Or – “Does This Make The Whole Thing Better Or Worse?”
For 13 issues now, we’ve seen a group of teen heroes from across the Marvel Universe fighting one another in the control of Arcade, with lethal consequences for a few (albeit not as many as it seemed.) Now, we finally get to see what their friends and loved ones have been doing about their disappearances, but will we finally get the truth about Murder World? Your Major Spoilers review awaits!
Lovely art throughout.
A story with a lot of heart.
This issue was strong, but there are still issues with the pacing of the series and the premise is inherently limited.
AVENGERS ARENA #13
Writer: Christos Gage
Penciler: Karl Moline
Inker: Mark Pennington
Colorist: Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Bill Rosemann
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Previously in Avengers Arena: Another in a string of failures led the villain known as Arcade to finally snap and put into action a new game: Kidnapping sixteen teenage super-dupers and locking them inside a new and improved version of his old Murderworld. Their numbers reduced by almost a third (including 90s fashion-victim Darkhawk), the at-risk teens have now fought one another and the environment for weeks without anyone noticing. Why haven’t their elders (including Wolverine, Captain Britain and Giant-Man) noticed anything is wrong?
GIANT-MAN KNOWS FROM AT-RISK PERSONALITIES…
From the very beginning, the creators of this book have been adamant that there’s a good reason for everything that happens, and almost in spite of myself, I have to say that the story has been pretty good. Even when they’ve killed characters I care about, the story hasn’t been nearly as nihilistic or cruel as some fan press might have one believe. This issue opens with a lovely callback to the lost and lamented ‘Runaways’ book that originated cast-members Nico and Chase, as Molly “Princess Powerful” Hayes petitions Giant-Man, the head of the Avengers Academy to find her lost friends. Gage reveals that Arcade HAS covered his bases in this issue, explaining that the villain not only falsified cover stories, but has been forging communication from the missing kids. Wolverine has gotten texts from X-23, Giant-Man has heard from Mettle and Hasmat, and Molly has even gotten texts from Chase and Nico, who claim to have run off together to figure out their relationship. Trouble is, Molly doesn’t believe it and her suspicions trigger Giant-Man’s worst instincts…
MORE HEART THAN PEOPLE GIVE THIS BOOK CREDIT FOR.
For a book that’s ostensibly killing off people’s favorites in a callous manner, this issue takes a lot of time to humanize not only our cast, but emphasizes the familial connections of our existing characters, reminding us that Hank Pym and Tigra are dating, that Wolverine may not really be cut out for a full-time teaching gig, and most wonderfully, revealing that the Avengers Academy is still in operation. (Karolina Dean and Katie Power are apparently still involved in their rainbow-powered love affair, as well, for those who were wondering.) Visually, this issue is excellent, with Moline making the superheroes look like regular people with lives that don’t leap from crisis to crisis, and the background information here reminds me of the way Chris Claremont used to take a breather issue now and then and give us an issue or two of the X-Men enjoying their downtime and being actual human beings rather than brightly-colored punching machines. (It’s something I wish that more Big Two writers would take advantage of, honestly, especially with big-name marquee characters.)
THE BOTTOM LINE: A LOOK AT ARCADE’S PSYCHE, AND A LOT OF QUESTIONS ANSWERED.
Most interestingly, the issue delves into Arcade’s reason for actually getting into this lunacy in the first-place, and his android pet (programmed with the personality of his old majordomo Ms. Locke) actually accuses him of having a death wish, using the wonderful phrase “suicide by cape.” Though this issue wasn’t done by the regular creative team, it’s nice to see that there has been some serious thought put into how in the world this whole mess might work, and I’m relatively satisfied with this issue’s explanation of why the Avengers and X-Men aren’t beating down Arcade’s door with extreme prejudice. (It helps that Gage was part of the Avengers Academy creative team, as well.) Avengers Arena #13 is a remarkably strong character piece, playing on themes of family and paranoia using one of the original Marvel heroes, while clarifying our timelines (the kids have been missing, by the way, for just over three weeks) and squaring away a lot of loose ends, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall. I’m glad I got past my initial distaste for the ‘Hunger Games’ trappings and let this series grow on me, as it was totally worth it…