Every now and then there comes a comic that is hated, something that is described as so horrible, that fanboys & girls shiver at the mere mention of it. Amazons Attack, Countdown, The Clone Saga, Utimatum, AvX (depending who you talk to), & many more. But it is a rare moment when a comic is despised before it even hits the shelves, this is the case with Avengers Arena, but does it really deserve the hate that has been tossed at it?
Here is the summary from Marvel:
Trapped on an isolated island, 16 superhuman young adults (including cult faves like members of the Runaways, The Avengers Academy and Darkhawk) are given a chilling ultimatum by their demented captor: Fight or die…only one will walk out alive! Thus begins a primal battle that will test the skills, stamina and morals of each combatant. Welcome to Murder World, where the secrets are plenty, alliances are fleeting, and the key to victory might be rewriting the rules of the game. Who will survive? The rising star team of Dennis Hopeless (X-MEN: SEASON ONE) and Kev Walker (THUNDERBOLTS) dare you to tune in to your new favorite comic NOW!
The story takes place right after the last issue of Avengers Academy (supposedly) the kids are relaxing at the school while the adults are at a Christmas party. X-23 & Reptil are playing table tennis, Mettle & Hazmat are in the latter’s room being “normal” (I’ll let you come up with your own conclusion), and Juston is repairing his sentinel outside. Suddenly, a white light consumes the four kids and they end up in the hands of the crazed villain Arcade (You would think at least ONE Avenger would have stayed behind in case of an attack, but oh well). They are joined by other young heroes, including Nico Minoru & Chase Stein (members of the Runaways), Cammi & the new Darkhawk (from the Annihilation books) & a few characters that Hopeless himself created. Arcade then tells them why he captured them and the stakes involved, and to prove he’s not kidding, he kills one of the kids.
Dennis Hopeless crafts a surprisingly decent story given the premise. The narrative flows pretty well, the characters are portrayed pretty faithfully (with the 16 of them actually rushing Arcade when he reveals his plans), the stakes are present, and the fear hangs in the air. Arcade is portrayed as a credible villain (albeit with a few new abilities) his sadistic form of entertainment makes him the kind of villain you want to see defeated. Dialogue is somewhat meaningful & holds weight, especially at the end of the comic.
Kev Walker illustrates the book and his pencils do great work. Each character is detailed well & the newer characters have unique and interesting designs. Murder World (Arcade’s island) is a massive and well-drawn environment for the characters to interact with. Arcade himself also looks a bit menacing and psychotic (more so than he already is). Frank Martin’s colors are also good to look at, bright when the kids use their powers, but not so much so where they overshadow the rest of the art.
So does Avengers Arena deserve the hate that has followed it? No, it is a pretty decent issue with a nice set-up, high stakes, and a sense of fear and anxiousness about what will happen to these characters. Is the premise a good one? Oh hell no, but Hopeless does a decent job with the material and Kev Walker’s pencils are pretty good to look at. The story isn’t good, but it’s not bad either. The book seems like it could get better from here (despite the wrongful/meaningless deaths) & against my better judgement, I would recommend it.
Reviewers Note: I love the Battle Royale homage on the cover.