After the Arcade focused detour that was Avengers Arena 7, we’re back to the main story. This one primarily focuses on X-23, but we also find out what’s happened to Juston and his sentinel, and it deals with the aftermath of Kid Britain’s decapitation at the end of issue 6. A lot happens in this issue, and yet it still manages to remain character focused.
Quality-wise, this issue is very good, in fact it may be the best issue yet. The biggest problem with this series so far is that Mettle’s death in the first issue has barely been touched on since. This issue deals with the aftermath of issue 6’s casualty fairly early, and implications are made in how the different Braddock Academy members feel about his death. There’s a sense of subtlety in how several characters try to hide their true feelings.
This issue also has the beginning of the first all-out fight scene between the teenagers. To avoid spoilers, let’s just say that one of the characters is out for vengeance, and he/she may have become yet another power player in Murder World (depends on how the next issue turns out). There’s also a surprising reveal related to the Apex character.
But the real focus on this issue is X-23’s character and at least for me, that’s where this issue truly shines. A fair warning, the next two paragraphs are dedicated to her portrayal in this issue (she is my favourite Marvel character after all). As much as I enjoyed her solo series, it probably didn’t focus on her fighting skills enough. In several storylines, she had weird fight scenes with enemies she shouldn’t stand a chance against, or was powered up by a cosmic force. Avengers Academy did a better job on that front, but it seemed to forget her tactical expertise as well as some of her character development.
The very first page of this issue describes how her brain works. It’s always tactically working out the best way to kill everyone around, as part of her weapon X programming. She can’t turn it off, and she’s always fighting against her death-dealing instincts. It also shows her social developments; she’s become more open to talking with people, and even seeks out a companion after the trigger scent incident. Sure, she uses more contractions than she ever has in the past, but that could be considered character progression, and she has used them before under her creators. This really is the best X-23 portrayal in a long time, and that makes me happy.
The art isn’t quite as good as Kev Walker’s art, but it’s solid enough. While some of the characters look a bit older than they should, their facial expressions are well-done. X-23 looks like she’s starting to overheat as she wanders through the desert. Apex is still recognizable after the character’s major reveal, and the modified sentinel looks kind of awesome. The only complaint I can think of is that X-23’s headset disappears in several panels. EDIT: Also, her eyes are blue in this comic when they’re supposed to be green. Not sure how I forgot to mention that.
If you hate this book’s concept, this issue certainly won’t change your mind. If you’ve been enjoying it so far though, this is an easy recommendation. If you’re an X-23 fan, you’ll most likely appreciate her portrayal here. To anyone else, if the idea of a Hunger Games/Battle Royale series with several pre-existing teenage superheroes sounds interesting, this is worth checking out.