Friday, 10 January 2014

Avengers Arena, Volume 1: Kill Or Die (Dennis Hopeless, Kev Walker)


You know what I like about Avengers Academy? It’s upfront about its bullshit (and it is bullshit). It doesn’t hide the fact that it’s blatantly riding the wave of The Hunger Games, nor that it’s ripping off Battle Royale’s logo/cover – it doesn’t even try very hard to work on the numerous characters in the story because they’re there just to die! It’s straight up exploitative comix, and it’s not bad. 

The laughable X-Men villain Arcade has somehow captured 16 young (and unmemorable) superheroes, thrown them into a highly elaborate deathtrap-filled environment called Murder World, and forced them to kill each other – the winner is the last one standing. Up yours, originality! I’ll see you in hell! 

So who are the superheroes? Apart from X-23, Wolverine’s female clone, I didn’t recognise any of them. Apparently, some are from Avengers Academy, some are from Runaways – both titles I don’t read – so I wasn’t invested in any of them, though strangely this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book. Dennis Hopeless does attempt writing background info on some of the characters but it’s wasted. Why? These kids are doomed (in name only Dennis Hopeless is the perfect writer for these kids). They’re contrived plot devices, not characters in the traditional sense, and that’s what makes Avengers Arena such an interesting story – you’re actually not rooting for the characters to survive, you’re rooting for them all to die! So the less character work on them, the better. In fact the series might be improved with more characters, so there are more deaths, and fewer moments where Hopeless might be tempted to rise over the hackery of it all. 

Avengers Arena is trash and Marvel knows it, so I don’t know why they don’t go all in and go full on mimicry of The Hunger Games – have Deadpool as a sponsor wearing that awful fake Woody Harrelson wig on top of his mask. Have the obvious heroine who won’t die, like Hope, the mutant messiah, and give Arcade a mad dystopian society to lord over – maybe the Moloids in fancy getup - and set the story in some parallel universe to 616. Maybe Arcade was the wrong choice for villain and it should’ve been Mojo instead? Makes more sense as Mojo could televise Avengers Arena as the new intergalactic reality show hit! Go full on, mouth-foaming crazy and throw out any and all attempts at telling a straight story – that would’ve made Avengers Arena a five star read. 

As it is, the series almost reaches these levels of blasé idiocy by glossing over obvious story points like why Arcade is suddenly so powerful as to capture 16 superheroes and shackle them in a ridiculously large and complex environment AND have the powers of a god (the explanation probably being they’re in the Marvel version of The Matrix). But it doesn’t go far enough and trips itself up by reigning in the madness at certain points and introducing “feelings” for the “characters” which obviously doesn’t work because they’re not characters.

It’s not a great comic because great comics have real characters you care about, original stories, and well-crafted storytelling, but for what it is – The Hunger Games with cheap Marvel superheroes – it’s surprisingly not terrible. I’m on board to see which cardboard superhero eats it next (hilariously, there’s literally a character called Anachronism - even the characters know what they are! He’s my favourite by the way. Other characters created just for this series who should’ve made an appearance: Target, I’m Next, Arrow Through The Eye, and Marvel Doesn’t Care About Me), which cardboard supe wins, and what it’s all been about. 

Here’s hoping it gets even trashier in the next book!

Avengers Arena - Volume 1: Kill or Die

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