Let's not pull any punches about this book. This series is Marvel's answer to all the tween hype given to The Hunger Games, and the much more brutal, Battle Royale. They even mention - as a rather funny quote from Arcade - that the inspiration for the entire event came from "a couple kids' books!" Mimicry is NOT always the highest compliment, but in the case of Avengers Arena, it's not truly mimicry either. This book is much more than copying the motions of another tale, it has a heart all its own, and for me, is Marvel's best book of the week!
Yes, this is a tale of teenage, and one not so teenage, heroes thrown together in a battle to the death. It has been done before and most certainly will be done again, but it is the tale that lies beneath the broader strokes that compels you to push through this tale of brutality to it's destructive finale. It is the connections that are made, the loves threatened and the ravings of a girl who never truly enjoyed living until her own life was at stake, that draws you emotionally into the tale. Dennis Hopeless has crafted something that far exceeds the parameters this style of story was based on, and has given us a deeply compelling look into the hearts and minds of some exceptional characters that never truly got the chance to shine on their own. Ironically, this tale will also be the final chance we get to see of these characters, at least we got to know them better in their final days!
Not only does Dennis Hopeless give us an emotionally charged, action packed tale of mortality, but he also gives us a different look at one of the oldest X-Men villains. Arcade has taken center stage as the "big bad" in this series, but most fans will not recognize him in his fresh incarnation. He has become a veritable "god" in this tale, one who is near omnipotent in power and cunning and is not afraid to get his hands dirty. He has evolved far beyond the sneering, freckle faced heckler that let his mechanical murder machines do all the work. Hopeless has built him up as a truly terrifying rogue that not only demands respect but obedience as well, pushing him to the top of the list of most intriguing characters to watch. It is the character of Arcade that brings a sense of intrigue to a tale rife with action, diversifying it even more so than the emotional duress we receive from our "heroes." It is these factors that lift this tale above the mere some of it's parts, making it a wondrous read from cover to cover.
Dennis Hopeless and the amazingly talented Kev Walker have crafted a book that may be misconstrued as a mere money grab by Marvel -a blank check to capture the tween readership - and I truly hope it does bring them in. This is the book that will get new readership talking about how amazing comics can be regardless of movie tie-ins and big budget marketing. This is the book that will draw readers in with an idea they all ready know and will blow them away with how rich and emotionally charged the comics genre is.
This is the book that all fans, new or old, should be reading. Don't let the concept fool you, you will be underestimating how great this book really is!