• 97 results
  • 1
  • 2
Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

[Note: while an argument could be made this belongs more in the Avengers Arena section, my argument deals in part with the entire Marvel Universe, hence Gen. Discussion]

When I first started out here on Comic Vine, furiously raging against Avengers Arena, I was careful about one thing in particular: judging Dennis Hopeless' skills as a writer. As many legitimate charges as I believed (and have not been given reason to disbelieve) I have against Hopeless, poor writing chops weren't among them. But as time has gone by, I am beginning to change my opinion on that as well. Because a growing list of concerns mounts before me, some of which have been explained away by theories, but others of which are glaring and, unless Hopeless is the greatest writer ever hired, seemingly impossible to reconcile with any amount of plot twisting.

So yes, without having actually read most of Hopeless' words, I'm going to critique his writing. Which I can do, because I'm not critiquing his lines, but what's found between them.

First, though, I want to point out a basic objection I have begun to form based on the numerous reviews I have been reading (seriously, I read every one I can find), and that is the fact that so often Arena is praised for introducing and explaining the characters, taking issue after issue for what mostly amounts to exposition.

Here's the problem. What other book are you reading, comprised of established characters with years of history, which takes its first half-dozen issues to catch you up on those characters and their abilities? Which X-Men book focuses on one X-Man per issue for months while progressing its actual plot at a snail's pace, so that just in case you don't know anything about, say, Magik or Psylocke, you'll have enough to go off of going forward that would not otherwise have been made obvious through brief exchanges and the character's own behavior as the story organically progressed?

The only reason you'd feel compelled to spend so much time explaining known characters' back stories is if you took as a basic assumption going into the book that the majority of the people who would read and follow it do not know the characters. In other words, you write under the assumption that people who like what you're writing are not current fans of the characters; that, in fact, the extant fans of these characters will be the minority of your readership. Were the reverse true, you would hardly need to tell them who these characters are.

And that's not just me, either. Just today I read a fan of the book, among a list of defenses, actually praise Hopeless for how "he's slowly telling you who these people are." Hopeless is slowly introducing the characters. As if no one knows or cares about them already. As if most of the people reading the book need to be told who they are because they don't know or care. As if the whole book is written under the assumption that its audience will not consist of actual extant fans of the characters. As if it didn't even try to respect or attract or cater to those people or assume they'd be part of the readership. As if it took for granted that fans of the characters being used in this book would be against it from the start, and the remainder of the readership would need catching up.

It's telling that I frequently see fans of Avengers Arena who can't tell which characters are brand new and which ones have been around for years. One might credit that to Hopeless' skill with making new characters seem rich, but I see it more as his failure to respectfully grapple with the actual depth that the older characters have been gifted with over the years, and which the readers he's not counting on to support his book learned to love those characters for.

The nifty benefit of assuming no one who knows better is watching? Not having to actually stick to the characters' histories. Now it's one thing to write a character a bit differently, sure. But when you're not relying on fans to call you out, you can do a great many things which you'd never get away with in a book targeted towards people who actually care. Things such as:

  • Splattering the blood and gore of a bloodless character across the first issue. (Mettle)
  • Making an angsty, troubled teen read as a heartless and hate-filled douchebag (Hazmat -- seriously, so many people just considered her a jerk)
  • Disabling one of the most powerful artifacts in the entire universe because its actual powers would be inconvenient to your story. (Staff of One)
  • Equipping multiple characters with outdated versions of their equipment and expecting neither your readers nor the characters themselves to notice or comment. (Nico/Chase - Staff of One & Fistigons)
  • Writing a complicated character in a way far more in keeping with the misconceptions of people who do not like her: feral & prone to violent outbursts (X-23)
  • Allowing a copy of your book to go to press with said character's signature two claws increased by one, even if it was only in one panel and even if you corrected it for digital versions. (X-23)
  • Handling a cosmic, somewhat sentient amulet as if it were a mere product off Stark Industries' product line. (Darkhawk Amulet)

My initial complaints about Hopeless and this book were based on the premise that a person who cared about these characters would not take so much pleasure in repeatedly informing interviewers that they were going to die. That was a major focal point of pretty much all of the PR early on -- "did I mention people die?" I cited earlier indications that Hopeless had ambivalence, if not outright disdain, towards fans concerned about what he was doing.

And now it seems, based on the actual writing, that he really doesn't know or care about these characters. He's said he hand-picked the kids, but he seems to have picked them not for their stories or selves but for the interesting ways their powers might factor into various conflicts in the book, as if the powers were the characters themselves. X-23's not just a violent and emotionless killing machine with healing factor and claws? Eh, close enough. Nico has used different staffs, and they're supposed to be kind of all-powerful? Eh, close enough. Mettle's body has no flesh or blood in it? Eh, close enough.

I began by having a problem with what Hopeless was doing. Four issues in, I have plenty of problems with how he's doing it, too. Add this to the large plot holes which are ostensibly supposed to be covered in issue 7 (but who knows), and you have a less than sunny picture.

The thing is, while faulty tech can be explained by the old "all just a simulation" story, the characters' failing to notice honestly can't. That's the first major writing conundrum I have (beyond disregard for canon, which in my mind is the very definition of bad writing when you're working for a publisher). To have done it in the first place is sloppy -- but to be unable to cover for it is even worse. I've yet to hear a decent explanation of the characters' own obliviousness to their inconsistencies, which suggests that they are the product of ignorant writing rather than of clever authorial manipulation.

Nevertheless, folks continue coming back to the virtual reality theory, which begs the question: how?

Is it Arcade who has hooked these kids into some very complicated simulation? Okay then, let's look at The Rather Gaping Hole(s) That Will Need To Be Filled... which I raised awhile back. How did Arcade get these kids? We're told that may be explained. We're told the kidnappings happened on Christmas, when they'd have been in less secure environments (though one wonders what Darkhawk's story is, considering his amulet's abilities).

Lest anyone try to answer that question and think they've undone my whole argument, the more important follow-up is and then what? Why has no one noticed or done anything since then? Pym had kids stolen from his school. Wolverine's got an AWOL daughter. Abigail Brand literally had Cammi stolen from in front of her mid-conversation. And yet these characters exist elsewhere, in books beyond Arena's pages, in a universe whose continuity is contingent enough that a writer like Marjorie Liu can't touch them because they are officially off-limits in Murderworld. As far as Marvel is concerned, these kids are somewhere they don't want to be. And yet no one notices. Pym, Logan, Brand, not to mention the larger worlds of Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., & S.W.O.R.D., wherever they appear in other books, do not seem to have noticed anything at all. Nevermind that they're also not shown caring within the book that had the kids taken from them.

Yeah, sure, seeming impossibilities between books happen all the time in comics. But it's one thing to question how Wolverine can be on X-Force while with the X-Men while with his own school. It's another thing to say Wolverine is definitively only in one place, has been taken by a specific villain from, say, right in front of Thor, and then neither Thor nor anyone else says anything about it again for weeks to any of the characters in any of the various books in which he appears. You just can't do that. It's beyond convenient. It's making an absolute impossibility happen "because I said so." It's saying "for the next week anyone can pick up Mjolnir, because it'd be more fun if stuff could just happen the way I say it happens and don't bother me about the details because that's not the point of the story i'm trying to tell" (which is basically what Hopeless has said when asked about why other people aren't noticing -- that he doesn't want to focus on it because that would make telling his story not work so well).

It's one thing to say "that's not my focus," but it's another thing to ignore the fissures in a major supporting pillar of your story. If we can't have reasonably explained to us how Arcade managed to capture kids and get them to a place where no one in the world -- no government, no mutant tech, no tracker, no anyone -- can find them, and if we aren't going to be shown said government, mutants, heroes, etc. flipping the heck out because of this insane turn of events and show of heretofore unknown power -- then why on earth should we accept anything else about this book? Why should we accept that deaths -- physical or psychological -- are happening to characters who never stood a chance in terms of canon or logic?

It's not just that Arcade's powers are too strong to be real. It's that even if what he is doing within Murderworld is an illusion, his kidnapping of the kids isn't. He still has that ability. He's still hidden them miraculously. And there's still no one in the Marvel Universe who seems to care or notice.

So some people, of course, say that Arcade, too, is part of the illusion (though of course Hopeless has already said that Arcade is Arcade). Granted, there's still no good substitute (Pym, for example, would never dream of putting kids through something like this), and even if there were you again have the question of why no one in the universe cares. Despite the fact that the events of Avengers Arena look to be real, permanent, and canon, they all exist within a vacuum which the rest of Marvel ignores. As if, should, say, X-23 die, Wolverine will never notice. And if he does notice eventually, what's the explanation for him not noticing earlier? Other than, of course, because Hopeless would consider that inconvenient to his plot.

Of course, beyond all that, there's the minor question of what's really gained by the virtual reality conceit. For the characters, sure, it makes sense for them to think everything's real. But the readers? What does tricking them really accomplish? It adds an element of theoretical danger (even as more people convince themselves that this can't be real), but is that really what's driving the book? If we presume that the character development is real even if the bodies at risk are not, then the things keeping people interested are still intact even if we know from page one that this is actually a game. Mettle's death can be construed as interesting as a motivator to Hazmat and as a warning to the other characters -- not simply because Mettle died. If we knew he wasn't really dead, that wouldn't take away the interesting part of it.

Meanwhile, you have people who are refusing to buy this book but, if we knew for sure that the kids weren't actually in danger, would happily pick it up, because this could be interesting to see play out. It could lead to great character development. And it could introduce new characters which could emerge quite popular enough to stick around in other titles.

But the only character development this book seems keen on making is the sort which is, again, close enough -- enough to give clueless readers an idea of who these kids are and why they should care about them. Just enough connection so that readers feel something when the kids they never used to care about end up dead. Readers' ignorance of characters is a foregone conclusion, and folks who meet that criteria feel justified in saying to people like me "hey, he's writing these characters well, you should stop complaining." He's writing them well enough. Enough to keep you interested. But not enough to actually do them or any deaths justice outside the context of his own needs. Again, this book is a vacuum. By ignoring the implications of Arcade's actions on the contingent universe, Hopeless ensures that nothing that happens within Arena CAN have any implications on the contingent universe. The deaths, rather than being personal, meaningful, and respectable (and rather than doing any sort of justice to the legacy of the character and the dedication of the readers), are instead lumped together in such a fashion that the only impact they are capable of having is a sum horror when the world realizes that Arcade is around and means business.

Maybe I put that confusingly? The point is the individual deaths are stripped of meaning by happening in a contained and quarantined (both literally, and literarily) environment, which will only infringe on the external world after it's too late to change things, so the impact will be of the amalgamated death toll rather than of any one character's loss. You're not going to see a funeral for each individual kid. You're going to get a mass grave.

I've said it so many times that I've gotten sick of hearing myself, but for a person like me, the quality of the dialogue or the intrigue of the plot mean absolutely nothing. They have no bearing on my feelings about the book. Because the best writing in the world doesn't justify these deaths in the scheme of it all. No clever little tale can justify dovetailing years of character development and growth into a handful of unmarked graves. A hero's death, if it must happen, should speak volumes either about the magnitude of the event in which she dies, or about the legacy of the character himself. Yet death in Arena is impersonal and trivial; no matter how well-told, it serves no one's purposes but Arcade's.

Take away the death, and I'm sold. I'll go pick up every issue. I'll revel in the dialogue and marvel at the art. But until then, I want it to be crystal clear: I'm not boycotting Avengers Arena because I think it's "just about killing." I'm boycotting it because, no matter what else it may be about, killing is an inextricable part. Add to that the fact that the killing is being done by someone who shouldn't be capable, and it's being done to characters he shouldn't have been able to capture, and all the while no one who should be noticing and reacting to these things is doing anything of the kind, and, yeah, I have bones to pick with this book. A whole skeleton's worth.

