Did you know that when Arcade isn’t tossing superheroes around giant pinball machines he’s running a Squid Game-style TV show on the dark web? One hundred civilians willingly take on odds of 99-1 that they’ll survive Arcade’s twisted toys – and each other – to take home a big cash prize.
We didn’t know about Arcade’s extracurricular activities until last issue… what’s that, you say, this comic has #1 on the cover? That’s Marvel being Marvel, trying for that ‘Collector’s item first issue’ market. So yes, this is actually the second issue of a five-part mini-series. Marvel are also being tricksy by making it look like it stars Spider-Man, when all the arachnid heroes who show up are androids (well, Arcade says they’re LMDs – Life Model Decoys – but surely SHIELD has the trademark on that one).
In last month’s Murderworld: Avengers #1 our hero was a social influencer named Paul Psastor, this time our PoV character is MMA fighter Eden Abraha, who proves to be as vicious emotionally as she is physically. I like her.
We don’t find out who the mystery tough lady is, but we do meet a couple of other players, Alex, a ‘pretty boy’ paramedic, and the more mature Vincent, who surprises Eden with his toughness. It’s a shame the blurb for next issue, Murderworld: Wolverine #1, reveals which existing Marvel Universe character he is, as that would’ve been a terrific in-story surprise.
Also involved, but outside of Murderworld, is Black Widow, who has her own reasons to track down Arcade. She’s enlisted Kitty Pryde for her information-harvesting talents, but the X-Man will help only so much.
Towards the close of the issue Arcade unveils a twist, and if you’re a viewer of brilliant new reality game show The Traitors – as seen in the Netherlands, Australia, the UK and coming to the US next month – it’ll surely resonate.
Marvel really should show more faith in this mini-series. Sure, there’s no big superhero to draw in the punters, but Arcade has name recognition, and successful books have launched with less. Writers Jim Zub and Ray Fawkes have come up with a fun, dramatic take on the Battle Royale model – see also Avengers Arena, also starring Arcade. The focal point characters are quickly sketched in, well enough that I’m invested in their very stupid notion that they’ll be the sole survivor. The Black Widow subplot adds extra spice. And Arcade is alway entertaining.
That downward shot in the first panel can’t be easy to pull off, but artist Farid Karami produces interesting compositions throughout, always in the service of the story. And the final image is a superb quiet cliffhanger, a tsunami of side-eye. I don’t know Karami at all, but I hope we see lots more from him.
Providing more than solid support are two very familiar names, colourist Chris Sotomayor and letterer Cory Petit, while Paco Medina and Jesus Aburtov’s cover is a delight – I can’t name every Spider-LMD, but they look splendid. There’s also a superb credits spread from production designer Sarah Spadaccini, and let’s give a nod to editors Anita Okoye and Sarah Brunstad for their undoubtedly useful input.
This Murderworld mini isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it is providing very solid, stylish Marvel action – give it a go.