Protagonist vs. protagonist is all the rage right now and Avengers Arena uses that concept to pit superhuman teenagers against each other. Has the concept already worn thin by this issue? Read on for your review!
Previously in Avengers Arena: Arcade has kidnapped sixteen Avengers in training and brought them to Murder World where they’re to fight each other in a giant death match. Someone is making nightly attacks and a few of our heroes are either dead or missing.
JUST HOW INVESTED ARE YOU?
This issue focuses a lot on Kid Briton who is mostly an ass. We see some of his past as a cocky womanizer, sleeping with both Apex and Nara at the Braddock Academy. This is sort of to be expected from a teenager whose powers depend on self-confidence. On Murder World, Arcade, disappointed with the lack of killing sets up four safe zones on the outskirts of the world. One of those zones has supplies and it’s now a race to see who can get there first. We also find out that Death Locket is more dangerous than we thought.
This book has a lot going both for and against it. The premise is not very original, but the use of characters and the way the story is told is quite good. The problem for the reader lies in the answer to the following question: Just how invested in the characters are you? Both answers have positives as well as negatives. I know very little about these kids, so seeing them die doesn’t bother me. That also takes away any emotional impact that the story should have. On the other hand, some are offended by this concept and mad that these characters are treated as disposable cannon fodder. But doesn’t that help give the story more weight with you? You’re invested emotionally. This issue continues with quality storytelling, alternating between past and present. For now, the kids are working together but how long before they start turning on each other? There are definitely reasons for some of them to hate each other (especially Kid Briton). I enjoyed the issue but, like Arcade, I want things to pick up a bit. The first couple of issues moved at a brisk pace with lots of action but things have died down now as the kids are getting used to the situation. Seeing Death Locket (gotta love that name) shoot Nara in the back was a surprise as was the reveal that she fried Reptil. There’s more going on with her and I’m eager to find out what. Thankfully, Hopeless touched on the fact that the kids could be in a virtual world as many believe. As Bloodstone says, who cares? Dead is dead (as much weight as that has in comics).
Overall, it was a fine issue but lacking in some of the tension the previous ones had. Hopeless is taking time to build up these characters, which is a good thing, giving new readers something to cling to emotionally. That’s something I certainly need more of.
PICKS UP THE SLACK
Kev Walker’s art picks up any slack there may be from the story’s weakness. This is one good-looking book no doubt. His work reminds me somewhat of Adrian Alphona’s on Runaways. He does a great job drawing the different weather conditions that each of the quadrants of Murder World has and his handling of action is perfect. At no point was I ever confused as to who was who, where they were and what was happening. He also gives the panels in the flashbacks a subtle video monitor look with rounded corners. This could very well allude to the consensus that the characters are in a virtual world. It’s all extremely well done and makes a weak premise fun to look at.
BOTTOM LINE: FUN, BUT PROBLEMATIC
Avengers Arena is definitely a unique title. While the premise is not original, the storytelling and artwork are very well done and a lot of care went into creating this book. The problem lies solely with the reader and their investment in the characters. It will affect your enjoyment one-way or the other, both either positively or negatively. This issue was good but lacking in the tension the previous ones had. Kev Walker’s art is extremely well done and makes up for any weaknesses the story has. Dennis Hopeless is taking his time building characters and, while appreciated, I don’t see how this title can go on for very long. For now though, I’m having fun. Avengers Arena #5 earns 3 out of 5 stars.
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!