Avengers Arena was recently announced as one of Marvel’s new titles this fall/winter. The basic premise is that Arcade, a well-known villain in the Marvel Universe, is somehow going to kidnap a bunch of teenagers and throw them into his new Murderworld. There will be 16 kids total, some are known while others are new.
As the series goes on, some of these kids will be killed. As you could imagine, this is stirring some controversy. The related comicbookresources thread has over 90 pages in less than a week. Gail Simone has also directly responded to it on her blog, and I’m sure there are other places that I don’t know of. So while this is still a hot topic, I might as well share my thoughts. I’ll eventually post my thoughts on every other Marvel Now title, but this needed to be shared first.
Out of all the Marvel Now titles, this one concerns me the most.
Marvel’s teenage characters are often written better than their A-list counterparts. A-listers rarely change much because of how long they’ve been around. Wolverine keeps going back and forth between losing his memory and gaining it back, not to mention all the retcons about his past. Thor will disappear for a while and return, pretty much the same as before – a brave yet arrogant God of Thunder. Captain America will always remain a man out of time, no matter how long he’s been in the modern age. Same could be said for most of DC’s heroes. I could go on, but A-list characters rarely change for good.
Teenage characters don’t have that problem. They can have legitimate character development and not be held back by editors, obsessive fans and nostalgic writers. There is so much room for storytelling with characters that aren’t locked like this. It’s a real shame that they won’t sell as well as they do because more often than not, teenage books deserve better sales.
Avengers Arena seems like an attempt to bring some of these teenage characters more popularity and awareness by publishing a series similar to the Hunger Games. I won’t call it a rip-off because there are no original stories left (more on that later) and it’s not even out yet. From a marketing standpoint, this series is actually not a bad idea. However it could also backfire horrendously.
If this book is good, it could potentially bring new fans into the comic world while simultaneously bumping up these teenage characters individual popularity (at least for those who survive). However it could also turn off fans of any characters that are killed off – especially if this series isn’t good and/or if these deaths are handled poorly.
(Issue 2’s cover has already been revealed)
I could also understand the purpose of this book from the standpoint that there are too many young characters in the Marvel Universe. It’s hard to popularize any one teenage character when there are literally dozens of teenage groups and individuals. Young Avengers, Avengers Academy, various teenagers with ties to The Hulk, Spider-Man’s various allies and sidekicks, New X-Men, Generation X, New Mutants (they’re young adults now though) … I could go on. Sometimes you have to weed out the excess characters to build up the ones that have more potential – I get that.
On a personal level, I’m concerned about several characters I’ve come to love.
I’ve made it no secret that X-23 is my favourite Marvel Comics character, and she brought me into comics last year through Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I’ve always had a thing for child soldier characters who are trying to discover and improve themselves (not sure why). While she’s probably the safest character in this book, being directly related to Wolverine and arguably the only B-list character in this series, I still can’t help but worry.
She’s the only character in this book who has sustained a solo series for more than 10 issues (21 issues), plus she’s had two origin minis (6 issues each), several one-shots and has participated in at least one major Marvel event every year since World War Hulk (2007). She’s the only character I know of who has consistently appeared in something since at least 2005. Not to mention that she’s appeared in three TV shows (debuting in X-Men Evolutions almost 10 years ago) and at least three alternate universes/timelines (Age of Apocalypse, She Avengers in “Incredible Hercules” and League of Losers).
Edit: She’s also playable in the previously mentioned MVC3, and appeared as a boss in the X-Men 3 Gameboy game. Don’t know how I forgot that one.
Additional edit: She was just announced as an upcoming character for Avengers Alliance, further suggesting that she’s safe.
Multiple writers have shown interest in her as well – Marjorie Liu would love to write her again, and Cullen Bunn has shown interest in writing a Wolverine storyline with both Daken and X-23. Chris Yost, her co-creator, might have hinted at X-23 plans on Twitter.
Ignoring X-23, I’ve also come to like all the Avengers Academy kids, and I’m pretty sure not all of them will come out alive. Juston is most likely doomed, although he’s dangerously close to a one note character. The sentinel without Juston’s directives could also make things interesting for any mutants around. Since Mettle and Hazmat are the only known couple in this series, it’s likely that one of them will die for dramatic purposes.
Edit – Reptil might be safe considering he was a main character in the Super Hero Squad show. Somehow forgot that one too.
Hopeless has already stated in an interview that Runaway fans will likely get angry, so it’s safe to assume at least one of them will die at some point. I know nothing of the cosmic characters in this series but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if one dies eventually. While it’s likely that most character deaths will be new characters created for this series, Hopeless has made it clear that characters will die.
Back to my original story point earlier. Anyone who has legitimately studied creative writing knows that there are only three basic plots in existence.
1. There’s the conflict plot which is simply described as subject vs. subject.
2. There’s the journey plot, where the subject heads toward a destination.
3. There’s the romance plot, where the subject falls in love with the other subject.
The conflict can be violent or trivial. It can be man vs. machine, man vs. disease, a cat vs. a wall – it can be any subject vs. any other subject whether singular or plural. The journey can be heading toward a physical destination, trying to reach enlightenment, trying to get rich, trying to return somewhere or to someone, or even trying to get away from somewhere or someone. The romance plot doesn’t have to be a love story; it can also be about friends or a passion in life. Any of these can have a happy ending, a sad ending, or even an open ending. Because of that, I refuse to call anything a rip-off without experiencing it first.
I’ll give this series a chance, mostly because X-23 is in it, but this series kind of scares me. It helps that Hopeless stated that the characters will be important in this series, even in death. Here’s hoping this series can help popularize some of these teenage characters, because Marvel could use some fresh faces in larger books. It also helps that both Jonathan Hickman and Jason Aaron said that the first issue was fantastic.
And those are my thoughts on Avengers Arena, what are yours?