Comic Vine Review

24 Comments

Avengers Arena #17 - Boss Level Part 4 of 5 Review

5

Bonds are tested, alliances are thrown aside, Darkhawk crystals are further misused, Arcade is STILL a titanic jerk.

The Good

Avengers Arena’s Boss Level has almost come and gone and Dennis Hopeless’ tale of teen hero desperation isn’t letting up. Arcade seems cornered, but he’s already demonstrated a keen ability for evasion and contingencies, and while a few survivors try to find a way to save everyone, there might not be much of an everyone to save. Hopeless has given us a situation in which the darkest aspects of some of the most troubled characters in the Marvel U can seep through, and while he’s been criticized for not writing the characters faithfully, actually going back and looking at the histories of the Runaways and the Avengers Academy kids (to say nothing of the characters he created whole cloth), they’ve always had a lot of edge and they’ve often been teetering on the precipice, especially where other young heroes are concerned. Arcade didn’t so much nudge them off as he drove a semi-truck at them, forcing them to jump and that’s why I don’t think anything that goes on in this book is out of character.

Kev Walker hops onto pencils and joins Jason Gorder on inks with Jean-Francois Beaulieu supplying the alternately sterile, muted darkness of the underground base and the bright, messy palette of the island. This is a book full of grimacing faces, but everyone grimaces a little differently and no one (but Arcade) has much reason to smile anyway. But Arcade’s face is rendered in all of its smarmy, punchable glory and I can’t wait to see how this winds up for him.

The Bad

There’s very little not to like about this book if you’re alright seeing characters you love in impossibly difficult, painful situations and not always handling them as well as they could. But that’s all part of crafting psychologically realistic characters: they don’t always make the right choices. If I had a real complaint, it would be about the pacing of the issue. There’s a very intense battle raging on the surface, but it seems to be put on hold every time we focus on things underground.

The Verdict

Now that we know where this book is headed, I’m excited to see how we get there. I’m still not entirely sure who lives and who dies, and that’s part of the fun. We seem to complain about how predictable and samey everything is and this book absolutely blows that notion out of the water by being unpredictable, but never untrue. The art matches the desperate, messed-up tone of the writing to a tee and there's even a little time for a quip or two to make sure it's not ALL doom and gloom ALL the time.

26 Comments
Posted by Ravager4

This review makes my eyes hurt.

Posted by RaggedScarecrow

I know I should be used to it by now (having spent 11 issues with it) but hot damn do I love Kev Walker's art. He draws some fantastic fight scenes, which is one of my favourite parts of the book. I'll be sad to see it go, but I'm very interested in seeing Walker drawing what comes next.

Posted by MatKrenz
Edited by akbogert

"I don’t think anything that goes on in this book is out of character."

It is not actually possible for me to have a more divergent opinion of something than I do with you on this.

I'm trying to figure out a way to overstate the extent to which this is the case, but I am failing. It is as if we both looked at a wall, and you said it had been painted black, and I said it was painted white. Not grey. Not even white but with a little dirt on it. But just brilliant, blinding white. And you still said it was black.

It's the sort of disparity which calls into question the extent to which I could ever interpret any other impression of yours seriously again, because how seriously can you take the perception of a person who sees the polar opposite of you?

Posted by InkInk

Shocked to see Avengers Arena get anything but mediocre reviews. Books terrible at least all the issues I read were now seeing this review makes me think ether the review does not care about any of these characters or he was so blinded by the good art that he actually thought Hopeless was doing anything but forgetting canon to attempt to make his weak writing and weak story credible.

Posted by eamon542000

@akbogert: Then don't worry about his opinion, just like what you like and he'll like what he likes. Work on your own site if you want your opinion expressed. I agree with his and really like AA.

Edited by akbogert

@eamon542000: It's not about liking or disliking. It's about making a claim as to content which is or is not present in a book.

This has nothing to do with opinion, per se -- though his phrasing (and my own) carefully treat it as if it were.

Edited by eamon542000

@akbogert: What one person views within the content may differ from what another person views. Its not up to one individual do decide that.

Posted by dwhamz

@inkink: It sounds like you are just sore about characters you like possibly being killed. The writing is far from weak. Hopeless has made me fall in love with every character in an extremely short time span and hate every character I wasn't suppose to like.

Edited by akbogert

@eamon542000: I'm sorry, but I'm just not that relativistic. In the example I gave of discussing paint color, there is a definitive color of that wall. It's not open to interpretation.

For almost a year now people have made very specific claims about poor characterization, backed up with references to actual instances in prior stories which Arena's characterization contradicts. A variety of people, all with empirical data to defend their claims. To say you don't care about the inconsistency is one thing. To say it doesn't exist is another altogether. And when you have an aggregate complaint against the book, you're right -- it's not up to one individual to decide that all those people are wrong. Not without addressing their various specific complaints and demonstrating why they are erroneous.

