Once again, the biggest reason to purchase this book is Kevin Walker (pencils) and Frank Martin Jr. (colors). Even if you loathe this series with every inch of your body, there's simply no denying this team makes the book look fantastic. The facial expressions are spot on, there's exceptional use of shading, and each page is glowing with colors. Love or hate the concept, at least your eyes are sure to have a terrific time with this series.
Dennis Hopeless puts a key focus on one character in each issue and usually they hog the majority of the spotlight. Naturally, this can be hit or miss if the character's backstory isn't all that interesting. Here, I found Kid Briton's tale to be more engaging. Simply put, he's a total jerk, but sometimes hating a character can be far more investing than tolerating a mediocre story for a likable character. Now, I'm not saying his backstory is grand or anything, but it is indeed amusing, especially the bit about slaying dragons. This is the one character you'll want to see forced into this terrible scenario.
Additionally, Hopeless does a better job juggling the rest of the teenagers. Each group is given a fair amount of panel time and a new alliance is formed. Hopeless is also delivering a few more variables in this seemingly standard / unoriginal plot, particularly with Death Locket. Arcade has changed up the game, deeming the current events boring. The motivation isn't original (again, this is something in The Hunger Games), but regardless, it makes sense and adds a little more desperation to the event.
My biggest gripe here is the repetitive formula and the scenario doesn't feel as dire as it should. Right now there's nothing that makes me feel like these heroes will kill one another if they bump into another group. Sure, they might fight when they get to the resources, but is that really enough to kill a fellow hero? I find that tough to swallow, even if some of them are rather selfish. If a book is based around the premise of killing characters, you don't want the deaths to feel as cheap as the concept. You want to give these characters (some which of course have a large fanbase) a death they can be proud of, or better yet, surprise us by having them overcome this scenario. Only time will tell if that happens but right now I can't logically believe they'd be willing to cross the line.
As for the formula, I can't help but feel as though Hopeless needs to switch it up a bit. Every issue focuses on a character's backstory and then has a side focus on current events. It would be nice to have an issue dedicated just to the present in order to make us fully grasp the horrific situation they're in. I get the backstory is mandatory to develop an emotional connection to new characters, but I'd love to dive deeper into Murder World and see just how just how taxing it truly is.
If you're not a fan of this one, nothing here's going to win you over and you should just save your money. That said, I know you'll be following along to know if one of your favorites dies, so I'll go ahead and tell you: no one dies in this issue. But if you're enjoying the series or at least interested in it, then odds are you'll find this to be an okay chapter. It's heavy on amazing visuals and takes a few small steps to move the overall narrative forward while providing some fairly amusing banter. I'm sure the "they're in virtual reality!" believers will be happy to know that theory is briefly brought up in the issue, too.