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Avengers Arena #9 - Game On Part 2 of 5 Review

3

Dive into Apex's origin and find out why she could be a more immediate threat than Arcade.

*If you came here looking for a potentially updated body count... sorry, this review's spoiler-free!*

The Good

As expected after last issue's cliffhanger, issue #9 revolves around Apex and why she's a terrible, terrible person. Buffy fans are sure to draw some parallels to Glory and, while I didn't think her origin story was particularly engaging, it did an able job establishing the character. While writer Dennis Hopeless does make the plot take a few steps forward, it's Kev Walker who continues to be the real star of this book. Even if you're steaming from the ears over Hopeless putting some of your favorite characters in a kill or be killed scenario, there's no denying the fact that this book looks terrific. Facial expressions are spot on, pulling us into this abysmal scenario and seeing how each character is holding up. Action is delightfully fluid and, thanks to Jean-Francois Beaulieu's coloring, each energy blast or impact is gorgeous and lively.

As if there wasn't already enough to worry about, the new conflict surrounding Apex is definitely a somewhat interesting variable. Initially, I was concerned over the motivation that would place these characters at each other's throats, but the dramatic events are piling up and, soon enough, it'll be understandable why they may or may not be more prone to dealing with certain characters in a lethal fashion.

Believe it or not, I actually like how Hopeless is handling X-23. He's keeping her on a moral path and it's clear she's using any and all restraint possible. She's developed so much as a character over the years, so I am concerned knowing she'll eventually try to rip apart Hazmat (more trigger scent, perhaps?). But in the meantime, I'm pleased with her decisions and her drive to avoid fights -- if possible, of course. Speaking of Hazmat, where is she and Reptil? I find it a tad odd to not chime in on them over the past two issues. We'll obviously see more from them in the future, but a status update after their encounter with X-23 would certainly be appreciated.

The Bad

Every now and then a tale has a moment that makes you want to scream at the character out of sheer frustration. You know, something like, "What are you doing?!?!" Yeah, this issue has one of those moments towards the end. Sure, we all knew Apex would eventually take control again, but I would have loved to see more from Tim before that happened. I will admit, though, his final remarks definitely have my interest piqued. He came off as a glimmer of hope for resolving the situation, but now it appears he doesn't have the courage to truly stop Apex's terror. Put in that situation, would you honestly sacrifice your own life to save them? I know it's easy for us to think we would be that noble, but given the circumstances, his lack of courage is understandable. Will that change? Only time will tell. Seeing as he may be developing feelings for Death Locket, I'd like to believe so.

Nico's reaction to Chase felt totally out of left field. It went from a somewhat rational debate to a vicious and merciless verbal assault. I understand they're young and at that age people can certainly lose their cool at a moment's notice, but this seemed over the top and unnecessarily harsh. In my opinion, it was clearly thrown in there just to reduce the group's numbers and set the stage for even more future conflict. Additionally, issue #7 did a brilliant job expanding on Arcade, so I'd like to see him more involved in his Murder World. Based on what we've seen, it's tough to believe he's cool with sitting back (for the most part) and letting the chaos unfold. Hopefully he'll play a bigger role in the near future.

The Verdict

Up until issue #7, my opinions on this book have been all over the place. Now there's quite a few variables thrown into the mix and you can feel the tension building (even if some of it is over the top). The concept and these variables aren't exactly original and some feel forced, but despite that, this and the previous issue haven't been shabby. If I could give half stars, I'd be leaning towards a 2.5, but Kev Walker's phenomenal visuals warrants a boost to a 3.

For the crowd who hates this book based on the premise: I understand why, but if you don't like what Dennis Hopeless is doing to the characters you love, please speak with your wallet. Ranting about it on the internet will accomplish nothing if you're still shelling out $2.99 for each issue. To Marvel, that says you're enjoying this concept and that completely negates what you're trying to accomplish, doesn't it? So please, if you loathe it, don't spend a penny on it. You of course have every right to complain on the internet, too... just make sure you're not financially supporting what you hate. It's that simple, folks.

31 Comments
Posted by SynCig

I have only read the first issue of this series. Idk what I think about it. Seems like it might be a decent series (mostly because I have no connection to most of the characters except my love for X-23). I haven't decided whether I'll pick up the trade or not.

Posted by akbogert

If you care about anyone in that book then stay away from it. It's that simple. Moreover they plan to extend it into a "second season" so if you support it they may add new characters you care more about then.

X-23 is my favorite character and that's the best reason I could have for NOT reading this.

