The psychopathic gamesman known as Arcade has been toying with the heroes of the Marvel Universe since his debut in 1978’s “Marvel Team-Up” #65. His usual modus operandi involves kidnapping heroes and dropping them into twisted, amusement park-style, death traps dubbed Murder Worlds, where they matched wits with Arcade and his host of murderous automatons.
After years and years of seeing his murderous schemes inevitably foiled, the villain has adopted a new tactic; instead of trying to kill heroes himself, he’s forcing them to destroy each other. Arcade unveiled this new tactic in the debut issue of “Avengers Arena,” abducting 16 super-powered teenagers and relocating them on a new island-style Murder World. He then informed his captives that only one of them would be going home — the last hero standing in a massive battle to the death that they are all a part of, whether they like it or not.
Arcade’s teenager death match is just beginning, but so far it’s claimed the lives of at least two adolescent heroes, and more are likely to die when the contest kicks into high gear in “Avengers Arena” #8, which kicks off the series’ second arc from the creative team of writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Kev Walker titled “Game On.” We spoke with editor Bill Rosemann about the upcoming storyline which promises to focus on Wolverine’s clone X-23 and — despite what appeared to be a pretty cut and dried death scene in issue #3 — Darkhawk.
CBR News: While there are still a few months to go before the start of “Game On,” if the last few issues of “Avengers Arena” are any indication, we’re in for some big twists and turns before Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker wrap their first arc. What can you tell us about the remaining chapters?
Bill Rosemann: First I want to give a big shout out of appreciation for everyone who has written in to express their feelings over the first three issues of “Avengers Arena.” We continue to receive an avalanche of letters every day, and I personally read each one, email the writer back and thank them for taking the time to share their thoughts, and then make sure every letter is passed on to Dennis. So many readers are writing in that we’ve expanded the letters page section to two pages in most issues — and we even ran a double-page letters section in issue #1 filled with reader reaction to the series announcement. The bottom line: Whether you love it or loathe it (there seems to be little middle ground), we appreciate every single person who is reaching out to us.
Now, as for what’s coming your way in the remaining issues of our first arc, you can look forward to a Runaways vs. Avengers Academy rumble in #4, a trip inside the simmering group dynamics of the ever-squabbling Braddock Academy in issue #5 and a last page of issue #6 that gives the last page of issue #1 a run for its bloody, bloody money.
We understand one of the characters this new arc will feature is Darkhawk, which is interesting given that Chris Powell appeared to be pretty severely injured or dead at the end of “Avengers Arena” #3 by the mechanical monstrosity prowling Murder World. What can you tell us about Darkhawk’s role in this upcoming story? Will he be part of the present day action, or will we be flashing back to Chris/Darkhawk’s past?
Despite the amulet being ripped from Chris Powell in issue #3, Darkhawk will appear in present-day scenes in upcoming issues. And as a self-professed Darkhawk fan who engineered his return when I edited the cosmic books a couple years ago, I approve of this (intentionally enigmatic) message.
Another character set to play a significant role in “Game On” is X-23. Will Laura be a perspective character in this arc? And can you hint or tease some of the revelations we’ll learn about her in this story?
A nasty surprise from Arcade rocks X-23 in issue #6. How Laura responds to that — and how it leads her to seek out another troubled Academy student — will be the focus of issue #8, which kicks off “Game On.” Over the last year, both in the pages of her own series and in “Avengers Academy,” we’ve watched Laura confront her past as a programmed weapon and take strides to never be controlled or used by anyone ever again. It seems that being kidnapped and placed in Murder World, where Arcade views all the contestants as pawns, could be the ultimate challenge to her character journey.
What else can you tell us about “Game on?” How new reader-friendly is the arc, and will any other characters have especially interesting moments in this arc?
While the first six issues form an arc, and while issues #7-12 form another arc, all of the creators are doing everything we can to make each and every issue accessible to new readers. Yes, events and character journeys and relationships build upon themselves, but we also supply as much information as possible (who the characters are, what their relationships are, what the current situation is, etc.) so that anyone can pick up any issue — if, for example, a certain cover catches their eye or if they read a review that piqued their interest — and join the story. Also, Dennis made a very smart decision to echo the opening issues of “Avengers Academy” and give each issue a different P.O.V. character. Issue by issue, he’s placing you inside the heads and hearts of the different contestants, and Kevin Walker excels in placing the characters’ emotions right there on their face for all to see.
Kev will be drawing issues 8, 9 and 12 — and a soon-to-be-announced, top-secret creator will join our series as our regularly-scheduled second artist to illustrate issues 10 and 11. When we reveal the second artist, expect a cheer from Vertigo readers. This is an artist I’ve been wanting to work with for years — and now the stars have aligned!
Finally, in our initial interview about “Avengers Arena,” Dennis confirmed that the story of Arcade’s contest is a long-form one, with a beginning, middle and end. Are you able to talk about where we’ll be in that story come “Game On?”
I don’t want to plant any preconceived sign-posts in readers heads, so instead I’ll just say that we’ve titled this arc “Game On” for a specific reason. In Act 1, we saw the kids grapple with the rules of the game — and even grapple with the acceptance that they were in a game — and now, in Act 2, we’ll see some of the kids embrace the situation — but I won’t reveal how many Acts there are in this particular play.
I invite readers to judge “Avengers Arena” for themselves, and we’re giving you two specific points to do so. First in issue #7 (on sale April 10) we turn the stage over to Arcade himself in a done-in-one issue that reveals how the former punching bag went from one-note joke to scene stealer. How did his worldview shift? How did he create this version of Murder World? And how did he get such phenomenal power? Then, in issue #8 (on sale April 24) we zoom back to the kids and see how they respond to the jaw-dropping last page of issue #6.
Like I said earlier, people either love this series or hate it, which — as crazy as this sounds — is a phenomenal reaction to have for your comic book. Art is supposed to push buttons and inspire an emotional response. If we’re not striving to create true art each month, then why are we doing this?
“Game On,” by Dennis Hopeless, Kev Walker and a surprise second artist, kicks off in “Avengers Arena” #8, on sale April 24.