Written by Dennis Hopeless
Art by Kev Walker & Alessandro Vitti
Marvel, collecting issues 1-6, $15.99
It’s pretty much a given that no one stays dead in mainstream comics. Hell, I’m sure there’s a gambling pool out there wagering on when both Charless Xavier and Peter Parker are coming back (my money says 2014, when First Class: Days of Future Past and the Amazing Spider-Man 2 are scheduled to drop in theaters). After all , the lot of them are hugely lucrative IPs, why would they kill them off when there’s money to be made?
That being said, there’s also money to be made in death. The first Hunger Game film proved that, and I’m sure the sequel will do the same. Also see the Japanese Classic “Battle Royale” which spawn 2 movies, a long-running manga adaption, and a ton of imitators. Hell, even highly-publicized and eventually retconned comic book deaths do well for the big 2. So leave it to Marvel NOW to capitalized on this craze, with a book where Avengers are forced to kill Avengers in canon. But not with their A-listers like Iron Man and the Hulk, but with their underaged counterparts instead!
“Avengers Arena: Murder World” takes 16 teenaged ( well 15, and Darkhawk, who’s well into 20s) Marvel heroes and pits them against former D-list villain Arcade. Writer Dennis Hopeless (the most ironic thing about this title for sure) has no problem admitting that books like the Hunger Games and Battle Royale influenced this title, going as far as having Arcade admit that those books inspired him to step up his game. No more pinball machine deathtraps for him, Arcade’s turn Murder World into an ever changing island, where resources are scarce, and no one leaves until all but one are dead.
Hopeless, having to follow up to such writers as Christos Gage and Brian K. Vaughn, does an excellent job of capturing the voices of teenagers, which comes as no surprise to anyone’s who read his excellent X-Men: Season One graphic novel from last year. Each character sounds unique, but faithful to their established history as well, and his new characters are interesting too! Well those who make it past issue 6 that is. Expect a large body count by the time you wrap up the first trade, as both several old and new characters meet their end in this volume. The impact of their deaths only hits harder thank to the wonderful work of Kev Walker. Walker, a vet of both Marvel’s Thunderbolts and 2000 AD’s Judge Dredd, style is ugly as hell, and I mean that in the best way. These kids look like teenagers, so when they bite the bucket, it hurts. He’s assisted by Alessandro Vitti, a talented artist in their own right, and Frank Martin helps both artists keep a similar style going throughout the title.
When this book was first announced, there was a ton of hate on the internet, mostly because it was new and different, and there’s a small vocal community for most of these characters. Understandable to an extent, because no one wants to see one of their favorite characters die for sales/ try to appeal to an audience who’s not reading comics to begin with by ripping off a book/movie big in pop-culture. But the title has seemed to find an audience, which is great, because. Hopeless and Co. present a cool mystery (“How did Arcade become a legit threat?” “Will these deaths permanent”) and a great title. Much like Hawkeye last month, it wouldn’t kill you (JOKES!) to read Avengers Arena.