Onto our second conference call of the week, with Dennis Hopeless inviting various comics bloggers for a fireside chat on his tigerskin rug. We’re now a month away from the first issue of Avengers Arena, the book he’s launching with Kev Walker for Marvel Now, so what better time to get a more realised look at how the series will work?
If you’re unaware of the series, this will be a book in which perpetually and charmingly useless villain Arcade will capture 16 young heroes and trap them in his Murderworld creation, at which point they’ll all be forced into a battle of the death. Among the cast are members of The Runaways and Avengers Academy, along with X-23, Darkhawk, and more.
The call cemented a few things about the book, which has obviously been controversial. For one thing, Hopeless explained that the book isn’t taking a throwaway approach to the idea of young students killing each other. This won’t be a gleeful murder-fest, with readers encouraged to pick up the book in order to enjoy young massacre and nothing else. Rather, this will be a more considered book in terms of tone, with a focus on character before anything else. There’s no dark humour (apart from in the Arcade scenes) or dark irony. Each of the first few issues will focus on a single character’s perspective (with Avengers Academy’s Hazmat controlling the first issue) on the situation they find themselves in.
And even though some of the characters have a darker past than others, like X-23 or Chase from Runaways, nobody in the book is immediately going to grasp onto the idea of ‘winner takes all’ — with Darkhawk in particular rising as a voice of reason. Hopeless is aware that Darkhawk is older than the other characters, and that’s an important aspect of the book. His maturity and belief that he is a hero who can escape Arcade will take up a large role, with most of the other characters also under the belief that they can escape somehow.
Hopeless did make sure to crush that idea for readers, though. This isn’t a book with a twist or escape route planned out – the characters are trapped, and will have to fight to the end. Artist Kev Walker went to the trouble of drawing up a map for Murderworld (with a beach setting, arctic setting, forest setting and desert setting), so the creative team are certainly in this for the long haul. The press brought up a few interesting points about the book during the course of the call, with Hopeless downplaying links to The Hunger Games or Battle Royale. This book won’t have the cheek of the latter, nor the format of the former. Perspective will shift between characters, and we’ll get a more comprehensive view of the story than in The Hunger Games.
Marvel.com asked about characters who Hopeless wanted in the book but couldn’t have:
I was going to use Molly from the Runaways, but decided that having a character that young would be tonally problematic, but I turned off the part of my brain that was concerned with the well-being of the characters when it comes to the cast
Close shave, Molly fans! Other choices whom Hopeless couldn’t put in the book included some of the cast from Wolverine & The X-Men, as well as Generation Hope’s Kenji (who, uh, sort-of died before the book was pitched). There are also some new characters from “Captain Britain’s Superhero Academy’ showing up, designed by Walker. So far, Hopeless has most been enjoying a female, 14-year old version of Deathlok known as “Deathlokette” (issue 2 will focus on her), as well as the mandatory jerk character: Kid Britain.
Malcolm McDowell would be proud.
Issue #1 of the series will be released this December.