I got so tired of hearing people flip out about the characterization problems that I went ahead and bought the entire published history of the Runaways, crossovers and all. And I read them. And you know what? The critics are right. The characters as written in this book are very unlike the ones in all the other books they've ever been published in. And their powers (particularly Nico's, and -- though he's not a Runaway -- Darkhawk's) have been wildly nerfed and/or distorted beyond recognition as they no longer function according to their own well-established rules and behaviors.

And that comes back to my original point. I, and many others, have pointed to this, this, this, and this, and the author of this review has merely said "there's nothing in any of those places to see." It's not a matter of opinion, and it's not one person's subjective inference against another's.

It's looking at a white wall and saying it's black.

Posted by caladbolglight

The only reason why everyone HATES this book is because they killed off Mettle. That's where this all started, nobody cared about Red Raven or Kid Briton or Nara. A few people cared about Juston. And do I like the book? No, I'm just interested to see where this will go. Maybe he's tweaked a few characters, but the number of writers who have drastically changed a character for no end other than shock value (Cassandra Cain anyone?)... I think that Mr. Hopeless could've done a better job (and cop up with a more original idea, i mean seriously has there not been a lawsuit yet), but we aren't a writer, and I don't think it's fair the way that everyone has been railing away on him.

Posted by ninjanan123
Posted by eamon542000

@akbogert: I never said there aren't inconsistency in this book, but to be fair I feel as those if you look closely at any comic book there are always some inconsistency. I have also read all of the Runaways and Avengers Academy and find while the characters are different in some respects I feel that they are ultimately those characters that I loved if past stories(my opinion. If a new writes takes over a book I expect there to be some changes, "well-established rules" that's just the nature of this kind of business. Power levels are something that I really don't care about. I loved Fractions run on Iron Man, I hate Kieron Gillen run(cant stand it). This doesn't upset me because I understand that certain writes change the voice of these characters. My solution to this drop Iron Man and started reading Hickman's Avengers which I love. Eventually someone will write Avengers and I'll dislike it and someone will write Iron Man and I'll love it again. That's one of the best parts about this industry and the reason I love it. I don't read or watch things to find errors in them, I read them to enjoy them.

Posted by MatKrenz

@caladbolglight: On your probably sarcastic part of there being no lawsuit for this story line. If there was a lawsuit thrown around to every story that are very similar to each then everybody would be poor. Now obviously this copy is very obvious but I think Hopeless has done a good job at making it his own.

Posted by InkInk

@akbogert: You summed up everyone's hatred of this book perfectly there. Its amazing that you are more competent then the actually writer. How you do not have a job at Marvel is beyond me.

Edited by akbogert

The only reason why everyone HATES this book is because they killed off Mettle. That's where this all started, nobody cared about Red Raven or Kid Briton or Nara. A few people cared about Juston. And do I like the book? No, I'm just interested to see where this will go. Maybe he's tweaked a few characters, but the number of writers who have drastically changed a character for no end other than shock value (Cassandra Cain anyone?)... I think that Mr. Hopeless could've done a better job (and cop up with a more original idea, i mean seriously has there not been a lawsuit yet), but we aren't a writer, and I don't think it's fair the way that everyone has been railing away on him.

Kid Briton & Nara were actually created by the author and did not exist prior to Avengers Arena #1, so it's unsurprising if no one cared about their loss. Red Raven may not have gotten as much of a rise out of people because she wasn't well-known (and had few appearances prior to this book) but I've definitely seen people complain about that (not least of which because it was outrageously stupid and served no purpose whatsoever that couldn't have been served by a nameless red shirt).

Generally speaking, when you kick off a series by killing off a main character of the series it's considered a follow-up to (and Arena was absolutely marketed to fans of Academy as such), you earn the heat you generate. And then you have to bend over backwards to prove that the story you wanted to tell was worth doing that to the fans -- that you have something good enough or original enough to justify killing something they loved and that would have existed without you coming in and ruining it. When it comes to poor characterization, people are apt to be far more forgiving when the change works out in their favor than when it ends up hurting them.

When poor characterization is the only way to generate an environment that then threatens and or kills the poorly-written characters, "railing away" is to be expected. And when you write characters inconsistently and then claim to be writing a character-driven story, the railing intensifies.

As for this specific issues, the inconsistencies with the way the Darkhawk amulet actually (historically, canonically) functions, and the way it absolutely isn't just a trinket that can be swapped between people nonchalantly (and shouldn't have been possible to just remove from Chris in the first place, let alone remove from Chris, keeping him alive, and then remove from Chase while keeping him alive)... well, now what? If Chris dies it's because he was stripped of his armor by powers which, canonically, shouldn't have been able to do so. Whether he dies or not, it's still definitely poor characterization, but it's especially egregious (and justifiably complained about) if he does die.

Kind of like how Nico died because she was inexplicably nerfed, and bled out crawling towards her staff instead of just calling it to her -- which she was previously able to do. Then when she comes back to life she calls the staff to her hand from Katy's -- which 1. shouldn't have been necessary because Vol. 3 of Runaways established no one but Nico can safely touch the staff, and 2. establishes that she can call the staff to her, thereby undermining the cause of death that led to her "dark transformation" in the first place.