[EDIT: Addendum Tuesday, March 15, ~ 5:00 p.m.]

I didn't know quite where to share this (and given a new, ostensibly "shocking" issue tomorrow, I didn't want to do a whole new blog with the potential for another one less than 24 hours away), so it's gonna go here.

So, one of the free issues I snagged from that Marvel FIRST giveaway was AA #1, because I'm okay with sending the message "I'm interested, but I'm not going to pay for this." Honestly I'm not sure how they plan to use the information on what people download -- whether they'll try to adapt it into further business plans, or whether the hope was simply to get people hooked on runs which they will then pay to follow. That's besides the point.

The point is, I finally actually read an issue and (far more importantly) the letters section at the end (I now wish I could find scans of just the letters sections, honestly).

And...well honestly, I just don't see the virtual reality argument. I see why people want it. I even sort of got that vibe from the suspended animation/life bar thing (though the latter has been claimed by Hopeless to literally have just been an aesthetic decision, not part of the plot).

Now, my latest point still stands; it's all well and good for Hopeless to have Arcade say "You're completely cut off. Nobody is coming to get you. Trust me, they wouldn't know where to look." But I want an explanation, because there are some incredibly sophisticated tracking technologies and mutations which cannot, in the interest of good writing, actually be ignored. His whole "self-contained. self-contained. self-contained." bit -- because "this concept only works if there's no way out" -- is only as good as he can defend how they ended up in a self-contained trap. So long as that remains unexplained, it will continue to infuriate me.

But to the letters.

Rosemann's introduction to the letters begins with "So that was pretty intense, huh? I mean, just when Hazmat and Mettle have a taste of a happy life it's all ripped away." And suddenly, any optimism I may have had is just gone. Absolutely gone. It's funny because for some reason there are people who, months later, still have optimism -- but I'd have lost it from day one with that intro. It's a blatant admission of precisely why fans would be upset. This book came just one month after the conclusion of Academy. Many readers of Academy were sold this issue thinking of it as a spiritual successor -- retailers even treated it as if it were the same book, and just pulled the first issue for all their Academy subscribers. And immediately these fans saw the optimistic trajectory of the book they'd been following crash and burn in a bloody smear. The editor's comment on that? "Wow. So intense!"

Of course, Hopeless really has nothing to offer to help. Two pages from Mettle's gory end, in response to a letter in which the writer says "Don't you dare to do something to Mettle and Hazmat," Hopeless' answer is "So, um...sorry about Mettle. He died a hero's death and will be missed by all of his fans, me among them."

As I've said earlier, the thing I find truly scary about this book is the fact that Hopeless may actually believe he's justified in what he is doing. To him, the sacrificial nature of Mettle's death was fittingly respectful. It was, to Hopeless, satisfactory. And yet few of the "other" (as he counts himself among them) Mettle fans I've seen have agreed with that assessment. Most are like me: they see it as fridging, shock value to establish high stakes, maybe to motivate Hazmat (but again, that's textbook fridging). So either Hopeless is callous and doesn't care at all about characters, or he's genuinely convinced that what he did to Mettle was okay. And that's what makes the prospect of other characters being at his disposal all the more terrifying. Writing him off as a heartless tool is a lot easier than seeing him as a well-meaning but horrifically misguided storyteller. But these letters, and particularly that one, have me thinking it's more of the latter.

Anyhow, the only other real note I have is that Hopeless' comment that "This is a character-driven story" really only holds water if the characters don't die. No amount of development is worth a thing if it simply dovetails in a death. People who have contradicted my interpretations in the past, should take note of what I said, and what Hopeless said. What I said, having not read the letters:

But the only character development this book seems keen on making is the sort which is, again, close enough -- enough to give clueless readers an idea of who these kids are and why they should care about them. Just enough connection so that readers feel something when the kids they never used to care about end up dead.

And now, what Hopeless wrote before Issue 1 even hit presses:

...A lot of people question why AA is an ongoing series and not a mini. Here's why: For this book to succeed, we have to earn the concept. We have to make you love the characters even if you never read a page of their previous series. We need you to care how it all turns out and to feel each and every death. In order to get there, we need space...

So...who wants to tell me I'm wrong again?

#1 Posted by Ravager4 (1627 posts) - - Show Bio

#2 Posted by c2thaj (51 posts) - - Show Bio

Arena is starting to feel like Lost.

Well at least it's boring me as much.

Good rant btw.

#3 Posted by YourNeighborhoodComicGeek (19908 posts) - - Show Bio

Best rant I've read in a while.

#4 Posted by MatKrenz (1233 posts) - - Show Bio

So wait did you read the series or just looked at scans and synopsis for each issue ?

Online
#5 Edited by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@MatKrenz said:

So wait did you read the series or just looked at scans and synopsis for each issue ?

@akbogert said:

So yes, without having actually read most of Hopeless' words, I'm going to critique his writing. Which I can do, because I'm not critiquing his lines, but what's found between them.

I have done everything short of pirate the series, basically. I've read every scan I could find, every single review for the first three or four pages of Google searching each issue, and hours and hours worth of conversations between readers on a variety of sites. Most of the specific things I critique are from scans, though a few are from amalgamated reading of what plenty of people verify having happened in their conversations. I'd like to think I'm the most well-informed non-reader ever. Of this series, anyway :) Of course, I've established my reasoning for complaining while also not reading elsewhere.

#6 Posted by ShadowX (1210 posts) - - Show Bio

excellent rant. i agree 100% percent

Online
#7 Posted by MatKrenz (1233 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert: Dammit, I always miss one paragraph in any kind of huge wall of text posts.

Anywho it's usually been my philosophy that if your gonna talk or review something you should read/watch it in it's entirety. Even if you read all the available scans you could easily miss the one scan of that one panel that ties everything together. A piece of art should be criticized in it's entirety and not piecing them together. If you are reading the between the lines, cause most of the time subtext in a story makes no damn sense if you haven't read the actual text.

I really don't want to get in my fourth argument about this series because it's such a broken record at this point but I just needed to write my two cents. Cause everyone has them and everyone wants to throw them out.

Online
#8 Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@MatKrenz: I understand that stance. Usually I'd agree. But I don't in this case. I don't think one needs to fiscally support something in order to earn the right to criticize its ethicality.

And of course, with an attack this high-profile (community-wise), I'm obviously opening myself up for anyone who has a way to rebut my concerns. I don't think I'm complaining about anything which the specifics of the book would obviate, though.

#9 Posted by DarkxSeraph (672 posts) - - Show Bio

Are we watching a character assassination of Laura just as stupid in proportion to Julian's?

#10 Posted by Timandm (3374 posts) - - Show Bio
@c2thaj said:

Arena is starting to feel like Lost.

Well at least it's boring me as much.

Good rant btw.

THAT is SUCH a good description!   Mind if I say it too?   ARENA IS STARTING TO FEEL LIKE LOST.....
 
@akbogert: I hear you... and I feel your pain.  I think you and I have discussed   Arena before and you know that I believe all the deaths will be undone.  In fact, I'm wondering if none of them are real, but rather, Arcade is only making it seem like the deaths are real to the ones in the Arena.  Kind of like an episode of Star Trek Generations where Q, once again, was messing with the crew of enterprise and had them in a fight to the death with klingon-like guys in red coats.  It 'appeared' that the crew was dying, but in actuality, they weren't.  I'm thinking Arena will be like that.  But I could be wrong.
 
I'm also starting to think the writer is using the same technique that is always used in the New Mutants, where the new mutant team is:
  1. Caught by surprised
  2. Has the snot kicked out of them for four issues with no apparent chance of prevailing
  3. They finally win in the last few panels of the last issue of the story.
  4. The ending is usually less than satisfactory in that it leaves many things left unexplained and the bad guy always gets away.

I have to admit, I thought at first that Avengers Arena had potential... But as c2thaj said, "It's starting to feel like Lost..."      
akbogert, I really think this is another case where the writers at Marvel are going to do what they want, anytime they want, with any of the characters they want.... I'm sorry to say....

#11 Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@c2thaj: @YourNeighborhoodComicGeek: @ShadowX: Thank you! I just wish it, you know...mattered.

@DarkxSeraph said:

Are we watching a character assassination of Laura just as stupid in proportion to Julian's?

Who knows? It remains to be seen whether we're getting an actual assassination of Laura. I think it's safe to say that no one who planned to develop her would write her the way Hopeless seems to be. I've seen far too many people talking about her where the word "feral" comes up. This is one of the areas where I can't give a more detailed answer because of having not read the book, but suffice to say she seems to be reacting violently or impulsively (not at everyone, but still, it seems she has snapped at least once). Anyone who actually knows X-23 understands that she's almost robotic in how logical and not prone to emotional outburst she is. The fact that anyone could even suggest that she's wild or aggressive suggests that yes, she's being quite badly written. And in this preview of the next issue, all I can say is, there better freaking be trigger scent involved:

...because if she's just frothing and attacking people, I...I can't be held responsible for my reaction.

@Timandm: Indeed, we've spoken. Of course, this particular argument is a little different, because it doesn't hinge on whether or not the deaths are real. There are still major problems with the kids being kidnapped and going unsought and unfound, regardless of whether they're on an island or connected to a computer. Though to the death thing, again, so much of the PR about this book was "these kids die" "people die" "wait, did i mention people die?" and that strikes me as an odd focal point if you know up-front that no one dies. Lying isn't of course a new thing, but being so aggressively forward with a lie...I don't know, I just can't let myself develop a hope that I've yet to see a firm foundation for.

Even proven, phenomenal writers have been denied the kind of freedom Hopeless seems to have been given here. That should piss people off regardless of the story he's telling.

#12 Posted by Timandm (3374 posts) - - Show Bio
@akbogert: Completely agree with you there...
#13 Posted by DarkxSeraph (672 posts) - - Show Bio

This breaks my heart. Now I know why our friend, Target_X is so unhappy with this series.

#14 Posted by lykopis (10756 posts) - - Show Bio

For a non-reader, you have a better grasp of this series then some of us who have it on our pull-list. Every point you made -- every inconsistency -- bang on. I already determined Hopeless' writing on this to be awful from the outset -- Mettle's death angered me more toward Hazmat and her role in it.

As for an altered reality, virtual simulation, etc -- it's just us fans blindly reaching for something to make sense out of nonsense. So much license has been taken with all the characters in this book and frankly, portraying teenagers and young adults like petulant, embittered loners when they have already shown themselves to be capable of conducting themselves rationally and productively just adds to the ridiculousness.

I take this book as a joke -- a parody -- a how-to-guide in how writer's tear apart well-established characters for the sake of the story. Stupid is stupid and no, I am not being over-critical -- this book is stupid.

As for Laura being submersed in a fog of trigger scent (as that teaser suggests) -- I won't be expecting her to overcome her bloodlust like she has been proven to be able to in her previous series. Because -- you know -- it won't mesh with what Hopeless has in mind.

My fingers are crossed that once this over, there will be more than a few writers willing to tackle this mess and put it to rights.

#15 Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@DarkxSeraph: Aye. It's just awful. People tell me I'm overreacting when I say Laura's fate in this book is directly tied to my own willingness to continue buying Marvel comics, but I don't really think I am. A company that lets this happen, and happen this way, doesn't deserve my support.

@lykopis said:

For a non-reader, you have a better grasp of this series then some of us who have it on our pull-list. Every point you made -- every inconsistency -- bang on.

You've no idea how happy I am to hear that ^_^ As I told MatKrenz, I do feel uncomfortable making such sweeping accusations without the firsthand knowledge I'd generally expect a critic to have. I'm always very careful to avoid saying anything unsubstantiated, but it's nice to have someone confirm that I'm on-target.