Posted by The Stegman

I have no idea who most of the characters involved are besides X 23, so I'm not on the "loathe this for killing my beloved character" bandwagon, but from reading it so far, the story is just...blah.

Posted by RawrImADragon

Still don't understand any of the hate... is it really true people are still hating on this? Can't be. I've loved this series since issue #1 and I've even followed these characters through Runaways and Avengers Academy. One of the best books in the Marvel NOW lineup, imo.

Posted by akbogert

@rawrimadragon: read most of my blogs here. If you still don't understand the hate then you may well be functionally incompetent, as the loathing is quite rational.

Posted by TheAcidSkull

ehhhh....the whole premise of the title wrenches my guts...at least this was decent, i can't break away , i admire x-23 too much.

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Posted by RawrImADragon

@akbogert: wow, i share a thought and now I'm labeled "functionally incompetent". I just don't understand the hypocrisy. Like the reviewers who are angry about a couple of characters dying in this book (btw we're many issues in and we've had several issues where no one dies) are the same reviewers who are telling people they are silly for being so angry at Peter Parker's death at the end of ASM. In the same way people are waiting it out in Superior Spider-Man people should try and wait it out for this book to see what happens. Death in comic books is just an element in story telling. At least these characters are getting a comic with so much attention given to it. I'm glad someone is at least writing them at all. I'm glad these characters were even considered at all at the Marvel NOW meeting. We were never going to get an Avengers Academy sequel or another Runaways volume but at least if this book does well, maybe there's a chance of that. You know?

Posted by akbogert

@theacidskull: break away anyway. Please. Buy it in trades later if you must but supporting this series doesn't show your love for these characters. It shows your love for this story -- this Murder World.

Like I said, they just announced most of the characters will be dead in a few months, and they have plans to continue the series in a new season. More death will happen if people continue buying this book.

Posted by TheAcidSkull

@akbogert: wow, i share a thought and now I'm labeled "functionally incompetent". I just don't understand the hypocrisy. Like the reviewers who are angry about a couple of characters dying in this book (btw we're many issues in and we've had several issues where no one dies) are the same reviewers who are telling people they are silly for being so angry at Peter Parker's death at the end of ASM. In the same way people are waiting it out in Superior Spider-Man people should try and wait it out for this book to see what happens. Death in comic books is just an element in story telling. At least these characters are getting a comic with so much attention given to it. I'm glad someone is at least writing them at all. I'm glad these characters were even considered at all at the Marvel NOW meeting. We were never going to get an Avengers Academy sequel or another Runaways volume but at least if this book does well, maybe there's a chance of that. You know?

damn you marvel.....

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Edited by akbogert

@rawrimadragon: I said read my blogs, because I've delineated a plethora of reasons for the hate. If you read them and STILL don't understand, THEN you may be functionally incompetent.

I have been ranting just as hard about Superior, so don't call me a hypocrite. I've asked Parker fans to drop that and I'm asking these fans to drop this.

They just confirmed LAST WEEK that most of the kids will be dead by the end of the arc.

What good is a Runaways book without Chase and Nico?

And Academy was cancelled to be replaced with this. The notion that Mettle or Hazmat "needed" this book to save them from obscurity is absurd.

Posted by BR_Havoc

I find it funny that Hopeless has been hyping season two when his book has not even found its audience. The sales fall each month and IMO its most likely on Marvel short list for cancellations. I have read a few issues at the comic shop and it simply was not good art is the only thing that keeps this thing alive. Its annoying how hard this book is pushing the idea that its extreme in the faces off readers and non readers alike.

Edited by RawrImADragon

@akbogert: I just think it's a little unfair to think that supporting this title means that we don't care about the characters involved. I'm not saying Mettle or Hazmat "needed" this but this book damn sure brought those names into more comic reader's hands. And by saying that I'm not saying that this is a better book than Academy, I'm just saying that this concept, all this publicity and controversy its pulling, is at least helping these characters step into the spotlight more. Which as fans who do truly care about these characters should be happy about because it means we'll at least see them more.

And i don't think by not buying the book, it's going to stop Hopeless from killing off more characters. If it's gonna happen it's gonna happen regardless of what anyone but Hopeless wants. But what scares me even more, is if no one buys this book then Marvel will be like, "Well it looks like no one cared about these characters anyway," and just keep them dead and this Avengers Arena book will be the last we ever see of the Runaways or the Academy students. And I know that's just one side of the coin, just like your perspective, and I hear what you're saying and all. I dunno, I just feel like, at least I get to see Hazmat or Reptil again (would've loved to see Finesse in this actually) even if it's not under Christos Gage's pen and even though there's a possibility they might die. But they're superheroes, every issue they're dealing with the possibility of dying by some threat. This scenario may just seem tougher than others, that's all.