Look, I get that some people don't give a crap about whether or not anyone is written consistently, but saying that they are definitely written consistently requires such a convoluted interpretation of what consistency means that I am not capable of rationalizing it.

Posted by eamon542000

@akbogert: I feel for you man, I disagree with you on most of your points but this dicussion won't yield anything so why bother, on a happier note what Marvel books are you liking?

Edited by akbogert

@akbogert: I never said there aren't inconsistency in this book, but to be fair I feel as those if you look closely at any comic book there are always some inconsistency. I have also read all of the Runaways and Avengers Academy and find while the characters are different in some respects I feel that they are ultimately those characters that I loved if past stories(my opinion. If a new writes takes over a book I expect there to be some changes, "well-established rules" that's just the nature of this kind of business. Power levels are something that I really don't care about. I loved Fractions run on Iron Man, I hate Kieron Gillen run(cant stand it). This doesn't upset me because I understand that certain writes change the voice of these characters. My solution to this drop Iron Man and started reading Hickman's Avengers which I love. Eventually someone will write Avengers and I'll dislike it and someone will write Iron Man and I'll love it again. That's one of the best parts about this industry and the reason I love it. I don't read or watch things to find errors in them, I read them to enjoy them.

You may not have said there aren't inconsistencies with the characterization, but the reviewer (to which I was responding, and whom you were defending) did. See the post I just added for what I'm talking about when it comes to why the inconsistency in this book is more noteworthy or worth complaining about than the typical inconsistency (which I agree, definitely happens). Nico is the case of power level changes being far too dramatic to be considered reasonable, because the only reason she died was because she'd been so preposterously nerfed to begin with.

Posted by crimsonspider89

Wat?

Huh?

The characterizations are completely wrong and have been messed since issue 1 starting with Hazmat's first line. And he has blatantly ignored powers in general. Also the book is EXTREMELY predictable and the plot driven by PIS.

Every death has been a bad horror movie cliche. I don't mind people panicking but PIS is not that. I am sorry but kinda obvious that you haven't read the past runs of the characters.

And yes I have predicted the entire book since issue #3. No not joking. Let me tell you how it is going to end.

Hazmat goes boom killing Chase and Reptil. She loses a large portion of her powers, island shut down(despite she could fire off an EMP at will). This gives Deathlockette enough time with her human body to kill Apex.

There end of book.

I am sorry but this review reeks of BS.

Posted by manwithoutshame

Kev Walker is too good to be wasted on this book. Move him over to Thunderbolts please!

Posted by WinterFreakinSoldier

I really loved this issue. Really loving the series. Hope the last issue doesn't disappoint. Seems like a lot to cover with only 20 more pages.

Posted by majingojira

Ya know, the more I think about this sort of review, I think it's more an attempt to rile people up or make up for the hate it gets from nonprofessional fans online than an actual review. akbogert covered the problems with this review far better than I could. It also makes me question the overall veracity of the star system on this site, because the I keep seeing 5 star reviews for books, even when I like them, are not worth that level of accolade.

Or maybe I'm just a very strict in my review nature from reading too much Roger Ebert.

Posted by RaggedScarecrow

It also makes me question the overall veracity of the star system on this site, because the I keep seeing 5 star reviews for books, even when I like them, are not worth that level of accolade.

I think all rating systems are flawed to some extent. Your opinion of a topic will always bias your opinion of it. If you like something you're much more likely to give it higher ratings, and vice versa. If it comes to a choice between 4-stars and 5 and you think it's in the middle but have to round up or down, if you like whatever the thing is (Avengers Arena in this case) you're much more likely to round up. And it's not like we have another system to use here either. The closest thing would be a checklist that judges based on objective categorical aspects (pencils, colouring, dialogue, characters, plot, etc). A system like that would be very cut-and-dry and would be even worse that the star system because it leaves no room for personal opinion.

So I guess what it really comes down to is: what would bother you more books you don't like getting 5-star ratings based off of personal opinions, or bland boring reviews that don't tell you what the reviewer actually thinks about the topic?

Posted by majingojira

While, true, it obfuscates my core problem with the idea. Primarily, that the meaning becomes lost when "I like this a whole lot" allows a story to become equal to or rated the same as something truly groundbreaking: a genre definer and defier; a meta-narrative commentary, questioning and then answering of an entire genre, sub-genre or medium; or even a near perfect retelling of a classic story. I mean, liking something a whole lot should not color a review to that extent. Sure, it will color a review, but a reviewer of any merit should be able to acknowledge their biases and look at the broader picture. If a 5 star rating is tossed around frivolously, it loses all meaning and the reviews become, well, worthless. We are all just viewers with opinions, but just how aware we are of it counts for a lot, as well as how aware we are of the medium and/or genre we are reviewing.

This is not an either-or proposition either, again, Roger Ebert comes to mind. Agree or disagree, he presents his reasons well (a majority of the time) and the best ones are hard to argue.

Or to be more topical: SF Debris. He provides his opinion, but he also gives a lot of analysis, justifications and reasoning for it along with jokes about magnetic balls.

I don't care what people argue, as long as they do so well. This? This didn't do it well, for reasons already described.