I don't mind Laura killing due to the trigger scent. Sure, I'd find it even more ridiculous, on top of everything else, that Arcade also managed to get that stuff, especially given how it was supposed to have been destroyed and given how at the end of Liu's run a modified version which would affect other people seems to have been made (though the year or two in between the end of that run and now, I'll admit to not being completely clear on, if Trigger has since been brought up again). But at least it would fit the character. I'm more worried that Laura will just be made to flip out without the Trigger, which is just bull.

It's dumb, honestly -- having to pick between seeing my favorite character behave ruthlessly and inconsistently with her history, or seeing her forced into doing the precise thing she has been fighting her whole life to get away from by a character who doesn't even personally care about her. Somehow the latter is actually preferable -- which speaks volumes, to me, on just how stupid this book really is.

#16 Posted by Captain_Yesterday (807 posts) - - Show Bio

Whoa, that's one long thought on a book you don't like or read.

Anyway, I was mildly interested and considering checking this out when it first came out, now I'm glad a didn't

Nice post.

#17 Posted by Daycrawler (552 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert:

Got to take issue about your point re: taking a half dozen issues to go over established character's histories. We're 5 issues in. One issue has been about setup, 2 about new characters, 1 about a character with little in the way of background (Cammi), so really it's only one that has spent any amount of time re-establishing well known characters (runaways).Think what the fan you are refering to was probably meaning is he's taking his time to introduce the brand new / poorly established characters, without completely assuming that everone already knows about the established ones. That's personally what I took from reading all 5 issues.

As for X-23's portrayal, so far so good I reckon. Hopeless has mainly been portraying her as person using her skills to protect her friends and hunt out any dangers/threats against them. She's being logical and aware of the situation, but is shown as still interacting and being concerned for her friends. She's using her skills to benefit her friends. Sure, issue one portrays her with all the negative traits attacking Hazmat, but that's a flash-forward and therefore an out of context snippet. No-one has any idea why she's like that, so I'm reserving judgement on character handling for now, until we see the path Hopeless has plotted to get Laura to that point.

Darkhawk amulet - don't know who's doing all the stealth attacks, so no idea how they're doing what they're doing (like crushing Juston's Sentinel). Obviously it extablished that they are pretty powerful, so don't see the problem with the amulet situation. Again, this could be underminded when the person is unmasked, but until then, if you don't know who's doing it, then you don't know what they can or can't do with things such as the amulet.

Mettle - When he explodes, it's all shadow. You essentially just see shaded bits of him flying apart. No actual gore or blood. Pretty tame really. Red stuff on Hazmat and Arcade could be artistic licence by Walker and not actually specified by Hopeless in the script. May be presumptive to lay this at Hopeless's feet. Whoooo knows? Remember Pym the wife beater!

Hazmat - Mettles horrible death - extreme circumstanses can do extreme things to peoples characters. Especially troubled teens. Out of character behaviour or extreme shifts in behaviour should be expected, so I have no problem with this. I'm sure Hopeless will revisit Hazmat and peel back the layers again at some point.

Hazmat and Mettle's handling from a narrative point are spot on. Established character dies on day one brings home the idea that no-one is safe. Said character's girlfriend is traumtised which raises the issue of character changes/adpations under extreme duress. I though Mettle went out like a hero.

Personally I'm happy enough that the issue of the missing kids isn't branching out to other books. Like the idea that the story is self contained. Hopeless has stated a number of times that we'll be getting to how they got there and why no-one can find them. It's one of the central mysteries of the book and you know it will be dealt with, so it's not a plot hole, just something that will be explained at least partly in the first year and likely in full at some point later. The mystery of it all is part of the fun! Patience grasshopper! I mean, currently Cap is in Dimension Z (for like 10 years!) and Wolvie is stranded with Shanna in the Savage Land, but this isn't being referenced in other books either. No outcry there. Most Marvel NOW books are currently doing self contained stories or ones that only x-over with one other 'sister' title. I'm sure it may well spill over into other books once the series is in double figures, but it's early days.Your getting mad at guesses on what will happen or what might not happen. It's a long-form story.

I don't think the deaths are being stripped of meaning. They have meaning within the story, to the characters in the story (Mettle) and for me the reader. And it's to early to say if there will or won't be any repercussions, etc in the wider MU yet. Uncanny X-Force had a number of deaths and dramatic moments packed full of meaning and resonance that were not diminished from being confined to just that title. In fact, the one death that has been dealt with in the wider MU (Angel, so rebirth too!) has actually been poorly executed for the most part and made me wish they'd not bothered continuing the story point.

Also, Arcade has obviously had a power-up, like just about everybody else in the MU at one point or another. No bad thing there per-se. Again, Hopeless has stated how and when this happened will be expalained (pretty soon actually, in issue 7 I think).

Anyway, I've read a lot and I've typed a lot and my head hurts cos I have a cold. Gonna go read me some Young Avengers. Good, reasoned article btw but I guess we're gonna have to agree to disagree. Loving AA at the moment.

#18 Posted by danhimself (22268 posts) - - Show Bio

ok...I've got to point out one thing here....he may be taking some time to introduce these characters and that's not a problem....these are NOT well established characters...the only established characters are X-23 and Darkhawk...the others are far from established....Cammi has appeared in 25 issues, Juston has appeared in 37 issues, Reptil has appeared in 107 issues, Nico has appeared in 137 issues, Chase has appeared in 132 and those are including other country reprints and trades...the rest are either brand new to this book or have appeared in so few issues that they might as well be new.... so not a lot of people know who they are...so I see no problem with going over their histories...and even if they were well established minor characters there's no problem with giving them an issue a piece to let people who may have not read their other books get to know them a little bit

Online
#19 Edited by lykopis (10756 posts) - - Show Bio

@danhimself said:

ok...I've got to point out one thing here....he may be taking some time to introduce these characters and that's not a problem....these are NOT well established characters...the only established characters are X-23 and Darkhawk...the others are far from established....Cammi has appeared in 25 issues, Juston has appeared in 37 issues, Reptil has appeared in 107 issues, Nico has appeared in 137 issues, Chase has appeared in 132 and those are including other country reprints and trades...the rest are either brand new to this book or have appeared in so few issues that they might as well be new.... so not a lot of people know who they are...so I see no problem with going over their histories...and even if they were well established minor characters there's no problem with giving them an issue a piece to let people who may have not read their other books get to know them a little bit

Sounds like a lot of established characters to me and it's the well established characters that Hopeless is breaking down to fit his plot-line (whatever it might be because I am not sure what that is either).

@Daycrawler:

Mettle was squishee-squishee. Artistic license with blood spray on not just Hazmat, but Arcade himself?

Arcade got a power-up?

He isn't a mutant. He's a rich guy who grew up loving to kill and developed game rooms and worlds to make it amusing and entertaining. He never succeeded killing anyone -- only his assistant in a fit of rage, that's it. Now he's this svelte, scary god-like super being that can have people explode by just thinking about it? Even Sentry had to be hands on when he tore Ares in half. Arcade was a coward, he avoided physical confrontations at all costs -- so no -- not feeling it. He tailored every environment he created specifically for his victim(s). So what's all this? Too much and this whole wait and see doesn't pan out well when it comes to new series. Only so long you can request your reader to suspend their belief and after five books, it's a little much.

Appreciate another person's take on it though.

#20 Posted by danhimself (22268 posts) - - Show Bio

@lykopis said:

@danhimself said:

ok...I've got to point out one thing here....he may be taking some time to introduce these characters and that's not a problem....these are NOT well established characters...the only established characters are X-23 and Darkhawk...the others are far from established....Cammi has appeared in 25 issues, Juston has appeared in 37 issues, Reptil has appeared in 107 issues, Nico has appeared in 137 issues, Chase has appeared in 132 and those are including other country reprints and trades...the rest are either brand new to this book or have appeared in so few issues that they might as well be new.... so not a lot of people know who they are...so I see no problem with going over their histories...and even if they were well established minor characters there's no problem with giving them an issue a piece to let people who may have not read their other books get to know them a little bit

Sounds like a lot of established characters to me and it's the well established characters that Hopeless is breaking down to fit his plot-line (whatever it might be because I am not sure what that is either).

I don't know how you define "established" but the 2 characters who have appeared the most besides X-23 and Darkhawk are Chase and Nico and both have only appeared in the 3 Runaway books and a few guest appearances in other books...the rest are trades and reprints from other countries...even if you include X-23 and Darkhawk...none of these characters are characters who the passive comic book reader or a new comic book reader would know well unless they followed that character in every book they've appeared in....now if this were a book featuring characters like Iron Man, Spider-man, or Wolverine then yes having issues dedicated to their origins would be pointless

Online
#21 Posted by Hastny (57 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert: Excellent text! I agree with everything you said a 100%. It's for reasons like this that I'm following you!

I admit that the only of these characters that I'm familiar with is X-23, but I still refuse to pick up the book. I find the very idea behind it to be vile. It's like the author caugh up on the succes of Hunger Games but missed out on the fact that those books where written partially as a criticism to humanity and our modern society. Instead it chose to be the very thing that Hunger Games criticises. Death as a mean of cheap entertainment.

And I can only imagen how angry I'd be if this was done to characters that I was actually invested in. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who has problems with Avengers Arena

#22 Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@Captain_Yesterday: Thanks ^_^ I write a lot about everything...just happens to be something that's deeply personal (insomuch as comic stories go)

@Daycrawler

Regarding the character/issue thing. I've gotten the general sense that each issue has primarily focused on a single character. I've also gotten the sense that rather than developing the characters, this has been more about explaining/introducing them. It's possible that's untrue, but it's what I've picked up on. Here and elsewhere, just keep in mind that when I refer to certain specifics, or interpretations thereof, I am speaking not personally but on behalf of the majority of reviewers and convesants I've read over the last couple months. Everything I said here should be deemed majority opinion of people who have shared their opinion -- and note, that's the opinion of people who love the book, hate it, knew the characters, or didn't.

Regarding Mettle you're the only person I've ever met who suggests that the blood on Hazmat and Arcade was anything other than 100% intentional. You're of course entitled to speculate but I see no reason to believe otherwise.

Without trying to delve too deeply into arguing specifics (because as I've said, I do not have the comics, so I would be at a loss -- what I say is merely what I know from others) Mettle said uncharacteristic things regarding his acceptance of other kids dying so long as they were not Hazmat. But he died too quickly to be truly mischaracterized, and I don't think anyone is accusing his sacrificial behavior of being unreasonable. Hazmat seems not to have shown the sort of reaction people expected. In issue 4 I saw mixed reactions, some people saying she seemed to be taking it far too well and some saying she was being properly categorized. The point is more that a decent number of Hazmat fans have felt that either she was being written as just a jerk (which I understand is a common misconception about her) or that she wasn't emotionally responsive enough to Mettle's demise. You can take issue with that, sure -- it's not my personal opinion, simply that of an amalgamation of fans over the past two months.

I'm not concerned about the X-23 jumping Hazmat thing from the first issue -- that is indeed in the future, and (again, just look at that issue 6 preview) it's probable that Trigger is to blame (though the extent of genius and prep that Arcade seems to have had to pull this off -- including getting his hands on that, which should have been remarkably difficult to do -- makes Joker's omnipresence in Death of the Family seem perfectly reasonable). My concern is instead with the way she is otherwise portrayed. When I read someone describing her as emotional or feral, I know she's being written wrong. There's not much more to it than that. Laura is a character who you should be able to mistake for having no emotions. She's not merely logical -- she's completely logical. The rare moments of emotion are just that -- rare -- so the fact that I see her threatening someone every other issue, and dancing over here, and whatnot -- again, I can't know, but I have no reason to believe that she's being written properly. "Close enough," as I said. But not spot-on.

I think I spent enough time above explaining why I outright reject the notion that this isn't a plot hole, and why it can't just be ignored for the sake of focus.

