The Series That Makes You Want to Hug Every Character Involved
This is the first Avengers Arena cover that isn't a tribute, as far as I can tell, and I just don't like. It's just so basic and one-note, especially compared to the first few covers. I mean, I can appreciate the attempt to emulate old school fight flyers with the faded colors and artificial folding damage, but it's just not doing it for me. But more than that, it has NOTHING to do with the issue. This issue probably has LESS fighting than the last two, and nowhere does a brawl between X-23 and Darkhawk occur. I'm not one of those people who needs the cover to depict what happens on the inside with 100% accuracy or I hate it; but it's hard not to complain when the cover provides 0% accuracy. Darkhwak barely even makes an appearance in this issue.
After the heavy and narrow focus of the first few issues, it's nice to have the issue expand a little bit more and give us multiple interactions. It's still primarily narrated by Chase, but he doesn't use the entire issue for his story, and plus it gives us context for Nico as well. This was good for a Runaways newbie like myself, although I'm wondering where the rest of the team is. It's clear that there's more than two left, and Chase mentions wanting to better himself for his friends, plural, so where are the others? Did I miss something?
Kev Walker's artwork is absolutely perfect for this series, but Alessandro Vitti provides some perfectly acceptable fill-in artwork. It's somewhere between the dark works of Giusseppi Camuncoli and the dark sketchy work of Jim Calafiore. So the facial expressions are really intense, and the environment is less detailed, but just as harrowing. If this series needs the occasional fill-in, I'd be perfectly fine with more Vitti.
Everyone seems really on edge, but it makes sense. People keep getting attacked in their own camps. I've seen people annoyed that everyone is so quick to attack, but you have to keep in mind that the previous issue established that there's an attacker out in the woods, and everyone's been subject to his or her secret strikes without any clue as to their identity. This issue gives us a very important clue along those lines, especially if you tie it with what happened last issue. The two members of Runaways create a tenuous allegiance with the Avengers Academy camp, but it's instantly broken when it appears that Chase betrays Reptil and burns him. When you consider the nature of the game, and the seeming reality distorting abilities against Juston's Sentinel and Darkhawk I want to say Arcade is behind the attacks, not actually killing any of them, but carefully sewing dissent to turn everyone on everyone. He can't MAKE them fight each other, but he can carefully manipulate them, break down trust and breed paranoia and watch the chaos unleash itself.
I really felt something for Nico more than Chase. Chase is shown to be plenty sympathic a character, I just connected with Nico more. Her powers are pretty dark, and seem to carry a heavy emotional toll on her. But Chase is a very specific and unfortunate type of alone. He's got someone close and yet he's still alone with her. He feels something for her, and she clearly feels something for him, but she seems more conflicted about it. And Hazmat's already been established here as someone wallowing in despair, but hiding it with anger. She's clearly torn up about Mettle's death, but she's trying to hide it. I'm so frustrated by all the haters whining about cheap death because I'm finding it so hard to NOT care about every single character. There's a few I don't care for as much as others, but everyone seems to have something going for them that I can latch onto for emotional intensity. Plus the death has slowed down, there's two potentials, who likely aren't dead if others are confirmed. So four issues in and still only two confirmed death. That's not such a crazy bloodbath. So everyone just shut the hell up! Dennis Hopeless is a damn good writer, not once do I feel this is gimmicky, and this is within my top 5 Marvel comics when I knew NONE of the characters before and now I care about ALL of them. THAT'S GOOD WRITING SO SHUT UP. That final page twist is totally insane and out of nowhere though, not sure how I feel about it yet, but it is shocking.
In Conclusion: 4.5/5
It's hard to repeat the intensity of the first three issues, especially when things are settling into a groove a bit more. This issue really helps establish the tone now that things are moving in a more focused direction. This issue was something we needed, a bit more scattershot in its focus, but it's just as damn good as I've come to expect. Haters gonna hate.