Avengers Arena #2

The frenetic adventures of Arcade's captives continues in "Avengers Arena" #2, by writer Dennis Hopeless, artist Kev Walker, letterer Joe Caramagna and coloring tagt eam Frank Martin and Jean-Francois Beaulieu. Wasting no time in reducing the cast of characters, another young hero is eliminated through a simple act of impulsiveness, and with that chore seemingly out of the way and plot point checked, the creative team is then free to develop the remaining characters a bit.

This issue, Hopeless did a nice job spotlighting and giving us reason to care about those characters as he did with Mettle and Hazmat in the premiere issue. Rebecca Ryker, or Death Locket, as she comes to be called by the end of the issue, is the focal point, from start to finish. Hopeless gives us enough of an outline of Ryker's origins for Kev Walker's art to add significant depth and emotion. The problem is, Death Locket is a brand new character, and as we've already seen, no character is untouchable. That makes the story more poignant, as I found myself fully expecting to have the rug whipped out from under my feet after finding a good bit of fondness for this new character. For me, Death Locket has become the center of the series. At least, for this issue.

Walker's art is wonderful, as anyone who has enjoyed his work on "Thunderbolts"/"Dark Avengers" can tell you. He brings scads of detail and buckets of emotion to "Avengers Arena," all the while making the characters believable and complete. The backgrounds of Murderworld are sparse, but the coloring duo of Frank Martin, Jean-Francois Beaulieu do a great job of enhancing Walker's lines, further adding emotion to the story.

I'm sure there's a wonderful reset button somewhere waiting to be pushed, but for now this adventure is filled with high-octane intensity. This is one of the Marvel NOW! titles I wasn't overly keen about, but the first two issues have delivered enough energy and excitement for me to come back for more. Walker's art is strong and emotional, matching the story note for note and then some. Despite the premise the series is built on and the fact that the eliminated heroes now number the same as issues released of this series, I'm curious to learn more about this ragtag bunch. Like a twisted game of "Survivor," the characters in "Avengers Arena" #2 begin forming cliques and developing alliances as they try to figure out what's happening and why. For now, the readers are right there with them as Hopeless does a good job making sure we want to stay.

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