Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 03.13.2013 – Avengers Arena #6

What did the
community think?

Avg Rating: 4.5
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 0.3%
Users who pulled this comic:
Story by Dennis Hopeless
Art by Kev Walker
Cover by Mike Del Mundo & Jorge Molina

Size: 32 pages
Price: 2.99

I am as surprised as you are.

You know what? That’s a lie. Avengers Arena is an enigma, surely. It seems like a crass bit of high concept marketing drummed up by the sales department to move units. It made all sorts of people I don’t know personally very upset when it was announced. But on the other hand, Avengers Arena has a top notch creative team, and prior to the launch of Marvel NOW!, I’d heard from quite a few professionals in the know that it was the book to watch. When the first issue hit, it seemed like exactly the kind of book I’d try once, say “it was fine” and move along. But I kept coming back. I kept reading. And I kept being impressed more and more, which brings us to issue #6.

This issue, the final chapter of the first arc, was chosen as Pick of the Week because of the impressive skill of the creators, and the fact that of all the books I read this week, this is the one where I most want to read the next issue. In just six issues time, Dennis Hopeless, a first time ongoing series writer, has done an extraordinary amount of heavy lifting, getting someone like me up to speed on all these myriad characters, and making me care about them. Because the main plot of the series is pretty simple (a bunch of teenage superheroes are being made to kill each other, even if they don’t want to), the strength of this book really lies in making us care about these characters, and what happens to them, which Hopeless has certainly done. I realize that these aren’t new characters to a lot of readers, but they mostly were to me. There’s been a slow burn in getting to know them, and it’s been handled really well, right up until the smack in the kisser that is the last page. In the meantime, looking backwards through this issue, there is a letter perfect trail of structural breadcrumbs for what will happen, and it was done just right. Honestly, Hopeless is working at a higher level than his experience would suggest, and it’s fun to watch. There’s so much exposition that’s delivered naturally, when it can be tedious in less skilled hands. The dialog snaps and sounds like real people, and it’s tinged with the real anxieties of young people. He had it down in X-Men: Season One, and he’s got it down here as well. Hopeless even makes me want to read more about X-23. There should be a special Eisner for that. This should all be much worse than it is, and the fact that it’s one of the books I’m most enjoying from Marvel Comics is a real testament to the work being done.

Another huge part of the success of Avengers Arena is obviously Kev Walker, who has thankfully landed safely after his wonderful work on Thunderbolts with Jeff Parker. It turns out that he’s been perfect for this book, partially because of it’s slightly imperfect nature. These characters are teenagers. Some are built like brawny adults. Others are more slight, and Walker runs the complete range in his character builds. Because there’s something slightly off center, something slightly cartoony about the way he draws, it emphasizes the awkwardness of that age. The big guys who have the big muscles, like Anchronism, with his massive, new bulk, aren’t quite in control of it, much like I wasn’t at 16 or 17. It goes further, if you look at the perpetual sneer of a character like Cullen, who has chosen that face to show the world, or wide-eyed “what am I doing here” look on the face of Death Locket. The words give the characters life, but the art gives them form, and both are syncing perfectly to bring us really wonderful and interesting fictional people. I’ve also got to give a nod to colorist Frank Martin Jr., who is really doing wonderful work, suited perfectly to the tone of the book.

Since another character bit the big one at the end of this issue, let’s just discuss the big problem people have with the book before we go. It seems to be that people are upset that this is being done to these fictional characters others have begun to love. It’s bothering people that Hopeless and team are taking these things that have been built up, and breaking them. I would respond that, yes, that is correct. I would further respond that that is exactly the correct thing to do in fiction. In most regular comics, you get constant status quo, but in other fiction, the point is very often to make things very hard on characters you’ve grown to care about in one form or another. If it bothers you that something happened to them, that means the creators have succeeded. A story where we get to watch characters succeed and move along with no real risk isn’t all that compelling to me. At least here, and I admit it’s extraordinary and a bit silly, it is compelling. To align yourself emotionally to a fictional character, and not think anything can happen to them is folly. If the story is any good, that is. If this isn’t your cup of tea, then the good news is, 99.5% of other mainstream comics will comfort you in their characters’ relative safety. But, if they’re going to let a creator go wild over in the corner for my entertainment? I say, let ‘em burn. They’re not real.

There wasn’t a single standout bit of Avengers Arena #6 that made it Pick of the Week, but rather the culmination of enjoyment that I’ve had with every preceding issue. By the sixth issue, I had a handle who everyone was, and felt that we understood the stakes. That is exactly the time to break things, and raise them even more. I don’t know where this is going to go. I don’t know how or if they’ll get out of it. I really wanted to know more about Chase and Darkhawk in this issue, and they didn’t even address it, and I didn’t notice until it was over. Hopeless is juggling a lot of balls in the air, and it’s so smooth we don’t even notice it. If they can keep up this quality, I’ll be here until they shove the last of these kids in the dirt.

Josh Flanagan
Anachronism isn’t really the best name.


  1. I gotta disagree with you on this one, Josh. Batman and Robin #18 is easily my pick of the week, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s one of the best of the year.

    • Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      No, he’s right. I spoke to him. It is his Pick of the Week.

    • @max Did you get a chance to read AA?

    • @vadamowens I’m not denying that AA was good. In fact, it was excellent. I just enjoyed B&R a little more. Though, I do admit, I’m an absolute sucker for the silent issue. Also, Paul, please excuse the tone of my previous comment. I’m not angry with Josh, but you have to understand, I’m a little emotional right now. B&R hurt pretty bad.

    • @Paul – Max never said that Josh was wrong. He just said that he disagreed and that his pick was different.

    • Haven’t been reading AA but if Josh likes it I might just give it a go. That said Batman & Robin 18 is probably not just pick of the week, but pick of the year so far

    • @maxfriedman & @koryrosh: I think you might have missed the joke Paul was making.

  2. I swore quite loudly at the end of this. It was the first thing I read and couldn’t shake it while I was reading the rest of my pulls. Dead on review, Mr. Flanagan. I’m looking forward to seeing what Hopeless, Walker and co. conjure up in the coming months.

  3. Batman and Robin was my pick as well but I can understand why this book could get the spot as well, a great issue of what has been a fun and compelling series.

  4. There’s something to be said about a book that makes you chomp at the bit for the next issue. Going into the Marvel NOW stuff I never once thought this would be one of my favorites but it’s insanely good.

  5. I`m part of the small few who went into this comic book with no prior knowledge of or connection to the characters and have found myself really enjoying this book. The art work is amazing so far and the end of this issue is definitely amazing, next issue there will be hell breaking loose that is for sure. Just like Arcade said at the end of the book…Game on!

  6. So I decided to drop Arena and now it gets POTW. That’s weird and unfortunate.

    Eh. Maybe I’ll pick up the trade next time I’m feeling bored.

    • Same here. I literally dropped it last issue.It has some good points but the issues tend to range from pretty good (the runaways centered issue 4 or the lady dethlocke issue 2) to pretty boring (everything else) and for a series that is built on high tension boring is one of the worst things to be.

  7. “It’s just Hunger Games with Marvel teens!”
    “Yeah, and?”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    • The big difference between this and Hunger Games: Every character is the protagonist. We don’t know who will make it out alive. And Josh nailed it: Hopeless manages to make us care about characters many of us had never heard of. I went into this only knowing X-23 (and to a lesser extent, the Runaways kids). This book is actually growing these characters. Even the ones that it destroys.

    • Ya wraith .. i care more about lots of these characters than i do about wolverine right now.. ha

    • @wraith Definitely agree. That’s a big part of the reason I like this comic as much as I do.

  8. I just read the first issue thanks to the Marvel free first issue promo and really liked it. Will definitely go back for more.

  9. The only problem with this book is every issue makes me think there was some great “Braddock
    Academy” series two years ago that no one read and got cancelled after 5 issues.

    Sort of like that feeling of reading Excalibur when it first started and we had no access to Alan Moore and Alan Davis’s Captain Britain until the trade came out a year in .

    • Braddock Academy (2010-2011)
      Writer: Paul Cornell
      Artist: Chynna Clugston-Major
      Letters: Chris Eliopoulos

      Marvel’s short-lived experiment in blending manga, teen-drama and British humor, the series featured a new cast of teen characters, including Kid Briton, Anachronism and Bloodstone, with a supporting cast of characters from Marvel’s British stable, including Captain Briton, Elisa Bloodstone and Spitfire. Had the series continued, it would have incorporated Alan Davis’s Clan Destine character and those from the short-lived Marvel UK line, such as the Knights of Pendragon. Despite a rabid cult following, the series failed to find mainstream success, and was cancelled after just five issues.

      (This solicitation is entirely from the Previews in my head.)

    • Hilarious

  10. I’m still working through my stack, but I’m very glad to see this as POTW. I tried AA on a whim when it came out, and it goes back and forth with X-Men Legacy for the title of “Most Pleasant Surprise from Marvel Now!”

    And I couldn’t agree more about the need to support a book that (given what we know of the story right now, at least) isn’t interested in a perpetual second act for it’s characters. I know it goes against what has become the ethos of Big 2 super-hero comics (for good and bad), but I love me some real endings, dammit!

  11. Nice pick, shouldn’t be long til the 1st trade… What’s Arcade’s presence in this book? Is he an active antagonist or is it more focused on the kids with MurderWorld fueling the conflict?

    I was excited about this for the creative team alone, but then I found out Arcade was the villain and I was even more intrigued as no comic book villain has ever truly freaked me out as much as Arcade did in “Classic X-Men” #30 when I was like 9…

    • Other than setting up the “rules” of Murderworld, Arcade has remained largely off-panel so far. Issue #7 is supposed to go more into what’s up with him, if I’m remembering correctly.

    • Arcade is more of a looming presence than an actual one. He sets up some traps and such, but the majority of the book has been focused on the kids.

