For those of you coming in late, this is Marvel’s version of Hunger Games and Battle Royale. Master of Murderworld and X-Man villain, Arcade has decided to up his game by kidnapping a slew of young superheroes from schools all over the Marvel U, then pitting them against each other in a fight to the death. I’m still not entirely convinced that this isn’t in some sort of virtual reality program, because I have a hard time believing that killing existing intellectual property for a series like this is worth it. Even Darkhawk is somebody’s favorite…
After the initial slaughter of the opening few issues, Dennis Hopeless has reigned himself in. Instead of killing characters every issue, he’s doing it every few issues, and he’s going for his own creations as much as existing Marvel characters.
Longtime readers of the blog know I hate it when authors kill off characters without doing their own “work” to make that death mean something. When Hopeless kills off a few of the Murderworld contestants in this collection, he makes sure that they all had at least a few moments in the spotlight. Not enough, for the one pre-existing character who dies, but at least he seemed somewhat competent before being dispatched.
More importantly, Hopeless is building up Apex to be a pretty solid villain in her own right, making her as much or more of a threat to our heroes as Arcade. Arcade’s drastic upgrade in power is explained, but I just don’t buy it. This is way above his pay grade, and the fact that he’s killed off these super kids is just impossible to swallow. If this is for real, and he’s dispatched these characters and killed off others, then I have to think Wolverine and some others might be killing Arcade the next time we see him. (I also have to assume that Constrictor survived his revelatory moment with Arcade. Upgrading Arcade isn’t worth killing an existing villain like that either.)
This book looks fantastic. Kev Walker’s designs look like they’ve been around forever, even on new characters. His Darkhawk is a nice blend of the original 90’s look with the bulked up version introduced during War of Kings. Best of all, his work with the revamped and powered-up Nico from Runaways is tremendous. Walker also excels with his facial expressions, the acting is so important in this book, and Walker nails it.
For me, I won’t really know how to grade this until I see how Hopeless wraps up his story. I am going to show some confidence that he’s not going to kill too many more original intellectual properties, so I’ll say this comics is GOOD.
For those keeping score at home, here’s the tally for this, the second Avengers Arena trade:
Still alive and kicking: X-23, Hazmat, Reptil, Cammi, Nico, Chase (now Darkhawk), Deathlocket, Apex, Cullen Bloodstone, Anachronism,
Dead: Mettle, Juston & his Sentinel, Red Raven, Nara, Kid Briton,
Missing: Chris Powell (original Darkhawk)