Comic Book: Avengers Arena
is a spin-off from The Avengers
(and direct follow-up to Avengers Academy
) by writer Dennis Hopeless and primary artist Kev Walker as part of Marvel
's Marvel NOW!
iniative. Avengers Arena
stars sixteen of the Marvel Universe
's teenage superheroes as they're put onto an isolated island and forced to fight and kill each other for diabolical mastermind Arcade's
amusement (yes like a certain infamous film based on a novel
). The characters participating are Reptil, Hazmat, Mettle, Juston Seyfret and his Sentinel
, Chase Stein, Nico Minoru
, and Red Raven. The characters created for the book include Rebecca Ryker/Deathlocket (a younger Distaff Counterpart
of Deathlok), and students of Captain Britain's
Braddock Academy: Apex (Alpha Bitch
smartypants), Nara (bloodlustful Atlantean), Kid Briton (young alternate-reality Captain Britain), Cullen Bloodstone (Ulysses Bloodstone's retconned son and Elsa Bloodstone's
little brother), and Anachronism (nerd stuck in ancient warrior's body).
The series is notable for garnering a backlash when it was first announced, due to the fact that these characters from cult hit series could possibly die. Since teen characters/lesser known characters are generally C-List Fodder
, Death Is Cheap
doesn't apply to them — if they die, they can be Killed Off for Real
with no chance of resurrection. Because of this, the series is divisive with many. The series ended at #18, and is followed up by Avengers Undercover
Also see Young Avengers
for another teen series part of the Marvel NOW!
This book contains the following tropes:
- A Death in the Limelight: Issue 15 for Nara, who only had a supporting role in the story up until that point and in the issue she gets more depth and a backstory before getting killed.
- Adults Are Useless: Apex monologues that if Murderworld were a story, the adults would be the villains for not bothering to look for them. The only characters that find it odd that the kids are gone are Hank Pym and Tigra, and they investigate and find that all of the kids had plausible reasons for disappearing, and Arcade even sends texts to their friends and updates online social media to keep up the charade. There's also Darkhawk, the only adult in Murderworld who gets taken out early.
- Naturally, in the final issue, the media blames the adults who failed them.
- Darkhawk didn't even have a chance to help when his amulet was stolen and he was presumed dead. It turned out he'd been kept in stasis all that time until Deathlocket found him and woke him up. Chris's first action was to bash Arcade in the head from behind, but because he was still disoriented Arcade got away. He was then shot in the shoulder by Deathlocket under Apex's control and passed out from blood loss. Arguably this counts as a subversion as Chris could have been useful if Arcade and Apex hadn't prevented him from doing so.
- All of the Other Reindeer: This is what drove Arcade to this new game in a desperate attempt to gain credibility amongst the other villains.
- Almost Kiss: Between Deathlocket and Tim before Nico comes and kills the moment.
- Anyone Can Die: A central part of the book's premise.
- Arc Villain: Apex, during the entire "Game On" arc.
- The Bad Guy Wins: Arcade escapes, uploads the Murderworld footage to the internet, making good on his initial goal of wanting to be more respected by super-villains. Unfortunately this will come back to bite him in the ass in Undercover.
- Badass Boast: With a healthy dose of A God Am I.
Arcade: "I'm not the villain, here. I am God."
- Beach Episode: Issue #11, which was set on the beach and was a break from the overall story. Hazmat was even out of her suit a couple of times.
- Better Than a Bare Bulb: Arcade's speech in issue #1 is chock full of (none-too-subtle) lampshades.
Arcade: Got the idea from a couple kids' books I read in the pen.
- Big Guy, Little Guy: Cullen and Anachronism have this dynamic, with him being the smart one and Anachronism being the muscle.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: As part of her Wrong Genre Savviness and Smug Snake-ness, Apex makes quite a few mistakes in not capitalizing on the opportunity to win the game. Namely, not killing X-23 when she had a clear chance.
- Book Ends: The first and last issues have near identical covers, only the final issue has a blue logo and all the characters are crossed out.
- Break the Cutie: Deathlocket is the straightest example and Hazmat, while being harsher/more sarcastic than your typical Cutie, goes through it the most.
