Murder World's Mental Map
I feel like it's a little too early, but it's still nice to get some explanation. But at the same time, it might be perfect. At this point, Arcade is no longer the greatest threat on Murder World. He's done his starting job, and he's ready to jump into more subtle manipulations, but he's reached the point where he can sit back and watch things unfold, so it doesn't exactly reduce the tension to get the behind the scenes look, and reveal that some of his powers aren't genuine. But there are some important things set in stone about Arcade's powers. First and foremost, they're not in a virtual reality, so dead is dead. Second, it's in Murder World that he truly is a 'god,' as he claimed. Coriander even makes a point of mentioning he could probably beat Thor, a true God, in his new Murder World. Arcade is not to be trifled with in his world, so things are still dangerous, and if the 'real' Avengers swoop in for a rescue, they could still be at risk.
But that's all summed up at the end, the rest of this issue follows the trend of the series and focuses deeply on the intense emotional character work. Instead of getting all kind of specs on him building Murder World, we get to see what pushed him to it. What drove him to change his m.o. ever so slightly on the surface, but significantly so on the inside?
What it comes down to, is Arcade facing the truth of who he is, one that he's lied to himself about for years. That he's a cheat. He's a sore loser who tries everything he can think of to avoid it, from cheating to attempting to rationalize a false comforting thought.
You could say this issue explains how he knows about Trigger Scent, albeit subtly. Arcade makes a big point of wiring up the sound for his birthday party, a huge bash that all the major villains attend more out of respect for a good party than any personal love for Arcade, and listening in on the various gossips that slip drunken tongues and loose lips. I mean, it didn't bother me because I had no previous exposure to the substance, but I'm taking this as a valid justification.
Alessandro Vitti's guest art is extremely fitting in this issue, justifying the lack of Walker with this being a side story. THIS is the kind of guest art that works. There's something different, but equally dark about Vitti's work, and I think it was perfect for this specific issue, and honestly more fitting than Kev Walker's would've been. Vitti nails all the key intense facial expressions and unique expressions of violence in this issue that help make this issue work so damn well.
There's also one last interesting little twist to this issue, where Arcade's former assistant, Coriander, has apparently grown beyond his league during his temporary retirement. It's an intriguing potential hook for a big future story, or perhaps foreshadowing a later twist in this story. Regardless, their incredibly dysfunctional relationship of sorts is key to Arcade's development, and forms the brilliant hidden backbone to this issue.
In Conclusion: 5/5
The explanation for a lot of the more unbelievable aspects of this series was short and sweet. Straight to the point without lingering an extra moment longer than needed. The rest of this issue creates a much more important framework for this series, the motivation behind everything in it. The 'rip-off' nature, the changed m.o.o, and even the framework behind crafting the previously unbelievable elements of the series; all of it is fully spelled out in this issue without taking away ALL of the mystery or reducing the tension. If anything, it increases the tension by disproving the virtual reality theory.