the_mighty_monarch's Avengers Arena #6 - Pawn Takes King review

DANGER ZONES!

After two pretty weak covers, this series makes up for it in full with another absolutely brilliant one. I'm not sure if it's a tribute like most of the others, but I absolutely love it. It brings an odd, almost lighthearted tone to the series, that it needs in small doses like this to balance out the tragedy just enough. It's amazing how silly this cover is without being completely Deadpool-goofy. I mean, sexy-posing Darkhawk with a starfish on his chest comes pretty close to absolutely gut-busting, but the overall presentation is just subtle enough to make a perfect fit. The choice of various characters from the different camps works well, creating a nice cover with a well rounded segment of the overall cast.

Do I need to keep saying Kev Walker's art is excellent? Probably not, but dammit, it is. It looks great and it fits the tone PERFECTLY.

Once again, this issue focuses on one of the new characters from the Braddock Academy, Anachronism. We finally start to understand what his whole deal is, powers and personality and everything, and like the rest of the focused characters (excluding Kid Briton) he's likable, sympathetic, and filled with intense personal struggle. This issue is a bit more of a direct follow-up on the previous issue than any other, even the flashbacks link up nicely with the ones from the previous issue. Anachronism has a weird and complex 'relationship' with the bitchy fish woman Nara. I'm trying to figure out what Nara's deal is, because she seems far more interested in Anachronism than Kid Briton who she was actually sleeping with, but she's only interested in Anachronism if she can draw out the 'bad boy' inside him. The internal decisions she's trying to get him to make are.... VERY morally complex. It's hard to say just how much of it is right, and how much is just mean, especially when it balances contradicting different lessons we usually see in these kinds of stories. Even weirder than that is the kind of twisted reasons that Anachronism is so attracted to Nara in the first place.

Basically, the Braddock Academy students here are the most psychologically damaged and dysfunctional group. Apex begins to show her true colors, with an amazing talent for psychological manipulation, and no demonstration of her own actual abilities yet. They're such a varied group, and infinitely entertaining and fascinating to watch interacting in action. But this issue, like the last one, is very well rounded with the cast, giving us key moments with each of the now three main camps. Basically, at this point Arcade is more openly twisting various little screws to create more frenzied Murder World violence. He didn't even need to pit the Braddock Academy students against each other, but when half the group went a different way, he basically threw them back together for a fight. The Avengers Academy group were a little more directly manipulated, but it all boils down to Murder World now being a significantly more openly dangerous place, Tension's been building, and now it's finally hit an explosive trigger into full violence. The powder keg has been ignited.

In Conclusion: 5/5

I have no complaints about this issue whatsoever. Apparently 'Trigger Scent' has some kind of history, but personally I think it's got a really cheesy name. I think too many people are quick to cry foul on it at this point. We don't know what the deal is with Arcade's RIDICULOUS new powers yet, we can't underestimate him in any regard until we know the facts. But seriously, this is a gorgeous and RIDICULOUSLY emotionally powerful series, and at the point we've reached in the series, anyone still reading it has very little logical legs to stand on for justifying the ire this series has generated. It's one of my absolute favorite Marvel books on the shelves right now, and I can't wait to see how it plays out.

3 Comments
Posted by akbogert

Great review. There wasn't a lot said about this issue for a while, but by all accounts it's the best one yet.

Two notes:

1. Trigger Scent is the equivalent of kryptonite for Laura. And the way it was handled in here is literally the most infuriating thing that could possibly have been done (speaking as an X-23 fan) short of having her just randomly kill someone. It is a highly advanced chemical compound specifically designed to work with her DNA, to produce a very specific behavior. It's also a top-secret compound, because Laura was designed to be a weapon to be used by high-ball bidders, and if everyone knew the secret to controlling her there would have been no market. So very few people should even know it exists, and there's zero feasibility to the idea that anyone could manufacture their own. Even if they could, it would require having access to Laura's genetic map, and it would take years. What Hopeless did here is as stupid as if a writer had one of Superman's joke villains, who previously knew nothing about Krypton (nevermind Kryptonite), and who did not even have the original Kryptonite to study and work from, magically concoct his own fake Kryptonite which was just as effective against Superman.

And it would be bad enough if Hopeless had just done that, but it's the reason for doing it that makes it all the more infuriating: to either make Laura kill, or make the other kids unable to trust her/see her as a threat. The fact that he could not find a canon-respecting way to do that, and had to completely break the rules of her entire character history (seriously, TS is supposed to be her only real weakness, it can't just materialize) in order to make her fit into his story -- that is the infuriating part.

2. I have written numerous blogs on this series. I invite you to address any of the points I've made in them (and in the lengthy comments that usually follow) if you seriously believe I have "very little logical legs to stand on."

Posted by The Mighty Monarch

@akbogert said:

2. I have written numerous blogs on this series. I invite you to address any of the points I've made in them (and in the lengthy comments that usually follow) if you seriously believe I have "very little logical legs to stand on."

Ok, that was a little harsh of me, but I've been seeing a wildly overwhelming hatred of this series, and MOST of the common complaints I believe are entirely unjustified. I've skimmed a few of your blogs, and I think used some of them to craft specific points to counterargue in various reviews of it, but when I get a chance I'll look into them in full. Glad you enjoyed the review though. I do think there might be a bit more to see what the full deal is with the Trigger Scent though, and it's effects on the rest of the cast, before it can be completely torn down. But again, that's still an outsider to X-23's opinion.

Posted by akbogert

@The Mighty Monarch:

Well, let's be clear. I am glad that he at least bothered to have some form of TS. That's the only acceptable way that X-23, after years of her entire character's story being devoted to caring about herself, her friends, and refusing to be used as a weapon for other people's amusement/will (notice how aggravating that she finds herself in this book of all places), would ever actually hurt anyone. She would (and even has tried to in the past) absolutely sacrifice herself before ever trying to hurt any of the other kids. Maybe in an act of defending someone against a vicious attack, she would kill? But as far as Arcade's plans, it wasn't going to happen without TS.

But that doesn't negate the fact that Arcade should absolutely, under no circumstances, have been able to manufacture it. It has been a highly-prized compound on the black market; people have killed and died to acquire a small vial of it, that's how rare it is. And seeing as X-23 was marketed to the most powerful and wealthy crime bosses in the world, Hopeless is asking us to believe that Arcade managed to "easily" (considering his "two weeks" remark) whip up something which no other evil genius in the world was ever able to.

Honestly, had Arcade just said he "had a source" or "knew someone" or had "friends in low places," I'd have been fine with it. I accept that he could have gotten his hands on some. But making it? That's too convenient.

As for its effects -- TS makes Laura kill. That's what it does. So either she'll kill, or people will be afraid that she'll kill...there's not really any other thing that can come of it.

Other reviews for Avengers Arena #6 - Pawn Takes King

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    Avengers Arena #6 ReviewOverview:There is a heavy focus on the more unknown kids here as the groups try to make it to the safe zones.The Good:This was probably the best issue yet and it had almost zero focus on the “mainstream” characters (X-23, Nico, etc.) and almost entirely on Anachronism and the other British kids. The plot mainly revolves around Anachronism and his mysterious ability and how he is friends with several of the other kids he was traveling with. His actions at the end are parti...

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