The effects of the book aren't "self-contained." Ergo, the notion that "the story is self-contained" is sheer bull. If I have to deal with the consequences of a death across every other book for the remainder of Marvel's publishing (whether a resurrection happens later or not), then I want a chance to avoid those consequences. If there's no hope for them to be saved, then the entire concept is contrived. It goes beyond being a bad idea -- it's terrible writing. If you can't write a story that kills characters without miraculously ignoring continuity and logic, then I'm sorry, but your whole story is PIS.

#23 Posted by Jonny_Anonymous (32630 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert: Never mind Brand, I want to know why Drax isn't literally ending civilizations in an attempt to find Cammi

Online
#24 Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@danhimself said:

I don't know how you define "established" but the 2 characters who have appeared the most besides X-23 and Darkhawk are Chase and Nico and both have only appeared in the 3 Runaway books and a few guest appearances in other books...the rest are trades and reprints from other countries...even if you include X-23 and Darkhawk...none of these characters are characters who the passive comic book reader or a new comic book reader would know well unless they followed that character in every book they've appeared in....now if this were a book featuring characters like Iron Man, Spider-man, or Wolverine then yes having issues dedicated to their origins would be pointless

Consider that 130 issues is the equivalent of one issue a month for nearly eleven years. I'd call that "established." Cammi & Juston you have more of a point about.

But like I said, the issue is that they are assuming the people who do know who these characters are won't be a massive supporting pillar of this book's readership. Your statement that "none of these characters are characters who the passive comic book reader or a new comic book reader would know" is exactly my point: this book is written under the assumption that its followers will be mostly new or casual readers who don't care about the characters.

Which again is why I wish it were all new kids, because Hopeless can do whatever he likes with his own characters. And it sounds like most people who like this book wouldn't have missed much had the characters been new -- because for most readers, they may as well be. This book could have been better, more popular, and not pissed off people like me. It chose not to.

@Hastny: Aye, solidarity for the win! I actually wrote on the subject more in-depth in a previous blog, Because I've Never Been One to Keep My Mouth Shut... -- knowing the characters should be a reason not to want to read this book, because the book's existence is more likely to result in death than otherwise. It's funny because in almost any other case if I heard X-23 was going to be in a book (or the Runaways, as I'm now reading through that) I'd have immediately bought it. But when I hear the book they're in will likely kill at least some of them....yeah, not going to pay to see that happen.

#25 Posted by danhimself (22268 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert: you're right that I probably wouldn't have cared whether he had used all new characters or not...I honestly wouldn't and I do understand that some of these characters may be loved by some and it is distressing to see them in this circumstance...but we've all been there...if you have a favorite character then most chances are you've seen them die at some point....Superboy is my favorite character and his death was a real blow to me...but these things do happen...we as readers have no control over the fates of these characters

I've gotten off point....I'm not really assuming that this book was written with only new readers in mind....what I'm saying is that these characters aren't so established that a summary of what they've been up to is out of the question...like I said they aren't Spider-man, Iron Man or Wolverine...if this book had characters like them in it then having summaries of their origins would definitely be dumb since even the newest reader should know enough about them to get by....I've been reading comics for more than 20 years and I'll need some origin details on some of these characters, the Runaways included....just because some fans will know every minor detail about these characters doesn't mean that others will as well...when you have a new book featuring characters who have less than a hundred appearances then it's ok

Online
#26 Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@danhimself: This is where my being newer to comics comes in. X-23 is my favorite character. She's also my first. She was my entrance into comics, and I haven't been reading Marvel books long enough to have developed the same kind of affection for other characters. The lack of control is simply something I'm lashing out at because it's new for me, this is my first time dealing with it, and it's happening in what I perceive to be an uncharacteristic way: a culling of unpopular characters, rather than simply offing them during a bigger event that affects plenty of popular characters too. One might consider that backwards thinking -- would I really prefer my favorite character to die in the middle of a big fight than have a slightly more personal death? No, not really. But I want to be able to justify their cause of death, and whereas with a major crossover or battle I might be able to do that, with Arena I just can't.

Admittedly I don't value all of the points I made in this post equally. They're important because of the sum total of all of them put together say about Hopeless and his series, but individually they aren't meant to be blazing guns. If any of my points is a lynchpin, it's the one about the absence of any other Marvel Universe awareness. That's a major contributor -- that isolation, the vacuum I alluded to -- to my feeling that the deaths here aren't justifiable. It'd be one thing if Wolverine or Brand or Drax were seen trying desperately to get there, and arrived too late. But that's not happening. Characters who should be freaking out aren't. Brand has an intruder capture her own subject from her own base, and then just shrugs and moves on?

So long as these kids will die without anyone outside having ever truly lifted a finger, this will always be the worst of comic deaths.

#27 Posted by stumpy49er (609 posts) - - Show Bio

I think it's good. And my favorite character in the story is already (presumably) dead.

I know bad writing when I see it. I've read plenty of bad writing. Avengers Arena is not bad writing.

I like that Hopeless actually addresses fans concerns in the letters column. I love that Marvel still has this. It's one thing I hate about DC. I don't care about their Channel 52 crap or whatever their promoting, I'd rather read fan letters. get peoples opinions and the creators reactions to those opinions.

#28 Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@stumpy49er: Out of curiosity, did you actually read my whole blog? Because just saying "it's not bad" doesn't really address...anything :/

#29 Posted by danhimself (22268 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert said:

@danhimself: This is where my being newer to comics comes in. X-23 is my favorite character. She's also my first. She was my entrance into comics, and I haven't been reading Marvel books long enough to have developed the same kind of affection for other characters. The lack of control is simply something I'm lashing out at because it's new for me, this is my first time dealing with it, and it's happening in what I perceive to be an uncharacteristic way: a culling of unpopular characters, rather than simply offing them during a bigger event that affects plenty of popular characters too. One might consider that backwards thinking -- would I really prefer my favorite character to die in the middle of a big fight than have a slightly more personal death? No, not really. But I want to be able to justify their cause of death, and whereas with a major crossover or battle I might be able to do that, with Arena I just can't.

Admittedly I don't value all of the points I made in this post equally. They're important because of the sum total of all of them put together say about Hopeless and his series, but individually they aren't meant to be blazing guns. If any of my points is a lynchpin, it's the one about the absence of any other Marvel Universe awareness. That's a major contributor -- that isolation, the vacuum I alluded to -- to my feeling that the deaths here aren't justifiable. It'd be one thing if Wolverine or Brand or Drax were seen trying desperately to get there, and arrived too late. But that's not happening. Characters who should be freaking out aren't. Brand has an intruder capture her own subject from her own base, and then just shrugs and moves on?

So long as these kids will die without anyone outside having ever truly lifted a finger, this will always be the worst of comic deaths.

well we don't really know if anyone is looking for them or not yet....just because it hasn't been referenced in other books yet doesn't mean it isn't happening .... with books like this sometimes the best thing to do is just be patient...it could be ten issues from now before Hopeless decides to show people looking for them...some of them may not have anyone looking for them....the kids from Avengers Academy graduated and were technically on their own so we don't know how much contact they've had with others since the end of their series..we also don't know where the Runaways were or were up to either....Wolverine hasn't been shown having any contact with X-23 in sometime so he may not even know that she's missing

I can't think of anyone who would want their favorite character to die in any form...the best you can hope for is that their death is handled in a meaningful way and if it isn't then the best you can hope for is that another writer comes along and brings that character back in a way that matters and brings some meaning to their death as well

Online
#30 Edited by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@danhimself: Well, as I've said before, that's just not for me. Some people are okay with having their heartstrings ripped out of their chest, played upon like a stand-up bass, and poorly sewn back in, but I refuse to do that to myself. I invested in one character and she's being threatened with death. They kill her, I leave without looking back. Good on whoever down the line tries to bring her back, but I won't be around to watch. People who've spent their lives in comics have learned to deal with it, but I'd prefer not to make trauma a regular part of my "entertainment" life if I can help it.

#31 Edited by lykopis (10756 posts) - - Show Bio

@danhimself: @akbogert:

Avengers Academy ended and Avengers Arena took its place (arguably) so subscribers to the former series jumped to the latter (again, arguably.) While "established" characters can be somewhat subjective in it's interpretation, characters like X-23 (my fave) are only being shown in this book so yes, I am particularly annoyed at how she is being presented. While I do get that Laura is working to locate the "real" killer, she learned while at the Avengers Academy that she doesn't have to work alone -- that she can participate in a team environment (I say she knew already how to but I am belaboring my point). There are a few characters in this book which would be more than capable of forming a cohesive and strong team dynamic to combat the real villain which is Arcade (another character who has been rearranged to the point of non-recognition).

I appreciate change and progression and yes, favourite characters dying is particularly hard to get past (in my case, Nightcrawler) but if they are going to die - or kill - then do it with them in character. It's not so much because of fans like me who have more than just a passing knowledge of the Avenger Academy kids and the Runaways, but because this is a book which resides in the 616 universe. A new series. One that clearly the writer and his supporting creative team hopes to not have cancelled. It's heading that way and I posit a big reason for that is precisely what the OP has laid out.

#32 Posted by Daycrawler (552 posts) - - Show Bio

@lykopis said:

Mettle was squishee-squishee. Artistic license with blood spray on not just Hazmat, but Arcade himself?

Arcade got a power-up?

He isn't a mutant. He's a rich guy who grew up loving to kill and developed game rooms and worlds to make it amusing and entertaining. He never succeeded killing anyone -- only his assistant in a fit of rage, that's it. Now he's this svelte, scary god-like super being that can have people explode by just thinking about it? Even Sentry had to be hands on when he tore Ares in half. Arcade was a coward, he avoided physical confrontations at all costs -- so no -- not feeling it. He tailored every environment he created specifically for his victim(s). So what's all this? Too much and this whole wait and see doesn't pan out well when it comes to new series. Only so long you can request your reader to suspend their belief and after five books, it's a little much.

Appreciate another person's take on it though.

Everything has a melting point and can go slushy-squishy. Plus it's a one scene, one character point to quibble over (goddamn, I love the word quibble!), and doesn't spoil the story.

Also, Arcade doesn't need to be a mutant to get a power-up. Captain Universe, Venom, Iron Man, etc are all effectively power-ups on basically normal people. Emma Frost, Chuck Xavier, Magneto, Thor, etc could all kill you without physically having to touch you, so Arcade power-up (if that is indeed a reality and not an illusion) could be a similar "look guys, no hands!" type of thingy. Plus he's dealing with kids, not a powerhouse god like Ares. In fact, perhaps that's why he started with kids, to test out his powers cos deep down he's still a coward. People are often found out to be cowards once their power has been stripped away, I just see this as a reverse scenario. Still is a coward, just able to be more ballsy cos of the power. Strip the power away again, coward comes back to the fore. He's got more power which means that as well as suppressing his more cowardly instincts, also means he's less caring about how personally tailored the environment is re: his victims.

Don't think 5 issues is over-long to suspend ones belief to be honest. I mean most recent arcs play out over 6 and I pretty sure that all will be revealed about Arcade's new power in issue 7. Not long at all. I'm a fan of Remender, Claremont and PAD storytelling though, where plot threads and resolutions can take an age. Guess it's more down to whether or not you are enjoying the story. If you ain't then it's gonna seem too long.

This is what I love about comics though, how polarising it can sometimes be and discussing the differences of opinion. :)

#33 Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@Daycrawler: I'm less concerned about how he got the powers than I am about the idea of anyone getting this much power. Nico's use of the Staff foiled her own parents -- who had extensive personal understanding of it. The thing just shouldn't be able to be nerfed this way. Arcade should not have been able to do that.

