Looks can be conceiving if you take a peek at the cover of the newest issue of Avengers Academy.
Avengers Arena #4
Focus shifts to Runaways Chase and Nico who have taken up refuge on a beach. Chase’s plan, he believes, is solid: With their backs to the sea, they will be able to better defend themselves from any attackers. However, Chase is paranoid and constantly believes he is hearing enemies approaching. It’s at this point that Nico suggests they should find allies to team up with while the fight is still young. The pair eventually meets up with Avengers Academy grads X-23, Reptil, and Hazmat and offer an olive branch by way of food. Things go well for a bit until Reptil is burned badly by a bolt of fire from the woods. Believing it to be Chase, X-23 and Hazmat exile the Runaways back into the woods. There, Chase finds a magical amulet that transforms him into a new Darkhawk.
I’m not one who wants to look past the obvious. The cover of this is done in one of those really cool old school fight posters featuring X-23 vs. Darkhawk in an “Island Brawl to End Them All!” Don’t get fooled by the cover. It’s nothing like last week’s All-New X-Men with Mystique wrapping herself around young Scott Summers’ head. Chalk this one up to more of an art piece than anything. It’s a cool cover from Dave Johnson, but doesn’t really capture anything seen in the pages within the comic.
Moving on, I have to say I can see why there’s been an outcry from fans. Avengers Academy had gained a large number of fans during its run (I count myself among those numbers). The Runaways have a somewhat small, but fiercely loyal, group of fans frustrated by having no long run of Runaway comics. You gotta imagine their disappointment when Marvel NOW! came along and there still isn’t any word on any attempt at a Runaways title outside of Avengers Arena. Add to that the simple premise of the book – each of these characters are brought to Murder World by Arcade to kill themselves off Hunger Games style. A fan favorite (Mettle) got killed in the first issue to imply this is a serious predicament for the young characters. So, that being said and already seen, people will die that have a great deal of fans. That never goes unnoticed by readers. Particularly readers of titles that had no relaunch with Marvel NOW!
I can see what Dennis Hopeless is going for here. I think he wanted to do a Lord of the Flies or the aforementioned Hunger Games style of story. Here are people who are young, scared, and not fully in control of their powers and/or abilities. They are going to make mistakes. They are going to always be looking over their shoulders at their current allies. When someone presents a problem, the fear and paranoia will strike deep and someone will wind up dead. Replace the word “dead” with “cast off” and the book now feels like an episode of Survivor in the hands of the readers.
It’s not a bad idea. It really isn’t. In fact, it’s a book that has kind of a sharp edge considering the ages of the characters selected by Arcade. There’s a sickness to Arcade’s desire to watch the kids butcher themselves. He probably just watched (again) Hunger Games and thought, “I’d like to see that happen live!” Technically, it’s written well. Hopeless has done well fostering that fear and paranoia into tension filled moments between characters and situations. He’s left the reader wondering who is going to be the next one to fall and who are we going to see be the one who pulls the trigger? Alessandro Vitti’s art is great for this issue as well. Vitti’s style can be best described to be in the same vein as Jim Cheung with making the characters look as young as they really are.
However, I have to think this will be one of the early cancellations in the new NOW! initiative. You can tell exactly how much pressure Marvel is getting over this book because of the letter section at the end of the issue. I commend the editors for posting the negative comments and not just focusing on the positives they receive. I also commend Hopeless for trying to reach out to the readers with an explanation for the series and what he’s attempting to do with the stories while not seeming defensive or unprofessional.
That doesn’t change the fact that this series is in a bit of a pickle. The series isn’t bad. This issue is honestly far from truly being bad. It’s just the personal connection we have with these characters. It’s impossible to get enough people bought in on the series without them taking it personal when characters they like are killed off one by one. The deaths aren’t even consistent with the average Marvel death. These people are fighting each other. There’s no one strapping a ticking time bomb to their backs and flying into the atmosphere to save friends or the world itself. The gladiator style plot where the characters must kill each other or be killed means that the reader is stuck. They can’t really root for anyone because everyone is an antagonist in the story. Even if you are rooting for a particular team or character, you’re too invested in your favorite character that your worry over him/her nearly blocks out the rest of the book.
Despite the massive road blocks, this issue is pretty good. Though it’s not bad, if I look at this from the point of view of a fan, I’d probably feel just as angry that these characters are literally trying to kill one another. Oh, and when this series ends or is taken over by a new team, please don’t make all this simply go away or retconned. That would only lead to more angry letters.
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|Nice script and really good art. Also, give it up for Marvel’s editors for allowing the letter forum to be made up of both bad and good.||The story feels too much another take on Lord of the Flies or only in production because someone wanted to cash in on The Hunger Games’ popularity.|