The best thing that could have ever happened to the cast of “Avengers Arena” was getting them off of the island. “Avengers Undercover” #2, the follow-up series to “Avengers Arena,” is showing so much potential with these characters that it’s hard to keep from being a little impressed with Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker. Full of possibilities now that the characters aren’t stuck in one location, it’s moving in a good direction.
One of the things that feels different right off the bat is the much more organic levels of conflict. Here, without the threat of having to kill one another, the conflict that appears between the different characters comes across as more believable and interesting. The frustration and anger building between several of the characters is no longer hurried along through an outside stimulus. The end result is a lot more fun to read about; in many ways, it feels like readers are getting to know several of these characters all over again and what they’re really like free of Murderworld.
Hopeless also is able to keep things lively thanks to the wider settings available. The scenes in the bar, for instance, work in no small part because of the ability for new characters to walk in and out of the area. We know more and more how the kids react to one another, so having that element of chaos and chance thrown into the mix leads to surprises and the occasional burst of humor. It’s fun and it works well, and in general I love the idea of the kids descending into the villain nation of Bagalia. In many ways, they’re over their heads, even as they also find themselves fitting in far more easily than they might want to.
Walker’s art is dependably good. I like that some of the visual hallmarks of “Avengers Arena” have carried over, like the ragged and tilted panel borders during fight scenes. It brings the rough-and-tumble nature of those conflicts to life, and the way that the panels themselves settle down as the fights come to a close mimics the pulse and blood pressure dropping quite well. In general, Walker’s art is strong; I like that we’re getting a lot of head shots in this issue, because it’s spotlighting how well he can draw expressions. Confusion, annoyance, and smugness all just pour off the page and towards the reader, here.
“Avengers Undercover” #2 is another good issue, and so far it’s taking the “What happens next?” hook and running with it in a way that should not only appeal to the readers of “Avengers Arena” but also hopefully bring in some new readers. This is a book that’s on the right track.