This week saw the release of another Marvel NOW! title, but this one was a little bit different than the others. For one thing, it isn’t a relaunch of an existing title — at least, not directly — and it’s gotten some attention already for its similarities to The Hunger Games and Battle Royale. Avengers Arena, by Dennis Hopeless, Kev Walker and Frank Martin, has the classic X-Men villain Arcade kidnapping 16 young Marvel heroes and throwing them into Murderworld, where it’s kill or be killed. Plus, y’know, it’s Murderworld, so there’s more to worry about than just your temporary ally turning on you.
So does the book deliver, or does it leave you “hungering” for something else? (Ack, that’s bad; sorry about that). Here are a few reviews from around the web:
Greg McElhatton, Comic Book Resources: “After an opening sequence set (presumably) near the end of the series’ set-up, Hopeless re-introduces readers to the characters that he’s lined up to get kidnapped by Arcade in the latest iteration of his Murderworld complex. Here, these sixteen characters are given 30 days to kill or be killed, with only one allowed to be standing at the end of the time period. If this sounds a little bit like The Hunger Games (or going further back, Battle Royale or even The Long Walk), you aren’t alone in that assessment. Hopeless has Arcade acknowledge the similarity and move forward from there, a nod to the connection between the two. But once you get past that, there’s actually less to get worked up over than you might suspect.” (2.5/5)
Andy Hunsaker, CraveOnline: “This first issue seems to be trying to establish the often-laughable Arcade as a high-end villain, and Hopeless writes pretty much everything in service of that goal. It generally works in that respect – he rounds up a bunch of kids with seemingly godlike power over even their basic motor skills, fights them all off without breaking a sweat, and then forcing them to turn on each other by threatening to kill somebody immediately if they don’t choose who dies first. It’s truly daunting. Maybe Hopeless has an out planned for the future – the kids are all just plugged into a Matrix thing and all the deaths are virtual and not real or it was all holographic or something – but the minute he reveals that, all the air goes out of the concept. So he can’t, unless the series starts hemorrhaging readers who respond to this teen character purging with angry ‘fuck yous.” (7.5/10)
Kevin Finnigan, Comic Book Therapy: “While there is a lot of fun here, there are also some worries. Once finishing the issue Arcade was the right villain for the book, as he has the know how to create a threat like this. But is he doing it strictly for the sake of killing people? It’s shallow, and doesn’t provide a lot of material for an ongoing series. There are plenty of directions that this title could go in. I’ve read some theories that this book will turn into a Runaways style book, or an evil version of Avengers Academy. But for now, all I see is kids killing each other. And while fun, it won’t keep readers around for that long. The ending might keep people around for a while though. While killing a character off won’t happen every issue, it gives the series a The Walking Dead style atmosphere of ‘who is going to die next?’ Avengers Arena has a spot in my pull list for the first six months, and maybe longer depending on how those issues go.” (3.5/5)
Spencer Perry, SuperHeroHype: “Kev Walker is the series’ artist and he does a great job. The pacing of the story is clearly influenced by his work which can make the more expository sections feel longer than they actually are. But the place that Walker really succeeds at is what his series needs, the carnage. It seems they’re really embracing how much of an influence Battle Royale and The Hunger Games had on this series, they even make reference to them, and there’s no shortage of nasty injuries and deaths even in the first issue. Walker’s art looks very crisp and clean compared to some of the other Marvel NOW! books and the colors really help him out given the wide array of settings and powers within.” (8/10)
Ron Richards, iFanboy: “After reading Avengers Arena #1, it struck me that this series has several things it going for it in both story and art. First, on art duties is Kev Walker, whom we’ve enjoyed these past couple of years with his work on Thunderbolts. I realized as reading Avengers Arena #1, that it feels like not a month goes by without some Kev Walker comic art from Marvel and I’m afraid I’m getting spoiled. Walker’s art has a unique style and is subtle in how effective it is. His representation of characters we’re familiar with works and at the same time, carries his unique flare. It’s not the most amazing, unprecedented art you’ve ever seen, but in terms of what Walker does for modern super hero comics, it’s way more than functional, often times downright stellar. His action sequences are, without fail, some of the most dynamic and effective depictions around. His strong depiction of action keeps the story moving. I hope that Walker is the main artist on Avengers Arena, because after reading issue #1, I want to drop into a world illustrated by him every month.” (4/5)
David Pepose, Newsarama: “While this book wears its influences unapologetically on its sleeve — and yes, the fact that these overpowered teenagers have accepted the new status quo so quickly is a little much to swallow, even with Arcade’s new-and-improved powerset — there’s still something guiltily, trashily fun about Avengers Arena. Maybe all those teen characters that nobody bought will at least generate some outrage, Marvel is likely (and rightly) thinking. Maybe all these deaths will draw in some of those bloodthirsty Walking Dead readers, a more cynical reader might think. Maybe the corpses of all these teenage superheroes might trigger a new crossover, I’d even suggest, one that puts Arcade at the top of the supervillain list. But either way, there’s a lot of different angles that Avengers Arena can attack us at, and that mix of action, terror and heart make for a potent first issue launch.” (8/10)
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