Posted by The Mast

I'm literally only reading this to see if Hazmat gets killed off.

I suppose I never thought it through that I don't need to finance it so find that out, but I love Hazmat anyway.

Edited by Fuchsia_Nightingale

@the_stegman said:

I have no idea who most of the characters involved are besides X 23, so I'm not on the "loathe this for killing my beloved character" bandwagon, but from reading it so far, the story is just..blah

I do know most of the character, but I'm not on that wagon :D

Posted by ptigrusmagus

Isn't it obvious these deaths are not truly happening? They are all jacked into a virtual reality by Arcade. At the end of this series they will be free from Arcade and they will all be alive but changed.

Posted by akbogert

@ptigrusmagus: that has already been disproven multiple times AND officially declared wrong in interviews. After issue 7, which made explicitly clear that these deaths are real, came out, Hopeless even said in an interview that fans had made that up and run with it, but he had never implied it in the book and it was never going to be fake.

Posted by Daycrawler

Not read this issue yet, but personally I am loving this series. Taking it for what it is, a fun thrill ride with lots of character building, rivalries and tension in amongst the odd death or three. Like that death is a real threat in this series, as much as it can be in mainstream comics. Even the new characters are fantastic. Reaallly love Death Locket and hope she survives. Though Kid Briton was great as a love-to-hate figure too.

Edited by zeyepawdz

Sigh, Sad to see Juston go. He's been one of my favorite characters ever since the Tsunami imprint and the Sentinel series.

Here's hoping it's temporary.

Posted by Mercy_

@akbogert said:

If you care about anyone in that book then stay away from it. It's that simple. Moreover they plan to extend it into a "second season" so if you support it they may add new characters you care more about then.

X-23 is my favorite character and that's the best reason I could have for NOT reading this.

AMEN.

Moderator
Posted by ScumDestroy

Love these characters and it was the first thing I read this week over ten other books. Even if these characters die, they can still be brought back, death is never permanent in comics. Regardless of what is going on at Marvel Now! meetings, I promise there will be rad comic books in the future, with some of these characters in them.

Edited by akbogert

...a fun thrill ride with lots of character building...

Enlighten me.

Which of these characters has Hopeless built upon? Where is this "development" you speak of, which takes the foundation laid by previous writers and makes the character stronger, smarter, more interesting, less flawed, etc. Please be specific -- refer to the character prior to appearing in Arena, and then show how the character is now improved.

(that's open to everyone here, by the way)

Posted by EnSabahNurX

@syncig said:

I have only read the first issue of this series. Idk what I think about it. Seems like it might be a decent series (mostly because I have no connection to most of the characters except my love for X-23). I haven't decided whether I'll pick up the trade or not.

I'm on the same page with my only connection being x-23. I mean I'm familiar with most from avengers academy because I picked it up when Laura joined the cast so that helped, but this series isn't bad. Even though I know really none of the characters they do give you glimpses into their backstories and most of the dialogue is good. I'd say this series has been pretty good. I'll take X-23 whenever I can XD

Edited by WinterFreakinSoldier

@zeyepawdz said:

Sigh, Sad to see Juston go.

He's been one of my favorite characters ever since the Tsunami imprint and the Sentinel series.

Yea, Juston was one of my favorite characters too. I read both of the Sentinel runs, and starting reading Avengers Academy because of him. Sad to see him go..

But I'm still loving Avengers Arena..

Posted by RawrImADragon
@akbogert said:

@daycrawler said:

...a fun thrill ride with lots of character building...

Enlighten me.

Which of these characters has Hopeless built upon? Where is this "development" you speak of, which takes the foundation laid by previous writers and makes the character stronger, smarter, more interesting, less flawed, etc. Please be specific -- refer to the character prior to appearing in Arena, and then show how the character is now improved.

(that's open to everyone here, by the way)

Not trying to start an argument but I definitely feel that Hazmat has gotten a little more interesting and definitely stronger since her inclusion in Avengers Arena.

In Academy, her constant theme of struggle was wanting to be normal and not having her radioactive powers that kept her distant, both literally and physically, from having any sort of connection with anyone. And then towards the end of the series when her and Mettle finally got their powers removed and could finally be normal she had to sacrifice that in order to save the rest of the Academy students. However, that was fine for her since she had Mettle to take that plunge with her.

