Three months ago, it was announced that writer Dennis Hopeless would be throwing sixteen of the Marvel Universe’s young heroes into one of Arcade’s sick games where only one may leave alive. Featuring members of the Avengers Academy, the Braddock Academy, the Runaways, and various other heroes, ‘Avengers Arena’ follows in the footsteps of survival stories that are very popular right now such as ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘Lord of the Flies’, and ‘Battle Royale’. Now, the time for games has arrived as the first issue has finally hit comic shops.
For his latest Murder World scheme, Arcade has assembled a sampling of teenage heroes on a remote world for another one of his sick games. After reading some young adult novels in prison, he had the idea to put the young people of the Marvel Universe against one another in a tournament where it’s kill or be killed. Ally against ally. Boyfriend against girlfriend. Hero against hero. And all of this just to finally get a notch in Arcade’s win column after many years of losses and to get his jollies on.
One thing that Kev Walker made me care about was Arcade. Back when I first discovered the character created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, I thought he was kinda corny and super ineffective. It’s like he was a poor man’s combination of the Joker and the Riddler with an obsession with carnivals. As a kid, he just didn’t scream bloodthirsty villainous mastermind to me like other villains did. However, in this first issue, I get a sinister vibe to him, similar to Kitano, the goofy but sadistic teacher from ‘Battle Royale’. He’s in a dark place after having failed with the big league heroes so often, and now he’s just looking for what he thinks is an easy win. And unlike before, he’s not going to wait for his game to take some lives as he has absolutely no hesitation in taking them out himself if they’re not playing by his rules. It’s despicable that he’s gone after kids in this way, but I kinda like it.
And to match his darker attitude, he has a darker look as well. Not in terms of color, mind you, but his new appearance. It’s reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s Joker and the Mad Hatter from ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ meets the Game Master from ‘The Hunger Games’ – minus the cool facial hair. Basically, I’m glad they got rid of the goofy hat and bow tie from the 80’s. Walker’s character redesign fits the sick and twisted nature of this book and adds a little style to the mix as well.
My immediate reaction after completing the first issue was, “Are you serious?!” Naturally, I knew that a death was coming, but the way that Hopeless set it up was just jaw dropping. Literally. The state of shock I was in left me with my mouth open for a few moments as I took in the selflessness of the deceased. Hell, I didn’t even really care about the character that perished this issue prior to this, but Hopeless really made me care about this whole cast of characters despite not even spending a whole lot of time with each of them.
This book stirs up a mess of emotions for the reader and I know that they won’t stop any time soon since it’s been said that someone dies in every issue. A few heroes that I favor very much are in this book, and by the rules of the game, only one will live, so I’m very curious to see who comes out on top when this is all over. My money is on X-23 because of her healing factor, but we’ll see.
Though the book has the internet up in arms because of the premise and the so-called “spring cleaning” of characters, I find it intriguing and can’t wait for the next issue. Fans of ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘Lord of the Flies’, ‘Battle Royale’, and the like should really think about giving ‘Avengers Arena’ a chance.
Avengers Arena #1
Written By Dennis Hopeless
Art By Kev Walker & Frank Martin
Cover By Dave Johnson