- Breather Episode:
- Issue #7, which was mainly backstory, right after the surprising death of Kid Briton which led into the "Game On" arc.
- Issue #11 was a Beach Episode as well, after three straight action issues with Apex becoming the Arc Villain and killing Juston and Nico.
- Another breather issue was needed (issue #13) after the action-packed #12 which saw Nico being resurrected and engaging in a huge battle with Apex, along with the Wham Shot of Arcade's morgue with the dead players and the Mettle life model decoy.
- C-List Fodder: No character in this book has held a series or team book to 100 issues. Or even 50 aside from Darkhawk (which hit exactly 50) (unless you want to be really generous when counting Runaways across 3 volumes). This is a common fear with fans in terms of characters being killed off without the possibility of returning.
- Central Theme:
- The issues of identity and The Dark Side of someone's personality manifesting are present. Most characters in the book have identity crises and/or a dual nature: Reptil is a dinosaur shapeshifter, X-23's trying to suppress her Berserker Rage, Juston identifies more with his Sentinel robot than people and ends up bonded to him for life after he's paralyzed, Anachronism is both a Celtic warrior and a gamer geek, Cullen is hiding his crush on Anachronsim and also has a monster inside of him, Apex is two very different twin siblings sharing the same body, Cammi despises being human and "weak," Deathlocket is both a girl and a Deathlok and the Darkhawk armor can transform anyone into an armored warrior.
- There's also the issue of control that comes up, as revealed in #7 that Arcade isn't using power in Murderworld, but is manipulating the kids to play the game. Others have their own control issues such as X-23's assassin mentality and Apex's desire to control everyone around her.
- Character Development: Alongside the Deadly Game, the series' primary focus is on the character interaction and growth they go through while on the island.
- Chekhov's Gun: In issue #5, while Kid Briton is being berated by Captain Britain, there's a fight outside the window with the Braddock Academy staff and Elsa Bloodstone and a huge green monster. It's treated as a Funny Background Event, but later it's revealed in #14 that the green monster was actually Cullen.
- Clingy MacGuffin: Chase stumbles upon Darkhawk's lost amulet, and it embeds itself in him, making him the new Darkhawk.
- Continuity Snarl: Mostly related to the characters coming in from older series:
- Nico's powers aren't portrayed as they were in Joss Whedon's run. Nico casts the spell "Chill Out", which she already cast in Civil War: Runaways/Young Avengers #2. The Staff of One can only cast the same spell once and tends to have a random or negative effect when a spell is recast. The effect is different, but the results are very much the same. Also, Apex was able to grab the Staff of One, despite in volume three it established no one but her can touch it.
- During a flashback in #3, Agent Brand shows Cammi a picture that has her with Nova, Drax the Destroyer, and Starlord. The problem is that Peter Quill didn't become Starlord again until the after Cammi left.
- Cullen Bloodstone being the son of Ulysses Bloodstone snarls up the previous Bloodstone continuity, namely because Ulysses's wife Elise separated from him to avoid her children being exposed to the monster-hunter life and Elsa not knowing she had a brother. They could be half-siblings, however.
- Covers Always Lie:
- The cover to #1 is a group photo with most of the cast, some of whom have red "X" marks over their heads, seemingly marking them as dead. None off the characters that have an 'X' through their head die that issue. One dies in the following one. The only character who does die in #1 isn't marked on the cover.
- #2 is a Lord of the Flies homage with Reptil. The issue is focused on Deathlocket and her origin. Reptil doesn't even get any speaking lines.
- #4 promises a fight between X-23 and Darkhawk. Darkhawk went MIA in the previous issue, and Chase, who becomes the new Darkhawk at the end of #4, doesn't so much as look at X-23 funny. The alternate cover to #4 has Chase and Darkhawk fighting each other. As mentioned above, Darkhawk went MIA previous issue and Chase takes over his powers at the end of this.
- #11, Reptil and Hazmat are embracing on a beach, but nothing even remotely romantic occurs.
- Curbstomp Battle: The attempt by the characters to Zerg Rush Arcade in the first issue. Freely lampshaded by Arcade who comments that he's starting to feel like a bully.
