REVIEW: Avengers Arena #4

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Marvel NOW!’s most controversial title rolls on with issue #4 in the series. With a kill-or-be-killed plot straight out of Battle Royale, Marvel’s teenage heroes have quickly encountered the deaths of friends and the desperation of captivity. Last issue ended with a hum-dinger of a cliffhanger and the promise of more grief for the fans of these heroes. May the odds be ever in your favor as you read the Major Spoilers review of AVENGERS ARENA #4…

AvengersArena_4_CoverjohnsonAVENGERS ARENA #4
Writer: Dennis Hopeless

Artist: Alessandro Vitti
Colorist: Frank Martin
Editor: Bill Rosemann
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously in Avengers Arena: Somehow captured by D-level villain Arcade, a mix of Marvel’s young heroes have found themselves in a fight to the death, with only one survivor promised freedom. Two characters have been confirmed killed, while two more may or may not have died last issue. Despite the bloodbath, the story has actually been written extremely well with plenty of intrigue and teenage angst.

AN APTLY NAMED SCRIBE FOR THIS SERIES

I’ve got to hand it to Hopeless. He writes incredibly well, and he knows these characters in and out.

Take in point the central character of this issue, Chase of the Runaways. Hopeless has a great idea of what makes Chase tick. Chase has a history as the unlikely survivor. Though he has no superpowers, the kid just seems to have been born lucky…although his penchant for avoiding death has also made him live through the deaths of his parents, a friend, and the love of his life. Armed with only a pair of flame-throwing gloves, Chase should be killed quickly in a situation like this, and he knows it. With his only fellow Runaway in the series, the somewhat-emo Nico, Chase attempts to make a bond with the members of the Avengers Academy, a decision that backfires terribly.

The whole issue is filled with gloom and despair, with not a bright point to be seen. Hopeless makes us care about these characters, which makes it all the more upsetting when one has to die.

HOPING FOR A SECOND WIND FROM VITTO

The art in issue #3 was fantastic. I’m still haunted by Juston Seyfort’s face barely illuminated at night, and the nasty incident involving Darkhawk was drawn in spectacular fashion. However, this issue looked rushed or at the very least, inconsistent. The depiction of Chase just seemed…off in each appearance. It’s almost as if the artist was trying to draw his face smaller than his head to make Chase appear younger. It was off-putting, and the final scene with Chase, while meant to be shocking, was lessened because of the strange expression he makes on the second-to-last panel. The action scenes are done well, and Vitto has done really well in every other issue of the series. Give the artist a chance to take a deep breath and let’s get back to the awesome.

BOTTOM LINE: I WONDER WHERE THE ADULTS ARE?

There are a few problems inherent with this series that Hopeless has promised to address. Still, I can’t help but be confused as to why none of the adult Marvel heroes (or even the teenage friends of those in the Arena) haven’t noticed the absence of the cast. The whole situation is still so unbelievable…Is Marvel really going to allow the deaths of all of these characters? Most people would think not, and that perception tends to discredit the book somewhat. I mean, Reptil is not a major character by any stretch, but the guy has an obvious fanbase. Many fans are waiting for the bait-and-switch, with the most likely explanation being that the characters are trapped in a VR video game. Still, I must say again that what Hopeless is doing here is a great read. You might not like the concept, but it’s hard to argue that the execution has made for a strong reading experience. Avengers Arena #4 gets a hard-fought 3.5 out of five stars.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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