(a) Kev Walker
And there it is! Dennis Hopeless comes in two for two this week with a double-hitter of some of the worst 'Marvel NOW!' titles yet! After the atrocity of Cable and X-Force #1, I found myself wanting to give Dennis Hopeless another chance. What were the odds that he'd screw up two batches of characters, right? Well, if you liked Avengers Academy at all, get ready to hate Dennis Hopeless. In interviews, the man's stated that he's aware of how much fans will be antagonized by his decision in this book, as if it's something to be proud of and tout. If you're aware that what you're writing is going to anger fans, then why? Perhaps, one might think, because it's in service of some bigger agenda, a larger picture we as humble readers cannot yet see. Or maybe it's a bold bold observation about the current state of comic book affairs. Unfortunately, like Hopeless' other 'Marvel NOW!' title, Avengers Arena #1 provides little to no clarification as to why anything is happening. If one of the goals of this 'NOW!' initiative from Marvel is to boost new readership and attract a larger audience, Avengers Arena #1 fails.
Basically, this guy named Arcade wants to see some people murdered, so he's decided to kidnap teenage mutants and super humans to pit against one another until they kill each other. That's it. Arcade even admits that there's nothing more to the situation. Minimalism can be effective when done with style, but this is literally bare-bones storytelling with no backstory for any character, no reason to invest time or feelings into them, and a premise that's Battle Royale or The Hunger Games depending on who you ask. I'm not even going to get into the argument about how all three premises are exactly the same because that would be redundant. What I will say is that even with an arguably narrow and/or specific premise, there are ways to make this kind of tale resonate with audiences, but in the case of Avengers Arena #1, Dennis Hopeless neglects any sort of panache or style when it comes to his dialogue and character development. Every teenager here feels like a carbon copy of the last; there are no distinguishing features or characteristics to differentiate between blond, semi-long hair Boy 1 and blond, semi-long hair Boy 2.
Much like Cable and X-Force #1, there isn't much to like about Avengers Arena #1. The characters are cardboard cutouts of their former selves from Avengers Academy or the ill-fated and consistently neglected by Marvel Runaways, Arcade just seems ridiculous without any real motivation beyond wanting to see some murders. Plus, the entire series doesn't really have a place in the Marvel universe--the only connection it has to anything else is that the characters used to be more integral to what was going on. Now, they're literally on a different planet and totally separate from anything else going on. Why? In what way does that add to the greater Marvel narrative at all? Is this series going to end once everyone is dead? I can't imagine reading Avengers Arena #75 in a few years because it's quite obvious this series won't be around that long.