Now, since *spoilers* Mettle got blown up in the first issue she has nothing left to lose. She's hollow, even less sympathetic, and doesn't even care about being "normal" anymore. I'd say she has definitely become more interesting since that event. It was definitely tragic for her and almost immediately she was ready to kill Death-Locket. She lost the only rock that tied her down and it was her last hope of ever feeling like a regular girl. I also feel that she's gotten stronger since she has been in total focus mode since that event and almost killed Nico and Chase when they first encountered. That's just how I see it, though.

Edited by Daycrawler

@akbogert said:

@daycrawler said:

...a fun thrill ride with lots of character building...

Enlighten me.

Which of these characters has Hopeless built upon? Where is this "development" you speak of, which takes the foundation laid by previous writers and makes the character stronger, smarter, more interesting, less flawed, etc. Please be specific -- refer to the character prior to appearing in Arena, and then show how the character is now improved.

(that's open to everyone here, by the way)

Maaan. I can almost sense the rage that went into typing those words.

To be honest, I was referring mainly to the new characters, though I dug the Chase-centric issue too. Hopeless seemed to pretty much get Chase and had done his homework on the Runaways too. Good study as to where he's at. I'll qualify that by saying I've only read up to Vol 5 of the Runaways, so his portrayal seems consistent with that.

Don't really know too much about the Academy kids, though Reptil is cool and Juston is finally showing some balls and aggression since he and his sentinel BFF was mangled. Out of all the established characters, I'm familiar with X-23 the most and I'd say her handling has been pretty damn consistent from what I know of her. I know you have major hang-ups about the trigger scent thing, but that doesn't bother me. In fact, I like it's usage as a method of isolating her from her friends and the test of character that this seems to be bringing about. Like I say though, I don't know 'em well enough, like you obviously do. Still, I dig the characters and am having fun how Hopeless is testing them and seeing how they react. Within the context of Arena, I think Hopeless is doing a good job building them up, giving the a distinct voice and making them interesting and believable. I don't see any jarring differences between them here and what I've read before (but I stress, only been a casual reader of Academy).

He's doing a great job with Cammi, best she's been handled since the original Annihilation Drax mini in my opinion. After that series, she kinda faded into the background a bit, became Drax's angry sidekick, then disappeared. Hopeless has really helped flesh out this character and bring a fresh perspective to her, all whilst staying true to who she is. Cammi is definitely a character that has improved and developed in Arena imo.

As for the new characters, he basically took two brand new characters - Death Locket and Kid Briton - and made then very believable, rounded characters within the space of an issue each. Other characters like Anachronism and Cullen Bloodstone are pretty great too. Hopeless has done a great job of making old and new characters seem equally important and equally well-fleshed out thus far in the pages of Arena. We're 9 issues in, with a cast of, what, 14-ish. He's doing a good job of giving everyone face time and a distinct voice / identity.

By the way, you examples of character development are all positive ones (smarter, less flawed, etc). Who says character development has to be in the area of positive attributes? Could easily be negative ones - deception, more flawed, weaker, etc. Characters need to go through these peaks and troughs, positives and negatives, to be interesting. That's what Arena is about. Testing the characters and seeing what happens, good or bad. How does Juston react when badly injured and with a crippled Sentinel? Laura, minus the support of friends? Hazmat, with the death of Mettle? Deathlocket being used as a weapon? Etc, etc. Fertile areas for character development.

Edited by akbogert

@daycrawler: Oh, you have no idea, haha. That was the third draft (one mental on my way home from work, one written and scrapped) of what I was going to say.

I'm going to preclude this by reiterating something I've said before about this series, and that is that I don't give a crap about the new characters or how well Hopeless writes them. That doesn't mean they're not good or interesting -- it's just that my complaint with Hopeless is him destroying pre-existing characters with pre-existing fans with pre-existing emotional connections to them. I still find the notion of a teen deathmatch distasteful but if it were just his characters he was killing, I wouldn't be angry about it, and I wouldn't begrudge anyone for praising it. His ability to develop someone he invented with this story in mind is, for one, not even a skill (so much as something you'd take for granted of a writer), and for another completely irrelevant to his ability to develop and respect someone else's creation.

About X-23, I'll merely say that nothing new or interesting has been done with her character thus far. Using Trigger Scent to control her has been intrinsic to her since her inception. It's the reason she struggled for years to even develop friendships in the first place, because people close to her got hurt (even by her). After years of her being the dangerous killer who everyone avoided (or from whom she purposely kept away), she was finally developing relationships and closeness to others. Isolating her from her friends is therefore not only uninteresting, but infuriating. And as for testing her character, I'd say she's been willing to sacrifice herself for others so many times that at this point she has passed that test and bring it up again is, once more, uninteresting and aggravating. It's as if that's the only story people want to tell with her.

