Avengers Arena #18 review

It’s the final furlong of the Battle Royale for super-teenagers. 

I hated the very idea of this book, but got sucked in by the sharpness of Dennis Hopeless’ script and dynamism of Kev Walker’s art. I’ve been looking forward to the finale hugely, wondering what fireworks would ensure when the kids who survive confronted their tormentor, Arcade. I hoped for a definite conclusion to the saga of 16 young heroes, kidnapped, imprisoned and presented with the terrible choice: kill or be killed …

Behind Dave Johnson’s revisit to his cover for the first issue lies an intense tale of love and death, as Reptil sacrifices himself to save Hazmat and his new friends/rivals. Apex’s alliance with the teleported-away Arcade proves short-lived. Literally. And Death Locket switches off Murderworld’s deadly devices, clearing the way for the survivors to be collected by Wolverine, Captain Britain and the agents of SWORD and SHIELD. At Hazmat’s suggestion, a pact is made that no one outside the group will ever reveal what happened over the past month – the story is that they were kidnapped by a villain, and people got killed.

And Arcade? He remains free, free to upload footage, on the final pages, showing what happened. There no meeting between villain and victims. One point of the pact is that ‘we won’t let Arcade win’ but in not telling the Avengers and X-Men, they’re doing just that. Sure, if the film Arcade publishes does advertise his involvement, as was his stated intention, he’ll have dozens of enemies after him immediately.

But that’s something for another day. Today, I want confrontation, and catharsis. It’s what the young heroes deserve; it’s what I deserve, having become emotionally invested in the stories. And the creative team deserves massive praise for turning a tired idea into a compelling series – even Hopeless, on the letters page, admits he didn’t initially buy a superhero death match as the basis for a book. But Hopeless and co don’t stick the landing – by choice.

So the Law is an ass, Arcade is free to murder again, and the adult heroes get attacked by the media for ‘failing these kids’.

In a few months, Hopeless and Walker take some of their characters on a new journey, as they become Avengers Undercover with the Masters of Evil. Their experiences here will play into that, and I look forward to following the new story. But I wanted this one to end first.

11 thoughts on “Avengers Arena #18 review

  1. Ah, it's kind of hard for me to take this serious after the parade of teenagers killing teenagers in comic books during the last decade, and that this is basically about a petulant sociopath who thinks he's gonna be taken seriously just because he could get teenagers to kill each other.

    Also, it's my understanding that one of the themes in this book was how the heroes in question all have a dark side that could easily push them into villainy. You can make it sound eloquent but that applies to all of us given the circumstances, like what is it about these characters especially that make them more susceptible into becoming ax crazy psychopaths compared to others. Wouldn't it have made more sense to feature heroes who may NOT be quite susceptible? Because going by the concept of choosing teens with noticeable dark sides, Arcade really didn't have to do that much to push them then, did he? He wants to brag about getting X-23 to kill people? Let's see him brag after getting Molly Hayes to kill someone.

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  2. Thanks for the comments. You have it wrong about the 'these kids have villain potential' thing -that was a big story point in Avengers Academy, it's not been brought up here, so far as I can recall. Though some of those Braddock kids are real stinkers …

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  3. In fairness, Martin, it wouldn't be a real Marvel teen book if it didn't end with loose ends.
    I can't think of any of their teen books that weren't run into the ground by the time their final issues landed, regardless of the quality of the books at their high point – although Avengers Arena has at least been consistent and whatever else you think of it, at least it didn't end with characters in a coma or transformed into a space horse.

    If nothing else, at least we had Thoughts and/or Opinions on AA. I have zero thoughts about Avengers Undercover, but hope it does well seeing as it's the “more traditional” teen superhero book many of AA's detractors claim to have wanted.

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  4. I liked AA a hell of a lot more than I expected to, but the final issue did seem a little rushed, or possibly squashed, in places. After the cliffhanger of Hazmat exploding (or something) as the climax to the previous issue, and Reptil taking her out to sea, all that happens is that she returns to shore minus her containment suit. Did she explode? Is she better now? Did the suit get blown off, or doesn't she need it anymore?

    None of this is explained because we are too busy wrapping up the series to find out. And I was okay with Arcade getting away and the kids vowing to keep quiet about what happened, so the twist of having Arcade go public anyway just seems to unravel the ending we did get.

    Ah well, I think I'll give the sequel a look.

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  5. I've thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to Avengers Undercover. And if the story isn't finished, it's because it continues in Avengers Undercover (as Hopeless as explained in various interviews).
    We can expect a confrontation with Arcade in the next book I think.

    About Hazmat, Hopeless said that all will be explained in Undercover

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  6. Hi Marionette, did Hazmat not explode earlier in the book? I thought that was how come she'd apparently list her powers. Maybe not.

    I'll be reading the sequel too, let's see where it goes.

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  7. I've missed the Hopeless chats, Bruno. I'm glad to hear the Arcade stuff is getting picked up, but it's pretty poor he never wrapped it up in the actual series. And I do hope Arcade gets his John Byrne look back, the visual was always part of the appeal.

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  8. I still don't understand how you can enjoy this series, Martin. I still don't find the script anything more than blah at best, insufferable more often than it should be. *sigh* First book I've read that I outright disagree with you on.

    Oh well, perhaps Undercover will be better. I doubt it, I disliked the character work and plotting, rather than the premise, but… you never know.

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