Author Dennis Hopeless
This review will contain a couple of light spoilers. But not all of the spoilers and nothing that should spoil the ending of who ultimately lives or dies or turned evil or anything like that. Just relax and don’t worry about knowing a couple of interesting things that happen in a book.
Avengers Arena is Marvel’s answer to Battle Royale or The Hunger Games. If there is anything I’m sure of in this world it’s that people absolutely love seeing kids pitted against each other in a battle to the death.
Marvel villain Arcade is responsible for kidnapping a bunch of super powered youngsters and taking them to his murder island. Among the group are some Runaways, a Bloodstone, Kid Briton, X-23, and mostly a bunch of characters I had never heard of before.
Arcade says they have a month to get busy killing each other or he’s just gonna let his murder island do all the work. Either way, they’re dead within the month unless they can figure out a way off the island.
Arcade is typically a joke of an X-Men villain. He’s like an old school Batman baddie. Always has really elaborate over the top schemes to kill a hero. Usually his plans are manifested as a Rube-Goldberg device of horror that always fail because it was just too complicated.
Here he seems to have taken all of his failures, learned from them, and improved them into an ultimate scenario. Added bonus for taking the teens and youngsters just to really rile up the righteous adult Avengers.
Knowing all of this, I had a pretty low bar set for this book. I figured it’d be just another telling of this story I’ve seen done successfully a few times before. But Hopeless actually nails it.
The key is that there are some real deaths in this book. The violence is strong and Arcade isn’t messing around. The kids begin to turn on each other or form alliances, even one romance blooms, and the story is told with enough backstory or personality development that I started to care about a few of these characters I had never even seen before.
Right at the beginning Arcade blows up one of the kids to show he means business. By the first actual murder of someone I recognized I knew this book was legit.
There are three real standouts in this book. The obvious one is X-23.
She’s a clone of Wolverine and just as powerful and scary as he is. She has a pretty dumb point about having a trigger scent that Arcade uses to get her to go berserk but she still stands out in the crowd as a character to follow.
Then we have a young member of the Bloodstone family. They’re monster hunters by trade and this lad really gets some great action and character development in this book. He has a conflict with his best friend that reveals a lot of secrets he’s been hiding.
The violence gets real in this one and has real consequences oh my!
My favorite stand out of the crew is the Runaway Nico. She has an unusually angsty power in that she can use magic but has to cut herself to activate it.
Here’s the biggest spoiler for this review, watch out.
Nico gets extremely injured. Like missing three of her four main limbs injured and is bleeding out. She struggles to reach her staff so that she can use her magic and touches the staff with her last breath.
For a full issue we believe she’s dead. Then we find out that since she bled out all of her blood, ALL OF IT, she gets a huge power up for her magic.
I just really loved this. She made the ultimate sacrifice and gained the ultimate reward. She is so freaking powerful now and all it took was bleeding out a slow painful death!
This kind of thing is why this book isn’t a throwaway. Hopeless didn’t have to go so hard on a Hunger Games knockoff but he did. He took the premise and ran with it. He figured out how to tailor it to these chosen characters and made it work each time.
Above all else this book was a lot of fun to read. It’s fast paced and unpredictable and even if you don’t know the characters going in you can still start to feel for them.
It made me want to give Runaways a second shot and definitely made me want to read more Bloodstone and X-23.
Definitely pick this one up if you want to see good old fashioned super hero battles. Just let the over the top violence wash over you for a nice easy read.
4/5 various dinosaurs 🦕🦖🦕🦖
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Buy it here: Avengers Arena: The Complete Collection