My issue is with -- as you put it -- "within the context of Arena." I understand that Hopeless has made interesting things happen within the story. But most of these changes make taking the character beyond the story impossible. In X-23's case, as I've articulated elsewhere, having her in this book at best stalls the development she already had, and at worst it sets her back to square one by making her be used by other people and hurt the ones she loves. And somewhere in between those two, there's her dying -- and when death isn't even the worst-case scenario for your favorite character, that tells you that something's out of place.

Most of these characters have had really rough pasts. The Runaways had to fight their parents (to death) and were fugitives thereafter. Laura was raised by sadists, forced to kill her own mother, and has been relentlessly pursued by a sadistic "handler" for years, nevermind her deep-seated sense of self-loathing (and self-harm) and her continual inability to cope with her own humanity. Hazmat contracted a condition which made human contact impossible -- consider how horrible that would be -- and then had the only good thing in her life taken from her in the name of "character development?" (note: there's word for killing someone's loved one just to make that character's story "interesting" -- it's called fridging, and it's the bane of comics).

So if there's any character whose development didn't need to go any further down, it's most of these kids. They've already dealt with death and grim circumstances. Most have had friends die (or have even been involved with those deaths). Few of them even have parents left. So when I focus on the "positive development," it's because they have years' worth of negative development, and I don't see this book fixing that; I see it shoving them further into the mud. And for most of them? I see it drowning them.

@rawrimadragon: Thanks for taking the time to elaborate. While we conclude opposite things about what has happened, at least I understand what you're talking about. And to clarify that: I don't find taking away someone's only hope, and completely destroying the only real positive thing left in her life (after having her struggle for so long to attain it) -- and so shortly after she got it, no less -- to be "interesting." Hopeless may have made her more of a player in terms of this story, but he obliterated everything she could hold onto in terms of after Arena. There's nothing to bounce back or learn from. There is merely, as you said, a hollow an unsympathetic shell. So when I see that Hopeless turned a character into an empty shell, forgive me for not being willing to call that "development."

But again, we see it differently. I'm not going to convince you to dislike it, you won't convince me to like it. But at least there's a greater understanding now.

Posted by Ben3000

Just finished reading the issue and I'm dropping this series. I gave the series it's fair shake and I'm just not into the plot of it all. I mean the characters in this book are good. As a person who hasn't been exposed to most of these characters minus X-23 and some of the Avengers Academy kids in a Spider-Man issue. I just feel like this book is putting a cap on these potential super heroes and that's not my type of Kool Aid.

Edited by caladbolglight

I don't know, I've never liked the premise, it's too overdone by this point, and Marvel is just copping the band wagon for the last time here. I'm only familiar with the Runaways and Avengers Academy characters, but I don't necessarily think that killing off characters is a bad thing. I wish that there would be more permanent deaths in comics. But this just seems like a huge case of "shock value." I doubt that characters such as X-23 will die, and I'd even be surprised if Mettle stayed dead. If the author wanted to kill off characters, then do it in a more meaningful way. Look at Kid Briton. He had one issue of backstory before his head got chopped off. Seems like a bit of a waste bringing in a character just to kill them.

Posted by Dernman

@zeyepawdz said:

Sigh, Sad to see Juston go.

He's been one of my favorite characters ever since the Tsunami imprint and the Sentinel series.

Yea, Juston was one of my favorite characters too. I read both of the Sentinel runs, and starting reading Avengers Academy because of him. Sad to see him go..

But I'm still loving Avengers Arena..

Yeah I always liked the character and what's really sad is because he in't a big name the chances of him getting a resurrection are slim to none.

Posted by papad1992

@akbogert: I'm glad someone is at least writing them at all. I'm glad these characters were even considered at all at the Marvel NOW meeting. We were never going to get an Avengers Academy sequel or another Runaways volume but at least if this book does well, maybe there's a chance of that. You know?

I'm with you... I'll admit that even though I was opposed to the idea of this, I got to thinking that it's a way to bring these characters (who aren't usually in the spotlight anymore) together, a way to bring in a new audience because this screams Hunger Games, a way for vintage fans to witness Arcade back in the game (and I am one of his fans), also a way to separate itself from the X-Men's shenanigans and the Avengers epic grande scale. I appreciate the characters and I don't think this book is hashing thier status and development. It's a chance to get to known and like new characters, and it's a chance to witness an interesting idea, even if it's directly from a movie/book!

Edited by Teerack

Omg Laura needs to stab Apex in the face a few times please. ;_; so far this series has taken great effort to make sure the character I like die v.v /hate this book