- Apex with Deathlocket and Sentinel vs. X-23 involved this to a literal sense. #12 had Apex end on receiving end of this, from Nico, who held her own for a brief period of time, but still lost.
- Darker and Edgier: Than Avengers Academy.
- The Dark Side: According to Hopeless, All the characters in the story have an element of Darkness that can easily turn them into villains and that element will be the predominant aspect of their stories in this book.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Quite a few of the players have dark pasts, namely X-23, Cammi, Deathlocket, the Runaways, Apex and Tim, and Cullen Bloodstone.
- Deadly Game: Murderworld, which not only pits the kids against each other, but has deadly traps along the way.
- Death Trap: Murderworld itself is a massive, multi-layered, mulch-purpose deathtrap.
- Deserted Island: The new Murderworld, to a degree. The island itself actually has four different climate zones. An arctic section, a beach, a forest and a desert.
- Deus Exit Machina: Darkhawk, the oldest and the most powerful player in the game is taken out in issue #4 and has his amulet recovered by Chase.
- Divided We Fall: In issue 16, after Nara is killed and on the last day of the game, the kids remaining completely turn on each other. Anachronism viciously attacks Cullen, the Runaways team up and attack Reptil, and X-23 is still trigger-scented and going after Hazmat. Only Cammi tries to not play Arcade's game and only shoots Anachronism to defend Cullen.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: The kids make a pact to not tell anyone about what happened on Murderworld to avoid being exploited. Too bad Arcade puts the entire Murderworld saga on the internet.
- Downer Ending: 10 of the kids survive and they are rescued. But there are six dead and they're Killed Off for Real, and the remaining kids are traumatized. Deathlocket breaks from Apex's control but is forced to kill her, along with her first love Tim. The kids make a pact to not tell anyone what happened to avoid pity, but Arcade uploads it all on the internet anyway and essentially gets away with his scheme, which is even more of a win since he could easily be tracked down if the kids would admit it was him.
- Dramatic Irony: In issue #13, Juston's dad chastises Tigra who's only checking to seeing if Juston was at home. He yells at her that he never wanted Juston to attend the academy, and he's better off at home, away from the super-drama. Of course, the reader knows that Juston was killed early on and the "Juston" that went home is an life model decoy.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Juston, Mettle and Red Raven, who aren't given focus issues and are mainly used as plot devices.
- Dysfunction Junction: All the students coming from the Braddock Academy have a Dark and Troubled Past, sans Kid Briton (possibly). Also, the stress of the situation in Murderworld causes a few characters to crack under the pressure.
- Epigraph: The book concludes with a quote from The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
- Wise Beyond Their Years, very intelligent, cynical, badass deeds done in the past, crazy survival skills, good with a gun, wants to keep to their own in the game, because of experience saying others are untrustworthy, but after a while sticks to one boy and girl said boy desperately tries to protect, takes The Smart Guy role thanks to above mentioned experience and skills providing strategic insight for the group... Is this describing Cammi or Shogo Kawada?
- Apex, who is clearly a superpowered version of Mitsuko Souma.
- Nico Minoru in span of few issues berates a friend for considering passing death as judgment, stands against stronger opponent, allowing rest of the group to escape is defeated and falls down a cliff, but keeps fighting on. She dies crawling through the snow, broken and alone, only to be reborn in more powerful form. You know, like Gandalf.
- Failed a Spot Check: Apex snaps Juston's neck and steals Sentinel in the middle of the night, but apparently no one heard or noticed.
- Fan Nickname: "Axbro" for Anachronism and "Chasehawk" for Chase. Both names appeared in the comic.
- Fate Worse Than Death: Or at least "fate that equals death" as Hopeless put it "surviving Murderworld would be almost as awful as not surviving it".
- Flanderization: Many of previously established characters have their most memorable trait from previous volumes emphasized - Hazmat is angry, Mettle is hopelessly devoted to Hazmat, Juston's best friend is his robot, etc. Nico and Chase's trust issues coming back is also a flanderization, as they for the most part are cool in Runaways volume 3.
