Guilty Pleasure Alert!

Avengers Arena, Vol. 1: Kill or Die - Dennis Hopeless

Sometimes comics are thought-provoking, with character development, intricate plots, great world-building - just as good or better than your average novel.

And sometimes it's just wholesale cheese/violence. A bloodbath, if you will.

This book is more of the latter than the former. (Though it definitely does attempt at the former.)

Arcade gathers 16 superpowered kids into a Death to the End arena. If it sounds like Battle Royale or Hunger Games, it's because that's what it is.

I truly love my comic bookstore and the guys who run it, to be honest. We've talked Star Wars comics, we've talked Saga, I got a recommendation for Runaways (which I've loved) - in general, they are the absolute best in the world. It doesn't matter that I'm a girl to them who sometimes buys My Little Pony. I am a fellow nerd, a fan, and they treat me with the respect.

So, it was just another day at the comic book store, picking up Saga issue 21 (I hoard Saga until I have about 6 and then binge read), when the clerk and I start talking about the Amazing Brian K. Vaughan. He recommended Runaways, and I mentioned I had read it. Then he goes, "You know, Avengers Arena has some of the kids from Runaways. It's so bad, but it's so good at the same time. I make sure to keep one in stock - here, take a look!"

And that's how I got Avengers Arena.

I wouldn't have ever thought to get this series because I just don't follow the kid superheroes of the Marvel world (other than the Runaways line, of course). And the clerk at the comic book store was right: this is just pure violent fun, not anything super serious, dark, Important, Meaningful. It's just 16 kids thrown into Marvel's attempt to ride the dystopia/Hunger Games/Battle Royale bandwagon.

And for what it is? It's great! I only knew two characters - Chase and Nico - from Runaways, but it was almost better that way. Oddly enough, I found myself upset nonetheless as characters die. Pretty much, one dies per issue, there is a focus on one character who doesn't die. It's interesting, it's fun - it's not the best the comic book world has to offer, but it isn't the worst.

The art is good, solid. When you have 16+ characters, it's important to make them all stand out, which is what is done here. I had no trouble differentiating characters (some trouble remembering who was who, but that's because the life bars aren't placed over the characters at all times and I only knew 2 from previous comics), no trouble following the action.

This won't go down in my Top 10 Best Comics list, but it was a fun weekend read. (Probably means that there's something wrong with me, that it was "fun" to read about kids' deaths, but I think you know what I mean.)