Avengers Arena #1
With the announcement of Avengers Arena, readers and non-readers alike cried fowl as the premise is 90% similar to uber-popular books/films The Hunger Games and Battle Royale. Sure, it’s kind of a bummer to see Marvel recycling popular storylines to try and get new readers (they did it last year when they made Jubilee a vampire) but that doesn’t matter, what matters is if the story is well written, effective, and engaging, and this comic happens to be just that.
Dennis Hopeless is penning the new series and you can leave your hack ‘Hopeless’ jokes at the door. Hopeless picked up quite a task with this series wherein he must juggle a large pool of characters that not a lot of readers may know and he has to decide who lives and who dies. With sixteen of the Avengers Academy members, plus the villain Arcade, this currently has the biggest roster of any of the Marvel NOW! comics.
I won’t say that the pacing for this issue is off, it’s just slow. It’s a first issue, so you can’t expect it to be all stabbing and murder just yet, but Hopeless does take his time with setting it all up. That just leaves us with the rest of the series for the ultra-violence. As I said, Hopeless has a giant cast here and if you’re not familiar with all of the characters inside, you might get lost or not have a lot of interest in what happens in the rest of the story. The good thing about such a large cast though, is he can give many of them opportunities and moments that will make them more memorable than they were in the past.
Kev Walker is the series’ artist and he does a great job. The pacing of the story is clearly influenced by his work which can make the more expository sections feel longer than they actually are. But the place that Walker really succeeds at is what his series needs, the carnage. It seems they’re really embracing how much of an influence Battle Royale and The Hunger Games had on this series, they even make reference to them, and there’s no shortage of nasty injuries and deaths even in the first issue. Walker’s art looks very crisp and clean compared to some of the other Marvel NOW! books and the colors really help him out given the wide array of settings and powers within.
The first issue of Avengers Arena is solid. If you think that you won’t be able to read it due to your sworn allegiance to The Hunger Games or Battle Royale you should take a deep breath, put that aside, and pick it up anyway, it’s a great read. Hopeless juggles a wide cast of characters with ease and Walker’s art has us eager for the rest of the series because he draws the brutality beautifully. Marvel has a golden opportunity here to tell a great story and show that they’re capable of killing of characters and not bringing them back magically. Let’s pray they don’t mess that up.
Rating: 8 / 10
Go to page two for our review of Cable and X-Force!