- First Episode Spoiler/Late-Arrival Spoiler: Mettle is killed brutally in the very first issue, setting up the villain Arcade's powers, Hazmat's character arc, and the entire series' tone. Several comic news outlets already included that spoiler in any coverage of Arena, and it's pretty hard to read anything about the comic without stumbling into that. Also, several other characters are Walking Spoilers due to the nature of the series.
- Five-Man Band: The Braddock Academy kids.
- Flash Back: Each issue has had a character flash back to one point or another.
- First Law of Resurrection: Despite dying earlier, Nico is resurrected stronger than ever because Hopeless is a big fan of the Runaways.
- Follow the Leader:
- It's safe to say that the success of the The Hunger Games led to the book's green light.
- Inverted with the Boom! Studios series Deathmatch, which also follows premise of superheroes being forced to fight to death; it appeared soon after Avengers Arena, and had been accused of being this for this series. Writer Paul Jenkins admitted he knows about Avengers Arena but hasn't read it.
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Apex and Tim's flight and technopathy, not to mention them sharing a body, is the result of genetic manipulation by their parents who wanted superbabies.
- Genre Savvy: Anachronism openly wonders whether this may be some sort of virtual reality trap, and also possibly a dream. Cullen Bloodstone too, who points out that it wouldn't make a difference.
- In issue #6, before reaching a safe zone with supplies, Cammi tells the Runaways to hang back to see if it may be a trap. It wasn't, but it was still a smart move.
- Heroic BSOD: Several characters, namely Hazmat after Mettle gets killed.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Mettle gives his life to save Hazmat, Nico sacrifices herself to save the rest of the team. Only Nico is resurrected.
- Hidden Depths: Quite a few of the new characters are more well-rounded than they appear, as well as Cammi.
- Idiot Ball:
- In Medias Res: How the series starts, on day 29 of a proposed 30 day game. The rest of the story is told via flashback (and flashbacks within the main flashback).
- Irony/Stable Time Loop: Deathlocket's family was attacked by a Deathlok that was sent back in time to kill her father. It's later revealed that her father is the one that would go on to invent the Deathlok.
- Incompatible Orientation: Within the Love Dodecahedron, there's Cullen who's in love with Anachronism, but Anachronism is in lust with female Atlantian Nara.
- Island Base: Murderworld is one, with different quadrants.
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: As the story progressed, the layers of the plot were peeled back via flashbacks and breather issues.
- Karma Houdini: Arcade, who escapes scot-free and uploads the Murderworld footage to the internet. However he gets his just desserts in Undercover.
- Killed Off for Real: Any character killed in the arena is dead, with no Deus ex Machina's waiting to revive them. Nico was dead, but then was revived by her staff.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Apex monologues in #12 who would be the villain if Murderworld was a story: herself, the adult heroes, or the readers themselves for indulging in a story where teenagers are murdered brutally.
- Life Meter: Used for the characters in the story as a narrative device, rather than an actual indicator of physical condition.
- Legacy Character: Deathlocket for Deathlok and Kid Britain for Captain Britain. There is also Red Raven, who is the third character to have that name and Cullen Bloodstone who is part of the Bloodstone family. Also, X-23 natch.
- Love Dodecahedron: Between all the kids of the Braddock Academy. Kid Briton is in a relationship with Apex. But, Kid Briton is cheating on Apex with Nara, which Apex knows about and kinda finds it kinky. Nara is flirty and attracted to Anachronism, and Anachronism is very interested in her, willing to kill to protect her. Cullen Bloodstone himself also has a crush on Anachronism that he doesn't know about. Then Apex's twin brother Tim and Deathlocket have feelings for each other. Did we mention Tim is trapped in Apex's head?
- Lower Deck Episode: Issue #13, which snaps the story outside of Murderworld, to the adults of Avengers Academy investigating the kids' disappearances.
- Magic Countdown: The first "season" of the comic is 18 issues, so in a few spots the comics has to make narrative leaps in order to fit within the allotted time, such as several days passing without the audience seeing them, and events explained through exposition. Acknowledged by Dennis Hopeless himself.
