After the dark age brought about by Civil War you announce your Heroic Age, where the good guys areallowed to act like heroes once more, only to see them fighting and murderingone another for contrived reasons yet again. Avengers vs. X-Men was bad enough, with both sides acting likemorons and punching one another over something extremely simple, but now youdrop all pretences and start throwing them by the truckload into Battle Royale gladiatorial games. Yeah,that’s really it, not much else.
Kidnapped by Arcade, we’ll get to him don’t worry, a multitude of lesser known teenage heroes including the Avengers Academy cast, X-23, the Runaways and Darkhawk are taken to the villain’s funhouse of death Murderworld. There they’re pitted into a kill or be killed scenario with no option to refuse fights and have to murder one another for the amusement of others.
Let’s just set aside that the afterlife seems to have a revolving door in comics and try to deal with everything else related to this.
Avengers Arena is taking a distinct group of young heroes, many of who have shown real character growth in a remarkably short amount of time who, just to focus upon Avengers Academy, have developed to trust one another. To protect one another, fall in love, and build themselves up to be an effective force for good and overcome traumatic past experiences to push past their flaws. It then uses those heroes as fodder by hurling them into a meat-grinder and has them openly murder one another because Marvel thinks no one will miss them. Not even giving them a chance for a heroic last stand or, in one infamous case thus far, their execution any focus or even meaning. Not to mention that particular one involves two horrible slasher movie clichés.
This is the sort of story idea I expect to find pitched with the first sentence consisting of “Yo dawg, I heard you liked character deaths” and uses the term “x-tremely edgy” to describe how dark it is. This is really the biggest problem here. The bloated parasite of a concept latches onto the story and drains it dry of any fun or reason to be committed to events, something most obviously visible within the characters.
Arcade, a C-list villain who is barely more of a threat than Stilt-Man, has undergone a huge overhaul by writer Dennis Hopeless. In an effort to make him a credible threat any colourfully fun aspects which made him popular back in the 80s have been completely removed. The only emotion he gave off throughout the whole thing was smug apathy, even as he kills someone with mind bullets. You can practically hear the comic screaming “SEE! SEE! HE CARES NOTHING FOR LIFE AND DEATH! SO GRIMDARK!!!”
It’s the same with some of the heroes. One particularly memorable preview has Hazmat, AKA the girl who lobs radiation at people, claiming that she has “always been a hater” and that she has just hated everything. Nope, no mention of the fact that her hatred was a long established as a coping mechanism for her powers and trauma, she just hates everything. This is the sort of badly researched tripe I’d expect of Karen Traviss, not the guy who wrote X-Men: Season One. Even when the comic initially takes time to expand upon the characters personalities you know it’s only being done so those who’ve don’t care about the characters and have just turned up to watch them die understand who they are.
The same goes for the artwork. I could praise the level of detail done by Kev Walker but then I’d have to go into future things like the burnt flesh sloughing off the bones of X-23 and horrified expressions of those about to die. I could talk about the colouring, but that’d leave me going into the sheer level of gore, blood splatters and maiming rife within fights. Anything good which can possibly be found in this wretched mess is ultimately tainted by the basic concept driving its plot forwards.
I barely managed to scratch the surface on everything wrong with this issue alone. Readers, if any of you looking at this care in the slightest about the characters involved I implore you: Don’t waste your money on this. Don’t even pirate it. Ignore it. We’ve seen enough of heroes senselessly beating the living crap out of one another in recent years, milked to be edgy, controversial and not even trying to embrace any of the fun behind the concept. This should be the last straw, not something to make a profit and end up with some executive thinking they should have more heroes violently murdering one another to boost sales.