Avengers Arena was one of my favourite comics of the last few years, but it was always a finite concept. The game of death those young heroes were playing had a definitive endpoint, and Hopeless reached that, and told a fascinating, exciting story full of great characters. But in the Marvel Universe, nothing ever ends (Adrian), sometimes for bad, mostly for good, and Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker returning to these characters for a completely different story is certainly good. If you loved Avengers Arena, then you need to pick this up and see what comes next. If you hated it? Well, you need to buy it as well just to give yourself more things to complain about on Tumblr.
The issue begins with a brief montage showing the impact of Arcade’s leak about Murderworld and how the press and general population has reacted to those horrific events. This is not only a good way to get any unfortunates who didn’t read Arena up to speed, but also show how the media narrative has become very important here. Hopeless then begins to show what state of mind the surviving characters are in. First up is Hazmat, who can now live freely outside of her suit, and who overhears a fat nerd guy talking shit about her in a diner, saying how she was the worst person in Murderworld and how he would have done stuff totally differently. The people in the Marvel Universe aren’t taking these events seriously, to them, it’s just a reality show, but to Hazmat and the rest, it’s her real life. She goes up to this nerd, intimidates him and burns his table down with her radiation powers. So yeah, she’s not in a good place.
Up next is Chase (and his terrible new Mohawk), who seems to be the only person who is embracing the media spotlight, which makes sense for his character. He’s on a talk show discussing what he went through, but is interrupted by Nico, who’s mad at him for breaking the pact. Chase doesn’t see the point in the pact when Arcade already broke it, so they argue. It’s revealed that, since they returned, Nico hasn’t been staying with the other Runaways (we see them watching on TV) and has basically abandoned her friends. Nico (who also has new hair, red highlights) then teleports the both of them to a secret location.
After this we see Deathlocket being tested by some SHIELD scientists, which basically reiterates the same point Hazmat’s scene did, that people are treating what happened like it was a TV show, as one of the scientists totally fanboys up to Deathlocket about how much he loved her on ‘the show’. I think I liked this more than the Hazmat stuff though, it was more subtle.
Someone whose life doesn’t seem to be too bad is Cammi, as her return has managed to make her mother stop drinking and start to fix her life. But nevertheless, she has stuff to deal with and can’t stay in frickin’ Alaska, so she jetpacks off to the same ‘someplace’ that Nico and Chase did.
Last up is Cullen Bloodstone, who seems to have gone full-on crazy-town as we see a video he recorded of himself blowing up Arcade’s house with a Rocket Launcher. He’s on a bloodthirsty trail of revenge, and that’s why Anachronism has called all of the others to Bloodstone Manor for a meeting. They all meet up, go inside Cullen’s Rust Cohle-esque room of investigation, and look at his next video… Cullen heading into Bagalia, the country owned by the Masters Of Evil, in order to track down Arcade. He’s been down there 3 weeks and nobody’s heard anything, so the rest of the gang decide to go and look for him. And boy, they may not like what they find, because right now, Cullen, in his monster-form is helping Zemo, Madame Masque, Constrictor and Son Of Satan destroy a SHIELD base. The cover to this issue asks which hero will become a villain, and I think we already have our answer!
Kev Walker’s artwork was just as good here as it was in Arena, perfect for the dark shit that goes down here, but also a good fit for teen characters. But as I said, I’m not sold on Chase’s new hair, but that’s just me being lame. This was a great first issue, I’ve missed these characters in the short time since Arena ended, and I love having them back, especially in a totally new setting. The idea of them being undercover in Bagalia hasn’t even started yet, but I dig it already.
People bitched and moaned about how Arena was jut wanton, hate-filled slaughter, but the fact that there’s a whole new series just dealing with the aftermath shows that to be just total nonsense. The Marvel Universe may not grasp the full impact of Murderworld, but rest assured that Dennis Hopeless does, and he’s going to explore it fully.