And it's one scene, one character point, but it's a perfect illustration of not being responsible to the character or to canon. It's a beautiful support to the much larger argument I made, and it's one you can't just brush aside. It spoils a lot to see a character who should be invulnerable killed off in a way which directly defies his anatomy. It takes away the tension because rather than Arcade having to actually reasonably overcome these kids, he can just wave his hand and do whatever he pleases.

The only decent explanation for the blood I've seen that doesn't make Hopeless look like a hack is that if it's a virtual reality representation Arcade may have gotten some things wrong. Though I addressed that quite a bit too, of course: you'd think Hazmat, for example, would have found the blood from her bloodless beau a little suspect.

Saying "it's just one character" is the best way to undermine your own credibility when talking to people for whom someone like Mettle is a favorite. These kids have devoted fans who have spent years investing in the characters. Just tossing them away for plotting purposes is precisely the thing that spoils the enjoyability of the book for so many of us.

#34 Posted by Daycrawler (552 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert said:

@Captain_Yesterday: Thanks ^_^ I write a lot about everything...just happens to be something that's deeply personal (insomuch as comic stories go)

@Daycrawler

Regarding the character/issue thing. I've gotten the general sense that each issue has primarily focused on a single character. I've also gotten the sense that rather than developing the characters, this has been more about explaining/introducing them. It's possible that's untrue, but it's what I've picked up on. Here and elsewhere, just keep in mind that when I refer to certain specifics, or interpretations thereof, I am speaking not personally but on behalf of the majority of reviewers and convesants I've read over the last couple months. Everything I said here should be deemed majority opinion of people who have shared their opinion -- and note, that's the opinion of people who love the book, hate it, knew the characters, or didn't.

Regarding Mettle you're the only person I've ever met who suggests that the blood on Hazmat and Arcade was anything other than 100% intentional. You're of course entitled to speculate but I see no reason to believe otherwise.

Without trying to delve too deeply into arguing specifics (because as I've said, I do not have the comics, so I would be at a loss -- what I say is merely what I know from others) Mettle said uncharacteristic things regarding his acceptance of other kids dying so long as they were not Hazmat. But he died too quickly to be truly mischaracterized, and I don't think anyone is accusing his sacrificial behavior of being unreasonable. Hazmat seems not to have shown the sort of reaction people expected. In issue 4 I saw mixed reactions, some people saying she seemed to be taking it far too well and some saying she was being properly categorized. The point is more that a decent number of Hazmat fans have felt that either she was being written as just a jerk (which I understand is a common misconception about her) or that she wasn't emotionally responsive enough to Mettle's demise. You can take issue with that, sure -- it's not my personal opinion, simply that of an amalgamation of fans over the past two months.

I'm not concerned about the X-23 jumping Hazmat thing from the first issue -- that is indeed in the future, and (again, just look at that issue 6 preview) it's probable that Trigger is to blame (though the extent of genius and prep that Arcade seems to have had to pull this off -- including getting his hands on that, which should have been remarkably difficult to do -- makes Joker's omnipresence in Death of the Family seem perfectly reasonable). My concern is instead with the way she is otherwise portrayed. When I read someone describing her as emotional or feral, I know she's being written wrong. There's not much more to it than that. Laura is a character who you should be able to mistake for having no emotions. She's not merely logical -- she's completely logical. The rare moments of emotion are just that -- rare -- so the fact that I see her threatening someone every other issue, and dancing over here, and whatnot -- again, I can't know, but I have no reason to believe that she's being written properly. "Close enough," as I said. But not spot-on.

I think I spent enough time above explaining why I outright reject the notion that this isn't a plot hole, and why it can't just be ignored for the sake of focus.

The effects of the book aren't "self-contained." Ergo, the notion that "the story is self-contained" is sheer bull. If I have to deal with the consequences of a death across every other book for the remainder of Marvel's publishing (whether a resurrection happens later or not), then I want a chance to avoid those consequences. If there's no hope for them to be saved, then the entire concept is contrived. It goes beyond being a bad idea -- it's terrible writing. If you can't write a story that kills characters without miraculously ignoring continuity and logic, then I'm sorry, but your whole story is PIS.

Hey dude. I think part of the problem (to me at least) is that you are using other peoples opinions/reactions and some scans to form your own. X-23 has only been shown as emotional / feral in that flash-forward scene. Other than that she has been totally logical re: putting plans into action, defending the group and being loyal to them, but in a pretty emotionless 'Laura' kinda way. All fits in with previous characterizations to me. No glaring "she's started a toga party" style inconsistencies that I've spotted.

Hazmat - As I said previously, sudden, intense, terrifying and traumatic events change a person and can cause radical shifts in behavior and personality, so I don't see what the big deal is with Hazmat acting differently to what went before. Perfectly logical to me,

I just said it's good the story being told is self-contained, in a single title. The effects, MU-wise won't and shouldn't be 'self contained' though. Covered that in my previous post. Hopeless has stated he will be addressing the issue of their disappearance and the wider MU's reaction to that. He just wanted to establish the scenario, level of threat and new characters first (so we truly know people are dying and the emotions involve in our cast first, before we see peeps looking for them). Again, you're assuming that there's no hope for them being saved.

Mentioned all the self-contained, why hasn't the wider MU noticed type of stuff going on with Cap and Wolvie, so seems harsh to single out this as some sort of major failing specific to AA. This sort of self-containedness happens. It's usually touched upon in other titles in one way or another at some point. I

You keep getting annoyed at "if this happens / doesn't happen", "I bet it goes this way", "I heard someone say this" type of stuff. I'm sorry, but to fully form an opinion on something, then you gotta view it first hand, as a whole. Know this puts ya in a difficult position tho, shelling out cash for something you're not enjoying.

Gah! Feeling crap, can't type anymore. Damn cold!

#35 Posted by Daycrawler (552 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert said:

@Daycrawler: I'm less concerned about how he got the powers than I am about the idea of anyone getting this much power. Nico's use of the Staff foiled her own parents -- who had extensive personal understanding of it. The thing just shouldn't be able to be nerfed this way. Arcade should not have been able to do that.

And it's one scene, one character point, but it's a perfect illustration of not being responsible to the character or to canon. It's a beautiful support to the much larger argument I made, and it's one you can't just brush aside. It spoils a lot to see a character who should be invulnerable killed off in a way which directly defies his anatomy. It takes away the tension because rather than Arcade having to actually reasonably overcome these kids, he can just wave his hand and do whatever he pleases.

The only decent explanation for the blood I've seen that doesn't make Hopeless look like a hack is that if it's a virtual reality representation Arcade may have gotten some things wrong. Though I addressed that quite a bit too, of course: you'd think Hazmat, for example, would have found the blood from her bloodless beau a little suspect.

Saying "it's just one character" is the best way to undermine your own credibility when talking to people for whom someone like Mettle is a favorite. These kids have devoted fans who have spent years investing in the characters. Just tossing them away for plotting purposes is precisely the thing that spoils the enjoyability of the book for so many of us.

I dunno, I can live with it. It's a few things (fistigons, third claw, mettle) that still don't add up to a huge deal to me. Mistakes happen and yes, he shoulda paid a bit more attention, but I don't think it makes him a hack. Just a touch careless. I've seen way bigger mistakes from great artists and writers and wouldn't call them hacks. In terms of character and dialog, I can't fault him so a few visual fubars I can live with.

anyways its up to the writer to decide what arcade can and can't do given it's fiction. Then we judge! We've yet to get an explanation on how this came to be, so saying it should not be is a bit presumptuous. If its a crap explanation, then I'll point and shout "that's crap!". But until the hows and whys have been explained you can't say arcade shouldnt be able to do that

Oh, I never claimed to have any credibility btw. I just like flappin my gums. Credibility be damned!

#36 Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@Daycrawler: First off, sorry to hear you're ill. I hope you recover quickly ^_^

I think my position is an interesting one. On the one hand, yes, you can say that my opinion is irrelevant because it's not first-hand. Granted, that ignores the many people who have agreed with this and the last four or five blogs or major posts I've written on the subject (all of which are at least this long, most longer), including people who are reading the book or who were reading it and have since been convinced (either by me, or by disappointment in the book) to stop. But it's a weakness I recognize. However, I also have a unique strength, in that I am simply echoing a variety of voices which I could, did I think it necessary and did it really suit any purposes whatsoever, simply quote instead. Nobody really wants a blog consisting of a sentence followed by a dozen quotes from a variety of sources backing it -- that's too academic for a message board like this. But what I said is true -- I raise points I've seen confirmed by multiple readers with various biases. While things are always open to interpretation, the fact that your interpretation differs doesn't inherently make what I've said untrue, nor does it change the fact that other readers are seeing something different from what you are.

I read every single issue of Death of the Family, and I realized almost immediately that there was a unique serving tray for every major character. But other people, even people who were also reading all the books, managed to get all the way to the final issue still thinking that it was the same tray being presented to everyone with one thing on it. Reading a book doesn't actually grant someone magic insight into what's going on in it. Sure, it can help, but it's not a guarantee. I'm not saying you're wrong -- I'm just saying my not reading doesn't necessarily make me any more likely to make a mistake than people who are reading.

For what it's worth, as I know you haven't read my prior writing on the topic, you should know that all my pessimistic "if this happens" and hypothesizing is at odds with what I want to be feeling. I say what I say not because I'm irrationally terrified but because given all the information I have, I honestly believe that my interpretations and predictions are reasonable. I don't expect these deaths to just be a dream. I don't expect Hopeless to do justice to the question of outsiders searching for these kids. I don't expect this book to become something that I am able to appreciate or respect.

But if I'm wrong, if things turn out differently, then I will happily be just as vehement about apologizing and celebrating Arena as I've been attacking it. Until that happens, my favorite character is in a death match being forced to do what she's spent her whole life trying to get away from, and I have no reason to be optimistic about it.

When it comes to the chances of the kids being saved, consider these two points:

  1. If people outside are actively tearing the world apart looking for these kids (as they absolutely should be), and we're not given a very good idea of that as readers, then their miraculous arrival will come across as a terrible Deus ex machina.
  2. And whether expected or otherwise, having these kids saved, though it would please character fans, seems a bit antithetical to the book's premise and the reason that a lot of people (at least, from what they've told me) are enjoying about the book. Plenty of people admired Arena because it was -- as Hopeless put it -- "taking off the kid gloves" and actually killing someone. The real, high stakes are the draw for many readers, and if they thought that the kids were all actually safe, they'd lose interest immediately. So the biggest meta-problem with the virtual reality/kids getting saved concepts is that it would piss off supporters of the book to please the people who are boycotting it. That makes almost as little sense as writing a character book that character fans won't want to read.
#37 Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@Daycrawler: I'm not questioning Hopeless' objective abilities as a writer. I'm questioning his skill as a writer for a major publisher.

Writing stories that use other people's characters in a world that many other writers are also working in is a very unique style of publication. It has a ton of strings attached to it. But that's the nature of the beast. You don't get to just tell whatever story you want. That may be great fan fiction, but that's not great publisher comic writing. So for every misunderstood power or backstory or personality, his credibility as a good Marvel writer takes a hit. The fact that there are more problems than issues -- that there is at least one problem per issue -- says something to me. It may not say the same thing, or as loudly, to you, but evidently I'm not the only one who's getting the bad vibes.

I don't view myself so much jumping the gun as saying "Hey, I've worked out all these angles and haven't found a satisfactory way of pulling this off that won't be crap. Can anyone help me here?" And I even said it's possible that Hopeless is secretly the most brilliant writer ever and he's got a great explanation no one will predict. I just don't expect that to happen.

One thing that bothers me, and makes these "little problems" bigger, is that Hopeless has gone on record saying he hand-selected the characters. Initially this suggested an intimacy with them, that he was a fan of them, that he wanted to see them used in a new book the way most fans would. But the writing denies that possibility. A "true fan" would not have made these mistakes, or so many of them, in so few issues. So either he was serious about being a fan and his definition of fanhood is just wildly different from that of most people, or else when he said he "hand-picked" them he was, as I suggested in OP, picking them more for basic powers and one-line personality descriptions than for their actual histories.

