Two issues into Avengers Arena and there are already two deaths. Mettle died in the first issue to protect Hazmat from Arcade’s lethal demonstration of power. The remaining 14 teenagers remain trapped in an unknown location with no apparent means of escape, under threat that in 30 days, only one of them can leave alive. This issue’s death isn’t much of a spoiler – it actually appears in the preview pages. How does the rest of this issue fare though?
This issue is actually very good. It mostly focuses on Death Locket. We learn about her past and her thoughts on her situation. The storytelling and characterization are great here, and by the end of this issue you might find yourself cheering for this new character. This issue also introduces the Braddock Academy and gives the group some basic character traits. Cammi and Hazmat both have minor rolls, otherwise there is very little from pre-existing characters in this issue. If Avengers Arena 2 is anything to go by, this series will be character driven for the most part. Despite its significantly darker nature, this issue feels somewhat like a continuation of Avengers Academy.
Red Raven, one of the new characters, is killed in this issue by the ceiling force-field. We know very little about Red Raven, other than the fact that she could fly. Red Raven’s death serves a purpose however, to further illustrate that the remaining teenagers are trapped in Arcade’s Murderworld.
The art is very good as well. Death Locket’s appearance in particular shines in this issue – it’s just as telling of her character as her internal monologues and flashbacks are. Her friendly demeanor shines through her warm smiles and panda shirt, while her death machine bits remind us of how deadly she could be and what she’s been through. In some panels, the art does more storytelling than Dennis Hopeless’s writing does. Character expressions are handled very well – that includes the deceased Red Raven and the angry members of the Avengers Academy. The backgrounds offer an atmospheric feel that enhances the dark mood of the book.
If the first issue angered you or you hate this book’s concept, this issue will not change your mind about the series. I’m not fully convinced that I’ll like this series myself, but as long as it’s at least OK I’ll stick with it as long as X-23 is alive. It’s still difficult to see this as an ongoing series as it will obviously end at one point.
This issue is more about characters than anything else. If you like the idea of a comic series featuring super-powered teenagers in a Battle Royale/Hunger Games like situation, you should definitely check this series out. Avengers Arena won’t be for everyone – Dennis Hopeless himself said so in the letter column. From a pure quality standpoint though, this series is pretty good so far.