- Mauve Shirt: Mettle, Kid Briton and Juston. Juston didn't even get a focus issue before he was offed, and went through a Trauma Conga Line beforehand to boot.
- Man Behind the Man: Ms. Coriander built and designed Murderworld for Arcade as well as made his suit, on commission. He would be impotent without her.
- Meet Cute: How Tim and Deathlocket meet (when he emerges from Apex's body, and then later interact.
- Mercy Kill: Deathlocket kills Tim after he begs, in order to finish Apex once and for all.
- Murder.com: Arcade loads the videos of the teenagers killing each other on to the internet.
- Not Quite Dead: Chris Powell/Darkhawk, who had his amulet taken away viciously in issue 4 and was knocked out. He didn't reappear until issue #12 where he was seem floating in a rejuvenation chamber-type device Arcade set up. In issue #16, he breaks free.
- Not So Different: Cullen and Anachronism, who seem very different with the Big Guy, Little Guy dynamic, but both are possessed by evil beings.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: Arcade has never managed to kill any super human in Murderworld, until now.
- Off Model:
- An Artist error on #4's print copy has a panel giving X-23 her brother's claw pattern in her hand. This is corrected in the digital copy.
- Hazmat has a crack in her helmet is inconsistent drawn, disappearing entirely when a new artist takes over in #4, and the amount of gas/general size changes from issue to issue.
- Nico's staff, which was given a new form in Runaways volume 3. It's in its old/un-upgraded form in all but one of the covers, and all the interiors.
- Of Corpse He's Alive: A rather creepy variant with Mettle's skin being used as a covering for a robot.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome:
- Issue 8 reveals Juston managed to survive in the desert single handed without his Sentinel, and retrieved a supply crate with no one watching while crippled!
- Nico's creation of a super-food magic tree despite all the non-combat magic-countermeasures Arcade set up.
- Pick on Someone Your Own Size: Well, the entire premise. An adult supervillain trapping teenage kids and forcing them to kill each other. In Undercover when Arcade goes straight to Baron Zemo to join the more power villains, Baron Zemo basically shrugs at Arcade's feat and dismisses it.
- Poor Communication Kills: Mainly between Chase and Nico. Nico finds it hard to trust Chase, even after all they've been through. Chase comes in contact with the Darkhawk amulet and keeps it a secret from Nico. Nico doesn't appreciate that at all, especially after he was on the side of killing Apex/Tim and casts him out the group. Them being apart ultimately leads to Chase being controlled by Apex and Apex killing Nico. She got better.
- Popularity Power: No comic fan thinks that X-23, the most well-known character is going to die in this book. And they're correct, as she appears in All-New X-Men after the series concludes. Also, Reptil has some immunity, as he appears in the kid-friendly The Superhero Squad Show. Played with the Runaways (who had the longest running series out of the cast), Nico actually died, but was resurrected.
- Punctuated Pounding: When Deathlocket breaks free of Apex's control, she wails on her.
''I'm...NOT! YOUR! TOY! YOU SELF IMPORTANT! MEGALOMANIACAL! BITCH!
- Recycled In Space: It's Battle Royale WITH SUPER HEROES!
- Red Shirt: Red Raven. No lines, dead by #2
- Remember That You Trust Me: Chase and Nico still have trust issues and they bring them to Murderworld.
- Revenge Before Reason: In #4 Avengers Academy and Hazmat in particular jump to conclusions regarding the Runaways. Hazmat destroys the food granting tree Nico built in spite for a perceived attack on Reptil from Chase, despite it being one of the few food sources on the island left for anyone. It was actually Deathlocket that hurt him and Reptil's in no condition to argue against the assumption until the next issue.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Subverted with Cullen and Aiden. Aiden is the big, straight hulking warrior who is highly emotional and docile; Cullen is gay, short in stature and weak-looking but an accomplished hunter and stoic.
- Each cover is a reference to another work, many of which contain a similar premise to the story.
- The rocket launcher Bloodstone uses is lifted right from Halo.
- Sliding Scale of Plot Versus Characters: The Murderworld/Battle Royale plot takes a backseat to the Character Focus of the group.