#38 Posted by JonSmith (3987 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert: Not to disagree with any of your points (I read the first two issues and decided this probably wasn't for me), but perhaps no ones noticed they're missing because they AREN'T?

You point out that maybe it's an illusion, but you didn't take it far enough: What if all this is ONLY IN THE HEADS OF THE CHARACTERS INVOLVED? Perhaps Arcade has somehow managed to trap all of them inside a mental landscape of his design, all of the series happening in a single moment in 'reality', so small a time as to seem instantaneous to anyone outside it. Provided it's explained how Arcade got those powers (perhaps employing some supervillain psychic) to make his Mental Murderworlds.

#39 Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@JonSmith: You mean it's really all a dream? Haha. Well again, I see no reason to expect that to be the case, but I'll be happy for any explanation, no matter how terrible, that results in the characters being alive. I just don't expect them because that'd kind of be spitting in the face of the readers -- but I figure spitting in the face of people who support your book for a few months is better than spitting in the face of people who support multiple characters for a few years.

#40 Posted by JonSmith (3987 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert said:

You mean it's really all a dream? Haha. Well again, I see no reason to expect that to be the case, but I'll be happy for any explanation, no matter how terrible, that results in the characters being alive. I just don't expect them because that'd kind of be spitting in the face of the readers -- but I figure spitting in the face of people who support your book for a few months is better than spitting in the face of people who support multiple characters for a few years.

Well, it would allow him a sort of middle ground for consequences: Say if you die in Murderworld, depending on HOW you die, you could either go completely brain dead in reality, or merely comatose with the possibility of waking up. That way there's a chance some characters who die can return while still making the story have weight.

#41 Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@JonSmith: Well in that case it doesn't really make it any easier for people to swallow.

And how would that even work?

Say Cammi dies "the wrong way," but she never actually left Brand's sight. She what, just drops dead? And Brand doesn't have anyway of learning how or why?

...and of course that still doesn't make the death actually meaningful. Also I imagine fans would be really upset if someone else's favorite character were saved by this loophole but their own wasn't.

#42 Posted by JonSmith (3987 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert said:

Well in that case it doesn't really make it any easier for people to swallow.

And how would that even work?

Say Cammi dies "the wrong way," but she never actually left Brand's sight. She what, just drops dead? And Brand doesn't have anyway of learning how or why?

...and of course that still doesn't make the death actually meaningful. Also I imagine fans would be really upset if someone else's favorite character were saved by this loophole but their own wasn't.

All the characters would drop when Murderworld is dispelled, or otherwise suddenly react to the consequences of what happened, though in reality, from the perspective of anyone outside it, nothing happened at all. Presumably, anyone left alive from Murderworld will tell what happened, and word will get around, leading people to track down Arcade and make him pay. Perhaps group the remaining Avengers Academy and Runaways together to help get some vengeance for their fallen comrades.

While no story justification can help what is simply a meaningless death, allowing a way out while still having consequences is better than either going whole hog "THIS HAPPENED. DEAL WITH IT. THESE CHARACTERS ARE GONE." or the other way and said, "ALL JUST A DREAM, NONE OF IT HAPPENED, REJOICE THAT THIS WAS ALL A WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY."

Fans are going to be upset when ANYTHING risky is tried, but it's only by trying something risky writer's can make interesting stories. Otherwise it's just the same old stuff. Which, granted, given how much time heroes spend fighting heroes these days, we could probably use some of the same old stuff.

#43 Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@JonSmith: Well perhaps you and I simply differ. But I don't see how a person who is kidnapped and then dies is any worse off than a person whose mind is hijacked and then dies. In both cases their death was unpreventable by anyone -- themselves or outsiders to the simulation. In both cases I'll still read it as "this happened, deal with it, these characters are gone." If anything your suggestion actually makes it even worse because there was literally no time or chance for anyone to prevent the murder. I think it's sad that if the characters don't die, people will feel like they wasted their money. I think it's sadder still that the same people don't appreciate what I say when I feel like I've wasted a lot more money and a lot more time. In both cases the end of the story I was paying to watch unfold is completely unsatisfactory.

#44 Posted by JonSmith (3987 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert said:

Well perhaps you and I simply differ. But I don't see how a person who is kidnapped and then dies is any worse off than a person whose mind is hijacked and then dies. In both cases their death was unpreventable by anyone -- themselves or outsiders to the simulation. In both cases I'll still read it as "this happened, deal with it, these characters are gone." If anything your suggestion actually makes it even worse because there was literally no time or chance for anyone to prevent the murder. I think it's sad that if the characters don't die, people will feel like they wasted their money. I think it's sadder still that the same people don't appreciate what I say when I feel like I've wasted a lot more money and a lot more time. In both cases the end of the story I was paying to watch unfold is completely unsatisfactory.

Just out of curiosity, how would YOU have handled this? You have to kill off at least a majority of the cast, leaving only say, let's pick a number out of a hat, four survivors of this cast. Who lives, who dies, how do you handle it?

#45 Posted by frochez (194 posts) - - Show Bio

While I agree that you make some good points (and they are good, well-thought out points), there are many ways that I disagree with your argument.

First, you pointed out the slow progression of the series as each issue focusses mainly on the backstory of a single character. You've marked this as a negative quality as it assumes that the reader has no prior knowledge of the characters, thus indicating that he/she is not a long-term fan and that the book aims to appeal to new readers. However, it's important to remember that this book brings together a wide range of disperate characters, many of whom have had little or no interaction with each other. It would be unreasonable for Hopeless to assume that any given reader will have an in-depth knowledge of Avengers Academy, Runaways, Dawkhawk, New Warriors, and Anihilation, to name but a few. My point is that this book brings together characters from across the Marvel universe, some of which have complicated backstories. Other characters, such as Deathlocket and the Bradock Academy kids, are completely new, and have to be introduced from scratch.This is why there is so much character exposition.For example, I was a fan of Runaways before Avengers Arena, but I only had a passing knowledge of Avengers Academy, and I'd never even heard of Cammi. For me, Hopeless' manner of introducing the characters allows me to fill in the gaps in my own knowledge, and I'm sure that a lot of other readers feel the same.

You also stated that you ahd a problem with a lack of continuity. While I agree that there are some things which should have been caught, some leeway has to be given to the writers and artists when they're creating a new book with established characters. Some things, inevitably, are going to slip through the net. A lot of the time, its merely an artists interpretation of how things should look, and aesthetics take a front seat over continuity. I'm not saying that it's acceptable when it happens a lot, but it does happen. I can think of several examples where continuity slips, either across a series as a whole or within a single issue. But it's like errors in films and tv; you just have to accept it.

You pointed out that Hopeless is asking the reader to accept that no one has noticed that the characters are missing, or gone to look for them if they have. I'm not sure if you're actually reading the series, but so far the kids have only been in Murderworld for a few days. Even if Brand, Pym, and Wolverine started looking for them immediately, it would still take time for them to even know where to start. After all, this is someone who managed to kidnap 16 superheroes from some of the most secure locations in the world. Making his base hard to find should be no problem. (As for the power of Arcade's technology, I agree that it's a little too far-fetched). Hopeless has indicated that search parties will show up, but how successful they will be is another matter.

Hopeless has said from the start that this book will be self-contained, and for me that's part of its charm. I'm personally sick to death of continual cross-overs as world-changing events taking over different series in Marvel. if I read a comic, I'll do so because I want to read that comic, not because I have to in order to fill in the blacks in a multi-comic storyline. But just because Avengers Arena is self-contained, this doesn't mean that characters such as Wolverine won't turn up, just that they will do so in a way that has no immediate impact on their other books. Just as Wolverine can simultaneously be fighting a battle on the moon with Uncanny X-force and teaching a class in Wolverine and the X-men, so too can he appear in Avengers Arena while remaining the same in other books. There are laods of examples of events from one series impact on another in a way which both preserves the integrity of the story,a nd allows the characters to grow and react to outside events.

Hopefully, you've made it to the end of my essay. I appologise if my thoughts are a little scrambled; it's 1 am here and I've had a long day. As I said at the start of my comment, I enjoyed reading your thoughts, and I don't want to step on them and say 'No, you're absolutely wrong; this is what;s really going on', so please don't see this as an attack on you, or anyone else who isn't a fan of Avengers Arena.

#46 Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@JonSmith: I wouldn't?

Hopeless pitched this book. He requested to make it happen. No one forced him to write a book that kills off characters. The way I'd have handled it is by not making it in the first place.

#47 Posted by JonSmith (3987 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert said:

I wouldn't?

Hopeless pitched this book. He requested to make it happen. No one forced him to write a book that kills off characters. The way I'd have handled it is by not making it in the first place.

Wait, wait, wait. He PITCHED it? It wasn't an executive decision for which he was carefully or carelessly selected for the duty, not some marketing decision to try and rally some interest in these characters beyond their previous sales, he went up, knowing full well he neither knew much or cared about the characters in question, went to Marvel and said, "Hey, these characters right here? I'm thinking you let me kill 'em all. S'good? S'good."

I'd assumed some reason similar to the first two! Not that he specifically went up and handcrafted the story! I'd thought Marvel had decided to off these guys and he just happened to be chosen for the project! Knowing that he pitched it and everything makes your dislike and disgust much more understandable.

#48 Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@frochez said:

While I agree that you make some good points (and they are good, well-thought out points), there are many ways that I disagree with your argument.

I hate replying within the quote box, but I am sick of having to try to multi-quote the same post, so I'm going to just do it anyway. Haha.

First, you pointed out the slow progression of the series as each issue focusses mainly on the backstory of a single character. You've marked this as a negative quality as it assumes that the reader has no prior knowledge of the characters, thus indicating that he/she is not a long-term fan and that the book aims to appeal to new readers. However, it's important to remember that this book brings together a wide range of disperate characters, many of whom have had little or no interaction with each other. It would be unreasonable for Hopeless to assume that any given reader will have an in-depth knowledge of Avengers Academy, Runaways, Dawkhawk, New Warriors, and Anihilation, to name but a few. My point is that this book brings together characters from across the Marvel universe, some of which have complicated backstories. Other characters, such as Deathlocket and the Bradock Academy kids, are completely new, and have to be introduced from scratch.This is why there is so much character exposition.For example, I was a fan of Runaways before Avengers Arena, but I only had a passing knowledge of Avengers Academy, and I'd never even heard of Cammi. For me, Hopeless' manner of introducing the characters allows me to fill in the gaps in my own knowledge, and I'm sure that a lot of other readers feel the same.

This is a fair point. Naturally, my points were contingent on one another -- my observation that Hopeless is not expecting many diehard fans to be onboard is of course derived from more than just the exposition -- but I see you presenting the other side of my coin; it's not so much that he expects people to know none of the characters; just that he can't expect every reader to know all of them. Like I said, fair point.

You also stated that you ahd a problem with a lack of continuity. While I agree that there are some things which should have been caught, some leeway has to be given to the writers and artists when they're creating a new book with established characters. Some things, inevitably, are going to slip through the net. A lot of the time, its merely an artists interpretation of how things should look, and aesthetics take a front seat over continuity. I'm not saying that it's acceptable when it happens a lot, but it does happen. I can think of several examples where continuity slips, either across a series as a whole or within a single issue. But it's like errors in films and tv; you just have to accept it.

I think when a book is accused of being nothing but a cheap attempt to cash in on shock value, then starting the series out with a death that could not have been half as shocking had it adhered to canon is a bad way to start the book. Mettle's death established, from the beginning, a failure to intimately appreciate the actual histories of the characters and a willingness to place Hopeless' story as a higher priority than faithfulness to canon.

