle and Dead Girl talking about the events of the first story arc, specifically that the Hollow sorcerers claimed that one of the group of students is “The One.” Combined with Miss Hazel earlier showing him standing next to Dormammu and destroying Earth, this results in Doyle internalizing the idea that he is “The One” and leads to the young sorcerer engaging in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Doyle’s textual insistence that he is no different from his father points to a warped sense of self that is sure to take time to unravel. Ramos’ pencils and Delgado’s colors line up exactly and create a somber moment that fits with Doyle’s fatalism. Befitting the emotional vulnerability Doyle is undergoing in his session, the office background slowly fades out before departing entirely as he tells Dead Girl, “I’d rather it be me than one of my friends.”
The majority of the issue following the session, while an interesting read, contains less of the emotional effectiveness of the opening scene. Part of this lack of effectiveness arises in the tonal disparity shifting from a therapy session to students doing class assignments. Young gradually moving from Doyle to the school rather than abruptly would have equated to a more evenly paced issue.
Ramos’ artwork and Delgado’s colors continue to maintain the high standard they have kept since the beginning of Strange Academy. The pencils align flawlessly with the script Young lays out and the colors give the story an added touch of energy to feel more alive.
Skottie Young taking the time to, if however brief, give Doyle room to breathe is an important narrative choice as it works to set emotional stakes for the character in this new storyline. Cowles’ lettering the pages is fittingly shaky with Doyle’s current emotional state. The sole disservice to the story is that this was limited to two pages instead of occurring over the whole issue, thus giving Strange Academy #8 even more of the feel of a breather episode.