Or – “It IS A Little Weird That Teenagers Killing Each Other Is A Genre Now…”
There has been quite a bit of fury aimed at this book, seeing as how we’ve taken a large number of Marvel characters, some with full-fledged back-stories and fans, and pitted them against one another in a head-to-head deathmatch, all orchestrated by a version of Arcade fully unlike any we’ve seen before… Will this issue finally pull back the shroud of what’s REALLY going on, or just more bodies added to the count? Your Major Spoilers review awaits!
AVENGERS ARENA #9
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Kev Walker
Inker: Jason Gordon
Colorist: Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artist: Dave Johnson
Editor: Bill Rosemann
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price $2.99
Previously, in Avengers Arena: Arcade’s sick game continues, with Darkhawk down, Mettle dead and a couple of non-entities having bitten the dust, but Juston (the star of the ‘Sentinel’ miniseries has returned from seeming death with his robot-partner upgraded with some hellish new tricks, and Chase (from the Runaways) seemingly empowered by the Darkhawk amulet. Still, the question remains: What in the hell is really going on?
AN INTERESTING TAKE ON A FAMILIAR CHARACTER TROPE…
I don’t know if I’d hold your breath waiting for answers, though. This issue opens with conflict as Juston and his resurrected Sentinel death-mecha go head to head with Chase and his stolen Darkhawk powers, while snotty mean girl Apex has transformed into a boy! The fighty-fighty runs side-by-side with some back-story, before new lad Tim uses the powers he seemingly shares with his sister to shut down everyone’s weapons systems and force the teen heroes to talk to each other. Kev Walker’s wonderful design work shines in this issue, as the new configuration for the Sentinel is awesome, while the character’s clothing gets more and more damaged. After some tense moments, the assembled teens tie up Apex/Time and force him to tell him what the hell is going on, all the while whispering among themselves that they may have to kill him to keep his sister out of their hair.
Tim’s story is a heart-breaker, a particularly clever take on the super-powered twins concept, and I find myself kind of appreciating the time taken to create the heretofore-unseen heroes of this book. Unfortunately, it’s a little hard to get too involved in the stories when they can end up dead (as the kind-of interesting Kid Briton did a couple of issues ago) at any moment, or at least as dead as you can get when you’re clearly in a computer-simulated reality of some sort. Though the creators haven’t actually revealed that, every single issue adds a little more evidence to my expectation that Arcade has stuck these kids in a shared delusion of reality, just so he can sit and watch their every move. That gets awkward when Tim and the adorkable Deathlocket share a kiss and some bonding time, but things end badly when Apex/Katy returns to power, and the issue ends on a bad note for our cast, especially the former Runaways. One is dead, one is an idiot, and a third has been banished from the tribe, voted off the island due to bad decision-making.
THE BOTTOM LINE: AN INTERESTING STUDY.
As these teens devolve further into savagery, I have to admit that this series is overcoming the weaknesses inherent in the premise (or, to be fair, the weaknesses inherent in the MARKETING of the premise) and delivering some interesting character work. That said, it’s slow going, and the pacing this issue isn’t the best, focusing a lot on the flashback to make the climax carry enough emotional weight, but it’s at least an interesting flashback, with a character whose decisions, however unpleasant, make sense in context. In short, Avengers Arena #9 was better than I expected, with art that works hard to show the characters’ descent, and some really nice writing that conveys the volatile and contradictory teenage mind, earning a slightly surprised 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!
I think you nailed this one, Matthew. I can’t decide if I want this series to move faster or if it’s paced just right. When I’m reading it, I’m really into it, but when it’s done, I find myself saying, “wait, that’s all that happened this issue?” I still really love this series, though, except for the one issue that was all Arcade’s backstory. That, I could have done without.
Actually, issue 7 proved that this isn’t a virtual reality.