Nico's staff simply creates more problems than it seems to be worth. Simply not having her character here would drop a lot of questions that people like me have, but she's here, so we should have to address that. She has one of the most powerful objects in the Marvel Universe. Asking people to just accept that it suddenly doesn't work is ridiculous, especially as that requires giving someone like Arcade -- not exactly a proven commodity -- the benefit of the doubt to have done what even gods have feared to attempt, taking the Staff of One's wielder on. This is not merely an error. It's too conveniently ignoring a character's established power.

With X-23 my concern is more with the fact that Hopeless's portrayal isn't just a little off, but that the direction it's off seems in keeping with the typical way that non-fans interpret her. I hate the idea of any official book being written in a way that gives credence to detractor's ignorance. If Laura is being presented in such a way that people who typically call her "Wolverine with boobs" will feel like they pretty have her pinned, then something's off. And it seems to be the same with Hazmat. I heard a lot of complaints from fans that she's often mis-characterized as being a jerk when in fact her attitude is more nuanced; these same people seemed to think Hopeless was writing her the way they always had to tell people she wasn't. Those are my primary concerns.

You pointed out that Hopeless is asking the reader to accept that no one has noticed that the characters are missing, or gone to look for them if they have. I'm not sure if you're actually reading the series, but so far the kids have only been in Murderworld for a few days. Even if Brand, Pym, and Wolverine started looking for them immediately, it would still take time for them to even know where to start. After all, this is someone who managed to kidnap 16 superheroes from some of the most secure locations in the world. Making his base hard to find should be no problem. (As for the power of Arcade's technology, I agree that it's a little too far-fetched). Hopeless has indicated that search parties will show up, but how successful they will be is another matter.

I believe Issue 4 was 12 days in...I don't remember for sure when Issue 5 takes place. The fact remains that it has been two weeks (and no, I am not reading the series -- just reading everything possible about it). Naturally the fact that "this is someone who managed to kidnap 16 superheroes from some of the most secure locations in the world" is one of my biggest problems; I don't really foresee there being a good enough explanation for that to satisfy my incredulity. Obviously Issue 7 will tell us what Hopeless believes to be a good enough explanation of Arcade's powers -- and if he pulls it off in a way that shuts me up, I'll be shocked. But maybe he will. I just can't see how.

I should be clear that I'm not sitting here saying I want half the book to focus on other heroes looking for the kids. I agree that would ruin whatever it has going for it. But I think the implications of Arcade having the kind of power necessary to steal these kids from super-secure places and then hide them out of the world's sight should send shockwaves through the power communities; it shouldn't just be a niche concern of a few angry parents. I find it difficult to believe Hopeless will do that kind of reaction justice. I think, frankly, it would require him to really wrestle with just how ridiculously over-powered he's made the new Arcade in a way I'm not sure he's actually fully thought through. Again, I may be wrong. I am waiting to have that proven to me. I'm still not in any way accepting that characters I love should die to establish Arcade as a real threat in the Marvel Universe, but knowing that there was at least a decent line of thinking behind him being such a threat would soften the blow a tiny bit. (I think what I just said sort of addresses the next paragraph as well; I'm not asking for cross-over galore, but I don't want to see this brushed under the rug for the most part in the way it looks like it is)

Hopeless has said from the start that this book will be self-contained, and for me that's part of its charm. I'm personally sick to death of continual cross-overs as world-changing events taking over different series in Marvel. if I read a comic, I'll do so because I want to read that comic, not because I have to in order to fill in the blacks in a multi-comic storyline. But just because Avengers Arena is self-contained, this doesn't mean that characters such as Wolverine won't turn up, just that they will do so in a way that has no immediate impact on their other books. Just as Wolverine can simultaneously be fighting a battle on the moon with Uncanny X-force and teaching a class in Wolverine and the X-men, so too can he appear in Avengers Arena while remaining the same in other books. There are laods of examples of events from one series impact on another in a way which both preserves the integrity of the story,a nd allows the characters to grow and react to outside events.

Hopefully, you've made it to the end of my essay. I appologise if my thoughts are a little scrambled; it's 1 am here and I've had a long day. As I said at the start of my comment, I enjoyed reading your thoughts, and I don't want to step on them and say 'No, you're absolutely wrong; this is what;s really going on', so please don't see this as an attack on you, or anyone else who isn't a fan of Avengers Arena.

It's always refreshing to have someone read through these things (I know, I write a lot more than most folks are prepared to deal with). I never expect everyone to agree with me, argue as strongly as I may.

I've said before, and I'll say again: there are so many things I believe about this book that I am dying to be proven wrong about. As strongly as I believe characters I love are going to die (at least semi-)permanently, I'd love nothing more than for that not to be the case. Second to that, I'd like to be able to actually justify the deaths. It just so happens that I've yet to be convinced such optimism is reasonable; and given Hopeless' antagonism towards fans like me, I'm content with not giving him the benefit of the doubt until he earns it.

#49 Posted by akbogert (3192 posts) - - Show Bio

@JonSmith said:

@akbogert said:

I wouldn't?

Hopeless pitched this book. He requested to make it happen. No one forced him to write a book that kills off characters. The way I'd have handled it is by not making it in the first place.

Wait, wait, wait. He PITCHED it? It wasn't an executive decision for which he was carefully or carelessly selected for the duty, not some marketing decision to try and rally some interest in these characters beyond their previous sales, he went up, knowing full well he neither knew much or cared about the characters in question, went to Marvel and said, "Hey, these characters right here? I'm thinking you let me kill 'em all. S'good? S'good."

I'd assumed some reason similar to the first two! Not that he specifically went up and handcrafted the story! I'd thought Marvel had decided to off these guys and he just happened to be chosen for the project! Knowing that he pitched it and everything makes your dislike and disgust much more understandable.

I don't have the link at the ready, but I did read an article at some point a month or so ago in which the origins of this book were discussed. I believe that the original pitch may have just been a Braddock Academy book? In any case, the deathmatch book with teens was his idea which he brought to Marvel. Though Marvel may be held responsible for the fact that there are older characters in the book in addition to the new ones (perhaps they assumed a completely new book couldn't sell?), Hopeless has gone on record as saying he personally picked the kids. He's said there were some that were "off-limits." So yes, every kid in this book was hand-selected and approved for potential culling by Marvel.

#50 Posted by Yai_Inn (352 posts) - - Show Bio

@akbogert said:

Hey there, so I know we've discussed this topic before and been at odds then, and well you're entitled to your opinion but I'm going to go through your argument and hopefully shed some insight on where you've gone wrong.

First, though, I want to point out a basic objection I have begun to form based on the numerous reviews I have been reading (seriously, I read every one I can find), and that is the fact that so often Arena is praised for introducing and explaining the characters, taking issue after issue for what mostly amounts to exposition.

Here's the problem. What other book are you reading, comprised of established characters with years of history, which takes its first half-dozen issues to catch you up on those characters and their abilities? Which X-Men book focuses on one X-Man per issue for months while progressing its actual plot at a snail's pace, so that just in case you don't know anything about, say, Magik or Psylocke, you'll have enough to go off of going forward that would not otherwise have been made obvious through brief exchanges and the character's own behavior as the story organically progressed?

Pretty much every other Marvel Now title!
- Iron Man did this going over what Extremis was
- Uncanny X-Force going back over Psylocke's and Spiral's relationship
- FF revisiting the death of Scott Lang's daughter
- Pretty much every X title forcing us to accept that Cyck is a terrorist
- And THE AVENGERS - this is EXACTLY what Hickman is doing

The only reason you'd feel compelled to spend so much time explaining known characters' back stories is if you took as a basic assumption going into the book that the majority of the people who would read and follow it do not know the characters. In other words, you write under the assumption that people who like what you're writing are not current fans of the characters; that, in fact, the extant fans of these characters will be the minority of your readership. Were the reverse true, you would hardly need to tell them who these characters are.

Seeing how this is a common practice among many writers (as I've just pointed out) when they take over a series your above point is false.

And that's not just me, either. Just today I read a fan of the book, among a list of defenses, actually praise Hopeless for how "he's slowly telling you who these people are." Hopeless is slowly introducing the characters. As if no one knows or cares about them already. As if most of the people reading the book need to be told who they are because they don't know or care. As if the whole book is written under the assumption that its audience will not consist of actual extant fans of the characters. As if it didn't even try to respect or attract or cater to those people or assume they'd be part of the readership. As if it took for granted that fans of the characters being used in this book would be against it from the start, and the remainder of the readership would need catching up.

Again catching up is common for writers. This has nothing to do with anticipated fan support. It's more than likely the script/plot was pitched months prior to any release or hype about this series. That's how the industry works, issues are typically finished months prior to their release.

It's telling that I frequently see fans of Avengers Arena who can't tell which characters are brand new and which ones have been around for years. One might credit that to Hopeless' skill with making new characters seem rich, but I see it more as his failure to respectfully grapple with the actual depth that the older characters have been gifted with over the years, and which the readers he's not counting on to support his book learned to love those characters for.

Hopeless is doing a great job at creating characters for this series. There really aren't many established characters in this series, he's working with fringe characters who don't really have a lot of depth.

Furthermore, keeping a constant story telling method makes things enjoyable for followers. Hopeless is going to have to do backstories for the new characters he's created. It would be awkward if the series didn't give backstories for any of the other characters.

The nifty benefit of assuming no one who knows better is watching? Not having to actually stick to the characters' histories. Now it's one thing to write a character a bit differently, sure. But when you're not relying on fans to call you out, you can do a great many things which you'd never get away with in a book targeted towards people who actually care. Things such as:

  • Splattering the blood and gore of a bloodless character across the first issue. (Mettle)
    Seeing how you don't have access to the script you can't pin this entirely on Hopeless. If the script said he explodes and the colorist honored the continuity of Mettle and rather than color red blood spots on Hazmat and Arcade had placed a silvery metal color there would be no problem. If anyone ought to drilled for this, it's editorial. They should have sent the script back saying Mettle can't bleed or sent it back to the colorist and told him to change the color.
    However as I've mentioned to you before, a few pages before this Arcade explains his powers as basically being god in murderworld and he could therefore theoretically change Mettle's body composition.
  • Making an angsty, troubled teen read as a heartless and hate-filled douchebag (Hazmat -- seriously, so many people just considered her a jerk)
    So your argument for Hopeless being a bad writer is because he's changed a teenagers personality after she watched a loved-one sacrifice himself for her. This seems weak at best.
  • Disabling one of the most powerful artifacts in the entire universe because its actual powers would be inconvenient to your story. (Staff of One)
    When has Nico ever preformed anything that would jeopardize the plot of this story, given Arcades new found power? Hopeless has actually done a good job bringing up the point that she needs to bleed in order preform magic and given the circumstances that she's in, like struggling to find necessities of life - like food and water, it becomes increasing difficult to give blood.
  • Equipping multiple characters with outdated versions of their equipment and expecting neither your readers nor the characters themselves to notice or comment. (Nico/Chase - Staff of One & Fistigons)
    Again without being privy to the script you can't possibly pin this on Hopeless. If he says draw Nico with her staff, and the artist draws the Staff of One instead of the Witchbreaker it's not really his fault. Additionally Chase having the Fistigons back is a good thing IMO. As the alterative would be for him to have a psychic connection with a dinosaur, kind of too cliché for a survival hidden island story don't you think?
  • Writing a complicated character in a way far more in keeping with the misconceptions of people who do not like her: feral & prone to violent outbursts (X-23)
    X-23 hasn't had any violent feral outbreaks. She's been working with a team. She's currently working with a team (Hazmat and Reptil) to locate medicine. It's likely Arcade is leading them to a trap, where he will release the Trigger Scent. Honestly dude, I've read all of X-23 in X-Force and her run by Marjorie Liu, X-23's portrayal in this series has been good.
  • Allowing a copy of your book to go to press with said character's signature two claws increased by one, even if it was only in one panel and even if you corrected it for digital versions. (X-23)
    You can't be serious about this? This is nitpicking beyond any believable measure. You think Hopeless wrote a script that said draw X-23 with 3 claws? This was an artists mistake - it happens.
  • Handling a cosmic, somewhat sentient amulet as if it were a mere product off Stark Industries' product line. (Darkhawk Amulet)
    I almost agree with you here. However, you need to keep in mind two things. First, we don't actually know who attacked Darkhawk so this might not be as farfetched as we believe. Second, Darkhawk had a great character revamping in the incredible hands of DnA. And their entire run has been ruined by Marvel. Supreme Intelligence brought back to life, Black Bolt brought back to life, Thanos being back and all of a sudden a jobber, GotG just forcing the cinematic universe into the comics, and the new Nova which is complete crap. Given the other things Marvel has done to the works of DnA what Hopeless has done here isn't troubling at all.

