Avengers Arena was easily last year’s most controversial series. It was basically Battle Royale, but with pre-existing characters with superpowers. While in terms of quality, the book turned out fairly well, it angered a lot of people. It didn’t help that the first issue killed off a main Avengers Academy character, a series that had some very dedicated fans. This issue is more of an epilogue to Arena than it is the first issue of Undercover, taking place three months after the previous “season”.
Avengers Undercover 1 focuses mainly on the main survivors from Arena and how the world at large reacted to their ordeal being turned into a web-series. It seems that everyone is talking about them casually. Hazmat is trying to live under the radar, and due to exploding at the end of Arena, has mostly gained control of her radiation powers. It’s nice that she can live without her hazmat suit, but it isn’t explained all that well. And with it, both of her most important plotlines in Academy are permanently gone.
Chase is eating the fame up. Nico has yet to return to the Runaways and is probably living in solitude. Each of the characters has reacted in their own way, but it’s clear they’re all suffering from PTSD. Worst off is Cullen, who has completely lost it and commenced a one man mission to kill Arcade and destroy all his properties.
The character focus works for the most part. I can’t say anything about Nico or Chase as I’ve never read any Runaway comics, but the rest of them seem true to their characters. Seeing them act out when they encounter casual talks of their antics is a bit of a highlight. On the downside, there’s no indication of anyone trying to help the teens cope with what they’ve been through. There’s no mention of any consoling by the Avengers or the Braddock Academy, not that it wasn’t offered. There’s no mention of anyone else hunting Arcade. There’s also very little in the way of this title’s story direction. The survivors are supposed to be infiltrating the masters of evil, but we only see them for about a page. There’s only so much room in one issue though, and focusing on the survivors for the opening issue was probably a wise choice.
The art is very good for the most part. There’s a lot of detail on each character and despite most of them being dressed very differently, they’re usually instantly recognizable. There isn’t always background detail, but when there is, it does a great job at setting each scene. When Chase is in an interview, you’ll see a shot of the audience, and a shot with Chase talking, and the screen behind him has a close-up on his mouth. A similar shot in a restaurant shows a live news broadcast discussing Murderworld. The colouring is overly dark and murky at times, but it works for Cullen’s video recordings.
While there’s likely not going to be as many deaths, this series is obviously going to be dark; probably as dark as Avengers Arena was. How much you’ll enjoy this one depends on your thoughts on Arena. While I have some problems with it, I enjoyed Arena. I also enjoyed this issue. Xmenxpert hated Arena, and he wasn’t a fan of this issue either. I’ve read other reviews that were simply lukewarm. This is worth recommending to anyone who enjoyed Arena, but if you hated its very concept, it may be wise to skip this one too. The lack of a death premise may help more people enjoy it, so read it before you buy it if you’re on the fence.