If Hunger Games Focused On Every Character
This is one of the three Marvel Now comics that I picked up in hopes of getting back into the genre. The other two were Hawkeye and Superior Spider-Man, fantastic volumes full of wonderful characterization and very solid stories. Here, however, I was reminded how this isn't always the case.
The plot is very bare-bones. This is Hunger Games, but with teenage superheroes from various series, such as Avengers Academy and Runaways, among others. The first issue even references the source material, which is nice, showing that this is a tribute or play off the popular book series and not a complete rip-off. However, the series definitely suffers from this simplicity. Going into the book, there aren't many surprises in this sense; we know what's meant to happen, we know that, in the end, there is likely to only be one standing. And that would be all fine and well if the stakes were really here. For me, it wasn't. Being new to comics as of late after a ten year drought, the only figure who I had any familiarity with was X-23, and I'm not really a fan of her character at all. She feels shallow, a poor-man's Wolverine, and I'm not even much a fan of him anymore. So, the question is, who am I supposed to root for? There are 16 figures here, yet I know almost nothing about any of them. At least in the Hunger Games, we're given a lot of background on our main characters so we have a reason to support them. The series, because of this, boils down to each issue spotlighting one or two characters, giving readers flashbacks on their origins or what was happening to them immediately before the games started, and, because everyone only gets little time to develop, they all feel like token characters with one characteristic to carry them along. So, generally I rooted for the ones that looked the coolest.
But even then, there's a major issue with the 1st scene of the series; it's a flash forward. Readers get a glimpse of- get this- the very end of the series, what we can assume to be almost the final moments of the games, and it's made pretty clear, at least to me, who is going to win (the main character of that issue, for those who read it). And that pretty much defeats the whole purpose of the story; we practically knows who wins. So why read anymore? Why waste your money? It feels genuinely disappointing and frustrating, like I was cheated out of a good story. And, even if this doesn't bother you terribly, the readers now know two characters who make it to pretty much the end of the series for sure, and that removes a lot of the drama of the story.
Also, I feel like X-23 is way too over-powered for this series. Essentially being Wolverine, it looks like she can just about dispatch anyone, and that again takes a lot out of the story, making it weaker as a whole.
The art is pretty solid overall, although issue 4, for some reason, has a different artist, which kind of bothered me, but it wasn't so different that it was awful or anything. It's bright and colorful, enjoyable to look at.
I'm now going to delve into a few minor spoilers, so avert your eyes from this paragraph if you don't want any. Still here? Good. So, it feels like the book is going in a pretty predictable pace at this rate. Of the 16 characters, 5 die in this volume (and I use the term die somewhat loosely), with 2 big ones book-ending the volume. This suggests that the book will last 3 volumes total, but honestly, who knows if they'll try to stretch it out anymore. This, again, makes the story feel too formulaic and predictable, and leaves most of the middle of the book feeling empty and devoid of interesting things to do beyond trying to characterize everyone as quickly as possible.
Also, Arcade isn't the most fascinating of villains. He comes off as full of himself, which is understandable, but he doesn't have much personality beyond this. And this is, more or less, for two reasons. The first was that, in the original comics, I don't believe he had much of a persona beyond this, a rather simple figure. And the second is that he just isn't around much. Yes, he's always there technically, but there just isn't enough interaction between him and the characters, or with the audience. The next volume promises a better insight into his character, but I can't say that I'll ever get around to picking that up.
There were some parts of this that were really good, though. The superheroes initial reluctance to participate, doing everything in their power to defeat Arcade. The beautiful death panels. The last two issues, that actually develops a couple of characters rather nicely. But the frustrations definitely outweigh these by a landslide, and it leaves me wishing this volume had more of the series within it to encourage me to read forward. However, there's just no getting around that this is a poorly written and poorly organized book that gives too much away early on and doesn't think ahead. If it's any consolation, I'll probably Google how it ends.