Avengers Arena was one of those books that I heard about because it raised the ire of the internet (or at least the part where people who can’t accept that comic characters are pretend) because it killed off some beloved younger characters from the Marvel U. When I saw all three volumes available on the library system, I requested all three and dove right in.
The idea here is that the book, written by Dennis Hopeless and mostly drawn by Kev Walker, revolves around a mysteriously powered-up Arcade brings 16 young heroes to Murder World and tells them they have 30 days before they can leave. At that point, only one can exit, so they should probably kill each other. As it happens, this is something that a great deal of the characters from Avengers Academy, Runaways and other books don’t have a big problem with the idea.
As things kick off, the kids split off into smaller groups to survive and only a few wind up on the wrong side of blasts and other attacks. Hopeless weaves a wild yarn that involves twists and turns I didn’t see coming, including one character fully turning into another one partway through.
So, people were bummed that some characters died off or were brutally murdered on the page and I get that, but I didn’t feel the same way because I wasn’t as familiar with them. I’d read Avengers Academy, but it didn’t really grab me. Like every sane person, I also love Runaways, but for me, that book only really exists as the issues written by Brian K. Vaughan and nothing else “matters” to me. I thought it was cool that the kid from that Sentinel book appeared, but that’s about it. Also, kudos to Hopeless and Walker for making me feel like the characters created for this book had deep, long histories I wanted to find out about.
You know who I was most excited about seeing pop up in this book? Cammi. I totally didn’t recognize her at first, but then realize she was the girl in the fantastic Drax mini that helped kick off Annihilation, one of my favorite events of all time. Instead of the freaked out tag-along, she’s a total badass who’s spent years bopping around space.
My one complaint about the book is that it felt like it took too long for the kids to start talking about getting out instead of surviving. Still, as the series came to an end with the third volume, the pieces fell in the right places and we got to see some pretty awesome fights.
I also liked the general idea that Arcade didn’t really have to play with the environment of Murder World too much because he planted the seeds of paranoia right off the bat and just got to sit there and watch them grow in these terrified kids. Ultimately, it didn’t quite work out for him, but then again, maybe it did.
I’m very excited to move on to this book’s follow-up Avengers Undercover which takes the survivors and tasks them with infiltrating the new Masters of Evil! I’m now a big fan of these characters, Hopeless and Walker so let’s keep the goodness rolling!