    • Hmmmm, that’s cool. I was just hoping it wouldn’t be something different from what BKV & Immonen did with him in “Ultimate X-Men” way back, which was kind of the obvious route for reintroducing the character (he was a young PC gamer type) but not as compelling as you’d think…

    • Excuse me, “I was just hoping it would be something different from what BKV & Immonen did”…

  12. Hopeless really impressed me with X-Men: Season One, but I haven’t given this book a try yet. On the strength of this review, I’m definitely picking up the trade. Much appreciated.

    • Hopeless also did a stupendous “Legion of Monsters” mini (with Juan Doe on art) last year, be sure to check that out… It really felt like a spinoff of “Nextwave”, no surprise he’s killin’ it on the B & C list characters here…

  13. I’m glad to see the series is so good. I read the first issue and loved it but thought it might read better in trade, so I’m still waiting to read the last five issues. Hope it’s just as good in that format!

  14. There’s no accounting for taste, as aptly demonstrated with this POTW.

  15. I ended up not buying this after issue 3 strictly because of the sheer amount of comics I’m currently buying, looks like I going to have to hit the back issue rack tomorrow.

  16. Had no expectations on this series.. I almost didnt buy the first issue.. but its turned out to be a gem.. Its not the plot i care about.. its the characters. Really lively characters. Glad its getting this attention. Right on.

  17. My big problem with this series is that it is just another event to thin the heard of characters that they have no idea what to do with, I have already lost my favorite character from Avengers Academy and that pissed me off enough to drop this book before someone else died, killing of characters in this way is not dramatic, its just lazy. At least in my opinion

  18. I’ll give this series a shot in trade. Had no real interest initially cause it was just a Hunger Games/Battle Royale rip off. But it sounds like there is much more to like to this series than just that….Oh and Kev Walker is the man.

    But my POTW was Batman and Robin #18 for being one hell of an gut punch.

  19. Wait, I’m confused – I thought Conner was the DC guy, Ron was the Marvel guy, and Josh the independent guy?

    Josh, your pick of the week is messing up the natural order of things! 😉

  20. Are there ever times you guys just pick a book that would surprise or shock us?

  21. Wow, Josh, I can’t believe no one has pointed out yet that you called Darkhawk the wrong name in the last paragraph. Where’s Ron when you need him? 🙂

  22. Kudos, Josh!
    I couldn’t agree more with your POTW (admittedly I don’t read Batman & Robin though). I love this book and it’s been an overall pleasant surprise for me. What I love most about it is I never know how each issue will end and with publishers like Marvel/DC I find this to be a rarity unfortunately. Everyone knows that Batman will triumph over the Joker eventually (maybe at a cost but still) and the Avengers will survive an assault by what ever the flavor of the week is but with Avengers Arena I’m constantly surprised which is a really rare thing in “hero” comics these days.

    At the time I began reading it I too knew nothing about any of the characters but Arcade who is one of my all time favorite X-villians. I vaguely had heard of X-23 and of the Runaways as a team but that was the limit of my knowledge. I’m really loving the characters of Cullen Bloodstone and Cammi a lot and may try to go back and read up about them in the future. I know Cullen is a new character as of this series but does anyone have any leads on Cammi? I know she was affiliated with the old Guardians of the Galaxy but is there a trade outlining her past available?

    • aurgail (@aurelgaillard) says:

      If you want to know more about Cammi, read the Drax the Destroyer mini-series and then Annihilation event (Drax is included in the Annihilation trades). There are three hardcovers and they are well worth a read.

  23. Great Pick. I loved Avengers Academy, really enjoyed all the characters in that series, but that love just makes this story here even better for me. The last 6 pages of this particular issue were so tense as I feared a favourite of mine was for the chop. I have no problem with superheroes dying when handled in the correct way, for the right reasons and with some emotional investment not just shock value. The effort Hopeless has gone to to make every individual hero matter makes all this worthwhile and definitely substance over style.

    Oh and Kev Walker – what a beast.

  24. Good pick. Aside from All New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men, Avengers Arena is my favorite Marvel comic at the moment. Great to see a series overcome the (wrong) stigma of being just a marketing gimmick.

  25. Why is Topo on the cover?

  26. “.It seems to be that people are upset that this is being done to these fictional characters others have begun to love. It’s bothering people that Hopeless and team are taking these things that have been built up, and breaking them. I would respond that, yes, that is correct. I would further respond that that is exactly the correct thing to do in fiction.”

    This is the exact reason why I’m enjoying the Valiant relaunch so much. The stories are anything but status quo, major characters can be killed, and I have absolutely no idea what direction they will take next.

    I had dropped Avengers Arena after #3 more to balance my comics budget than anything else, but my fiance’ didn’t realize that and she had me pick up #4, 5 and 6 for her. Looking forward to seeing how this first arc ended and seeing if it’s worth continuing.

  27. Sorry, gotta go with Batman and Robin #18. And that’s all I can say about it right now, I’m too choked up.

  28. I snagged the first issue of this during the short window for the Marvel 1 promotion. After Josh made this pick, I read the first issue and now I can’t wait for the trade. Feel dumb that I slept on this book. Great stuff. If I’d have known Kev Walker was on it when it launched, I probably would have given it a shot out of the gate.