What a Waste
This is way too pretty a book to be wasted on such a premise.
I mean it. The art is gorgeous. Not only that, the book is actually quite well written, though it has some major flaws. Specifically the one major flaw:
The goddamn premise
Now, Hopeless has said this in interviews, but someone dies in this book. Some will die in other issues. And some will be characters we know and love. As much as I might hate it though, I can't fault it on a purely objective stance, since anything can be done well. Thankfully, the execution does give me plenty to complain about. Mostly the complete lack of build up when someone inevitably died at the end of the issue.
One thing that made the hunger games and other such series so enjoyable was that it took a while before anyone actually started dying. The children were brought together, and tension was allowed to build as the story went on. Character was established, so by the time they were pitted against each other, and people did start dying, there was drama and stakes to everything that was happening.
Unfortunately, I fear Hopeless knew that the success of the series was, well, hopeless, unless he came out, guns blazing, trying desperately to hook people in.
What's more of a shame is that for the most part, each and every character he wrote had a voice to them, so much so that even if you came into the series with no knowledge of any of the other characters, you still kind of care when that person was killed. But that's the thing. It happened in the first issue. We only just started to get into her/him/it, so hopeless kinda went off prematurely. He went in so eager to impress he forgot that there is a method to the madness.
But as I said, Hopeless writes good characters. Arcade in particular really does feel like a threat, but this raises another issue: How hes pulling this off, and why wouldn't anyone make it their priority to save these children immediately? Somehow, he managed to warp in several students from a freaking avengers facility, the Braddock academy etc, as well as tracked down the runaways. How does he expect no one to notice they vanished or try to find them? He simultaneously managed to piss off not only the Avengers, but also Wolverine (and, by extension, every other X-man available, who happen to have multiple devices capable of tracking anyone, anywhere, unless they have a bucket over their head), Captain Britain and the MAGICAL WORLD AND MULTIVERSES HE PATROLS, etc., etc. Not to mention the entire scope of related heroes they can call upon. How does he imagine that he has 30 days when he literally angered the entire Marvel U?
To make matters worse, no mention is made on HOW Arcade, of all people, somehow became this serious a threat. Sure, he was no slouch, but he somehow takes on 16 super powered kids, several of whom are on par with numerous Avengers, and there isn't an explanation in sight. Undoubtedly it will be clarified soon, but it's still frustrating.
Arcade himself is also a poor choice of villains, despite his strong writing. His motivation extends no farther than "Hey, LET'S MURDER THINGS!". The real appeal behind THG and Battle Royale was it's social commentary. Arcade's goals don't give us anything like that. It's like trying to be Randy Newman without the social satire: It just doesn't work.
The final points I'll b*tch about are the annoying health bars above each character (stupid, just stupid) and a scene where it appears that X-23 is choosing to participate in the game for a moment, despite the fact that she is well known at this point in time for refusing to be a weapon for the amusement of others.
To sum up, Dennis Hopeless seems to have a real strong grasp of character, and knows to hook people in. At the same time, it's clear to me that he gets stuck on crappy projects. X-men season 1 was an example of this, where he wrote decent leads but the premise of the season ones was piss-poor. The same can be said here. It's obvious that this book can last maybe a year at best before it either gets cancelled or is just killed by it's clear shelf-life and get's retitled. Seeing how talented both men, I really wish it happens soon so they can devote their clear talent to better things.