You've completely missed the most troubling character change in this series, Arcade. Arcade is the only one who is drastically different and I don't hear anyone complaining about that.

* A side point. There has been no mishandling of a character in this series as poorly as the mischaracterization of Spiral in the new Uncanny X-Force, but people are ranting and boycotting that series. A new take on a character is virtually a guarantee when a new writer takes over.

My initial complaints about Hopeless and this book were based on the premise that a person who cared about these characters would not take so much pleasure in repeatedly informing interviewers that they were going to die. That was a major focal point of pretty much all of the PR early on -- "did I mention people die?" I cited earlier indications that Hopeless had ambivalence, if not outright disdain, towards fans concerned about what he was doing.

And now it seems, based on the actual writing, that he really doesn't know or care about these characters. He's said he hand-picked the kids, but he seems to have picked them not for their stories or selves but for the interesting ways their powers might factor into various conflicts in the book, as if the powers were the characters themselves. X-23's not just a violent and emotionless killing machine with healing factor and claws? Eh, close enough. Nico has used different staffs, and they're supposed to be kind of all-powerful? Eh, close enough. Mettle's body has no flesh or blood in it? Eh, close enough.

I just went over all of these. X-23 isn't acting feral. Nico just can't give off tremendous amounts of blood, nor has she demonstrated a high level of magic to suggest she could simply over come Murderworld. A Mettle is a mistake, likely editorial should be blamed here.

I began by having a problem with what Hopeless was doing. Four issues in, I have plenty of problems with how he's doing it, too. Add this to the large plot holes which are ostensibly supposed to be covered in issue 7 (but who knows), and you have a less than sunny picture.

The thing is, while faulty tech can be explained by the old "all just a simulation" story, the characters' failing to notice honestly can't. That's the first major writing conundrum I have (beyond disregard for canon, which in my mind is the very definition of bad writing when you're working for a publisher). To have done it in the first place is sloppy -- but to be unable to cover for it is even worse. I've yet to hear a decent explanation of the characters' own obliviousness to their inconsistencies, which suggests that they are the product of ignorant writing rather than of clever authorial manipulation.

Nevertheless, folks continue coming back to the virtual reality theory, which begs the question: how?

This wont be a virtual reality. Marvel didn't re-launch Avengers Academy as Avengers Arena, an on-going no less, to later reveal that it was all simulation. And in this last issue Hopeless addresses this concern (reading through the lines) when he has Bloodstone say "what difference does it make? dead by simulation or magic, dead is dead." Or something along those lines.

Is it Arcade who has hooked these kids into some very complicated simulation? Okay then, let's look at The Rather Gaping Hole(s) That Will Need To Be Filled... which I raised awhile back. How did Arcade get these kids? We're told that may be explained. We're told the kidnappings happened on Christmas, when they'd have been in less secure environments (though one wonders what Darkhawk's story is, considering his amulet's abilities).

Lest anyone try to answer that question and think they've undone my whole argument, the more important follow-up is and then what? Why has no one noticed or done anything since then? Pym had kids stolen from his school. Wolverine's got an AWOL daughter. Abigail Brand literally had Cammi stolen from in front of her mid-conversation. And yet these characters exist elsewhere, in books beyond Arena's pages, in a universe whose continuity is contingent enough that a writer like Marjorie Liu can't touch them because they are officially off-limits in Murderworld. As far as Marvel is concerned, these kids are somewhere they don't want to be. And yet no one notices. Pym, Logan, Brand, not to mention the larger worlds of Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., & S.W.O.R.D., wherever they appear in other books, do not seem to have noticed anything at all. Nevermind that they're also not shown caring within the book that had the kids taken from them.

Yeah, sure, seeming impossibilities between books happen all the time in comics. But it's one thing to question how Wolverine can be on X-Force while with the X-Men while with his own school. It's another thing to say Wolverine is definitively only in one place, has been taken by a specific villain from, say, right in front of Thor, and then neither Thor nor anyone else says anything about it again for weeks to any of the characters in any of the various books in which he appears. You just can't do that. It's beyond convenient. It's making an absolute impossibility happen "because I said so." It's saying "for the next week anyone can pick up Mjolnir, because it'd be more fun if stuff could just happen the way I say it happens and don't bother me about the details because that's not the point of the story i'm trying to tell" (which is basically what Hopeless has said when asked about why other people aren't noticing -- that he doesn't want to focus on it because that would make telling his story not work so well).

Couple of things to point out on why no one is looking for them. Marvel is slow with things. Gambit is suppose to be teacher at the school, he went out to steal something one afternoon, disappeared for two weeks. No one noticed him missing. Not until issue 9, and that was only because his face was on the front of the internationals most wanted criminals list.

It is alarming that Agent Brand isn't looking, but we haven't seen her since Cammi's abduction. It's likely that she is looking, just off-panel.

It's one thing to say "that's not my focus," but it's another thing to ignore the fissures in a major supporting pillar of your story. If we can't have reasonably explained to us how Arcade managed to capture kids and get them to a place where no one in the world -- no government, no mutant tech, no tracker, no anyone -- can find them, and if we aren't going to be shown said government, mutants, heroes, etc. flipping the heck out because of this insane turn of events and show of heretofore unknown power -- then why on earth should we accept anything else about this book? Why should we accept that deaths -- physical or psychological -- are happening to characters who never stood a chance in terms of canon or logic?

It's not just that Arcade's powers are too strong to be real. It's that even if what he is doing within Murderworld is an illusion, his kidnapping of the kids isn't. He still has that ability. He's still hidden them miraculously. And there's still no one in the Marvel Universe who seems to care or notice.

So some people, of course, say that Arcade, too, is part of the illusion (though of course Hopeless has already said that Arcade is Arcade). Granted, there's still no good substitute (Pym, for example, would never dream of putting kids through something like this), and even if there were you again have the question of why no one in the universe cares. Despite the fact that the events of Avengers Arena look to be real, permanent, and canon, they all exist within a vacuum which the rest of Marvel ignores. As if, should, say, X-23 die, Wolverine will never notice. And if he does notice eventually, what's the explanation for him not noticing earlier? Other than, of course, because Hopeless would consider that inconvenient to his plot.

This vacuum you're referring to is how things are everywhere. Why is Reed Richards lost in time and space in Fantastic-Four & FF but with the Illuminati in New Avengers? Why is Wolverine in the Savage Land and everywhere else. Why is Iron-Man out in space but still back in New York? All titles pretty much function within themselves. Marvel has really lost their sense of a "universe." (I complement DC for what they did in Throne of Atlantis, having Flash not appear because of the mess he was in in his own title, and GL being gone in space as well) Marvel really needs to get a sense of a shared community back together, but without one this isn't a plot hole.

Of course, beyond all that, there's the minor question of what's really gained by the virtual reality conceit. For the characters, sure, it makes sense for them to think everything's real. But the readers? What does tricking them really accomplish? It adds an element of theoretical danger (even as more people convince themselves that this can't be real), but is that really what's driving the book? If we presume that the character development is real even if the bodies at risk are not, then the things keeping people interested are still intact even if we know from page one that this is actually a game. Mettle's death can be construed as interesting as a motivator to Hazmat and as a warning to the other characters -- not simply because Mettle died. If we knew he wasn't really dead, that wouldn't take away the interesting part of it.

Meanwhile, you have people who are refusing to buy this book but, if we knew for sure that the kids weren't actually in danger, would happily pick it up, because this could be interesting to see play out. It could lead to great character development. And it could introduce new characters which could emerge quite popular enough to stick around in other titles.

I don't think it's ever been stated that every character is going to die. Seeing how many writers ignore large amounts of character development when they take over new titles and only a few things actually ever stick, usually the big events or far reaching character arcs, Avengers Arena has the potential to be THE defining series for many of these fringe characters. Think about how different the survivors are going to be. The bond they might share, changes in attitude, behavior, personality, this is something that should stick with these characters when later writers take them over. Not buying this book, because you claim to be fan of these characters, seems silly as you could quite possibly be missing out on the greatest development the character ever gets.

But the only character development this book seems keen on making is the sort which is, again, close enough -- enough to give clueless readers an idea of who these kids are and why they should care about them. Just enough connection so that readers feel something when the kids they never used to care about end up dead. Readers' ignorance of characters is a foregone conclusion, and folks who meet that criteria feel justified in saying to people like me "hey, he's writing these characters well, you should stop complaining." He's writing them well enough. Enough to keep you interested. But not enough to actually do them or any deaths justice outside the context of his own needs. Again, this book is a vacuum. By ignoring the implications of Arcade's actions on the contingent universe, Hopeless ensures that nothing that happens within Arena CAN have any implications on the contingent universe. The deaths, rather than being personal, meaningful, and respectable (and rather than doing any sort of justice to the legacy of the character and the dedication of the readers), are instead lumped together in such a fashion that the only impact they are capable of having is a sum horror when the world realizes that Arcade is around and means business.

Maybe I put that confusingly? The point is the individual deaths are stripped of meaning by happening in a contained and quarantined (both literally, and literarily) environment, which will only infringe on the external world after it's too late to change things, so the impact will be of the amalgamated death toll rather than of any one character's loss. You're not going to see a funeral for each individual kid. You're going to get a mass grave.

I've said it so many times that I've gotten sick of hearing myself, but for a person like me, the quality of the dialogue or the intrigue of the plot mean absolutely nothing. They have no bearing on my feelings about the book. Because the best writing in the world doesn't justify these deaths in the scheme of it all. No clever little tale can justify dovetailing years of character development and growth into a handful of unmarked graves. A hero's death, if it must happen, should speak volumes either about the magnitude of the event in which she dies, or about the legacy of the character himself. Yet death in Arena is impersonal and trivial; no matter how well-told, it serves no one's purposes but Arcade's.

And what's wrong with Arcade? A character who has been around far longer than any of the teens he's attacking. Your saying he shouldn't be allowed to develop into a credible threat for other heroes? Because why? You don't like him?

Take away the death, and I'm sold. I'll go pick up every issue. I'll revel in the dialogue and marvel at the art. But until then, I want it to be crystal clear: I'm not boycotting Avengers Arena because I think it's "just about killing." I'm boycotting it because, no matter what else it may be about, killing is an inextricable part. Add to that the fact that the killing is being done by someone who shouldn't be capable, and it's being done to characters he shouldn't have been able to capture, and all the while no one who should be noticing and reacting to these things is doing anything of the kind, and, yeah, I have bones to pick with this book. A whole skeleton's worth.

Hope this didn't come across as harsh, but if you're going to be so adamant about this book you really should be reading it. Like I said, what if X-23 survives? what if this has along lasting effect on her and you missed it because there was actually a threat level and a chance she could die. Seems silly to me.