Coming in to this series I was skeptical, to say the least, particularly because I was such a fan of Avengers Academy, and even more so after writer Dennis Hopeless killed off Mettle in the first issue. Following years worth of great work by Christos Gage developing one of the best young couples (Mettle and Hazmat) in the Marvel Universe, Hopeless set off on the wrong foot with me...but, there was something there despite that grievance. A year later, and 18 issues behind us, I'm glad I stuck with Hopeless and the teen heroes trapped in Murderworld.
This series ended up being nothing like what I was expecting. It wasn't a Battle Royale rip off, or a non-stop action slugfest, it was something so much more.
The strength of Avengers Academy was always in Christos Gage's ability to develop wonderful characters and relationships, while always peppering in enough action to keep the tempo of the book interesting, and somehow, Dennis Hopeless and artist Kev Walker managed to bottle that lightning again here in Avengers Arena.
Despite copious bad press and numerous naysayers, this book transcended the seemingly shallow premise, and grew to be a worthy successor to Avengers Academy in every way. Hell, issue #13 was even written by Christos Gage, which added even more nostalgic appeal for long-time readers of the most current generation of Avengers.
This book didn't take the path to completion that most of us were probably expecting, and every character didn't die, but the ending that Hopeless left us with was satisfying in a way I hadn't anticipated.
The events of Avengers Arena are not poised to affect the Marvel Universe in a much more significant way than I originally had anticipated. This seemed like a title destined for a retcon, and that history would show that it existed in a vacuum. Thankfully though, Hopeless maneuvered the final issues towards a relevant and substantial finish, and not only were he and Kev Walker rewarded with a follow up series beginning in March (Avengers Undercover), but the story possibilities for other writers coming out of this seem significant. The ending of this title reminds me of the New Warriors set up for Civil War, and we all know how successful a venture that turned out to be for Marvel.
Marvel has always build a solid foundation of teenage and adolescent characters, and Hopeless and Walker have done that tradition proud, carrying on where Christos Gage recently left off. If the children are truly our future, they're in good hands in the Marvel Universe leading into Avengers Undercover.
I'm very much looking forward to seeing what happens in that series, and I hope that Marve's continued focus on the youngest members of Earth's Mightiest Heroes continues for a long time to come.
Bravo Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker, you crafted a memorable title you can be proud of for years to come.