- Stuffed In The Fridge: Mettle, was killed gruesomely right in front of Hazmat, which starts off her depression and Heroic BSOD for the majority of the comic.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Mettle and Juston, who came over from the book's direct precessor, Avengers Academy.
- The Stinger: After the kids are rescued, the focus shifts to Arcade in an undisclosed location gleefully uploading the Murderworld footage to the internet.
- Suicidal Overconfidence: (Many of) the characters are fully convinced that charging Arcade head-on will work, despite the fact that he had them all immobilized not five seconds ago. He even points out that it's silly. Arcade compliments those smart enough to realize it won't work.
- Switching P.O.V.: Each issue is a different perspective.
- Totally Radical: A couple of sentences are peppered with slang, the most conspicuous being "bot-splode" in issue #12.
- Taken A Level In Badass: Arcade comes with new godlike powers and easily kicks around the kids. Then the trope is flipped on it's head as turns out his powers just come from a suit fashioned by Ms. Coriander, who also arranges the island base.
- Teen Drama: Even with the death game, at it's core Avengers Arena is a teen drama, complete with Ship Tease, a Love Triangle, and backstabbing.
- Tonight Someone Dies: A big point of contention for this series and already advertized by #2, with early previews threatening two fan favorites at once. Too bad the first death is actually in #1.
- Too Dumb to Live: Issue 13 points out that this is the case . . . for Arcade. Short version: When the heroes find out about what he is doing, they'll come down on him like a ton of bricks.
- Trailers Always Spoil: X-23 was confirmed to survive thanks to the announcement that she'd be joining the cast of All-New X-Men once Arena finished up. Then at New York Comic-Con 2013, Marvel also revealed that Cullen, Cammi, Anachronism, Deathlocket, and Hazmat would all survive as well, since they've been announced as part of the cast of Avengers Undercover.
- Triang Relations:
- Kid Briton, Apex, and Nara are in a Type 7, with Kid Briton being in a relationship with Apex, but cheating on her with Nara. Of course, it turns out she knew about it, and just let it happen.
- Cullen, Anachronism and Nara are in a Type 4, with Cullen being in love with Anachronsim/Aiden, but he and Nara are involved.
- Try Not to Die: Nico utters her famous line in the final issue.
- Twin Banter: Now that Apex's grip on Tim's consciousness is over, this is how they interact for the most part, with the bonus of their bodies actually switching from one another.
- Two Siblings In One: Apex and Tim are a set of twins who share the same body, due to their parents' genetic manipulation to get a super-baby. Apex would appear one day, and Tim would appear the next. Apex eventually taught herself to completely suppress Tim from manifesting, trapping him in her consciousness.
- Wham Episode: Issue #12, which saw Nico being revived and defeating Apex, as well as Deathlocket stumbling onto where the losers' bodies are taken and apparently undergoing examination — if those are even real bodies, and Issue #16, which has everyone trying to kill one another and the original Darkhawk is still alive.
- Whole Plot Reference:
- To Battle Royale, Hunger Games, etc. Battle Royale especially.
- Wolverine Publicity: The title is considered an Avengers book and has Avengers branding, but there's only five characters associated with The Avengers in the title. One of those five characters (X-23) is considered to be more of an X-Men character, not to mention Arcade is a classic X-Men villain. The $1.5 billion grossing movie probably had something to do with the name. Not to mention this is X-23's sixth book, putting her closer and closer with her Distaff Counterpart, Wolverine's exposure.
- The Worf Effect: Apex takes out Juston's sentinel, beats X-23 with it and also takes control of a Deathlok and the Darkhawk armor. Later X-23 gets owned again by Cullen's monster form.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Apex, who takes the initiative to win the game and kills two of the kids. She thinks of herself as the hero, because she's playing by the rules. Also, earlier in the series, the kids (mainly Hazmat) Zerg Rush Arcade, thinking it would be a simple teen superhero/joke villain beatdown and they get a rude awakening.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: A brutal example of this is in #14. Hazmat sees Mettle in the distance and freaks out at him being alive. But it's just his skin, and it unleashes X-23's trigger scent.
"Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys. Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death."
— Sun Tzu
, The Art of War