I’ve been reading Avengers Arena since it came out and some issues were hits while others were not, but that can be said of any series. You cannot consistently make every issue a masterpiece – there are always some flops because the creators have probably worked themselves to exhaustion on a number of previous issues. I am glad to say that issue #13 of Avengers Arena is not a flop, and when you have someone else taking on the writing duties that is not the visionary behind the series there is a risk. But this issue actually addressed my major concern with the series as a whole – why the heck has none of the teachers of these kids noticed that the students are missing?
This issue is a fill-in issue, I think that’s the best way to put it, but one that’s necessary. The question of why has Hank Pym or Wolverine or Captain Britain or ANYONE not done anything to find their missing students is answered… and it makes sense. It’s creepy, but it makes sense. Since the entire run of Avengers Arena is supposed to take place over a 30 day period, the characters would not have been missing for exceptionally long. Hank Pym and Tigra, who run Avengers Academy, didn’t even notice that their students were gone shortly after Christmas, which was about the time that others disappeared as well such as members of the Runaways, students from the Jean Grey School, and members of the Braddock Academy. You know – the kids who are currently stuck in the Murderworld/Hunger Games crossover. Pym tries to track them all down… and finds that he can. Kid Briton is continually updating social media with his goings on. Wolverine finds nothing strange in X-23 going walkabout, as she is a clone of him and he used to do it all the time. Juston – the kid with the pet Sentinel – has seemingly returned home to his father and we see him playing basketball with his brother… and then we see what “Juston” sees, which is that he is in fact a LMD. Yes, in the past Arcade has used LMDs to attack people in Murderworld (usually the X-Men) but now has used the LMDs to fill in their lives so that he can continue with what he’s up to. Pym even gets to talk to Mettle face-to-face – remember that Mettle died in issue #1 – and so even though his gut tells him something is wrong the scientist in him is fighting that.
Christos Gage takes over as writer for this one issue and since he was the mastermind behind the Avengers Academy series. He knows these character well as he molded some of them over the entire run of that series. Because of that, he knows how to write the main characters in this issue: Pym, Tigra, and even the Runaways. He used the connection between Chase and Old Lace to raise Molly’s suspicions, and she even called them “fake friends”, so she knows that they were LMDs and not their real friends. The psychic connection between Chase and Old Lace is nice to see as we haven’t seen much of the Runaways recently, and since Chase now possesses the Darkhawk amulet and longtime Darkhawk fans know that when the transformation effect is triggered the 2 change bodies… This could very well be why Old Lace is not doing so well – the longer Chase stays transformed, the more this impacts the dinosaur. It’s a small detail but it’s a great one and it does raise suspicions. What I do like that Gage did is give Pym his curiosity back to dive into something. The first issue of Avengers A.I. he came off as obnoxious and arrogant, nothing like the Hank I remember from the Avengers Academy time. It was nice to see THAT Hank return (can you tell I am a fan of Pym?).
Karl Moline and Mark Pennington provided the pencils and inks for this issue and they did a great job. I mean a really great job. I could tell who all of the characters were quickly and without trying to reach for their names or wonder “Is that Pym or… No, is that Pym?” They got the characters down, especially the Runaways who were highly important. I think perhaps my favorite scene, though, which I absolutely loved (and I am an old school Marvel fan) was seeing the West Coast Avengers compound in the back. When younger, that was my favorite comic book, hands down. Seeing the compound again – especially with former Whackos Hank and Tigra there – was a blast from the past for me.
This was a fun issue. I enjoyed many of the cameos, but what was interesting was that the Academy was still going on… so now it has me wondering about the school as a whole and what’s going on there. I get the feeling that we may get some answers with one of the Infinity tie-in miniseries coming out, but we also know that the next issue of AA begins the final arc called “Boss Level”. I get the impression that AA will not be lasting beyond that arc but that it will be used as the jumping ground for something else. I am looking forward to seeing what happens in this last arc, but I have one request: please, PLEASE make Chase back to his normal self and somehow find a way to bring Chris Powell back as Darkhawk! I don’t mind the character dying, but this just didn’t feel right for a cosmic character who was actually involved in the “War of Kings”. There’s bound to be something going on there – if you need to kill him off, he deserves a better death than what he got. So let’s end this story arc with the return of Darkhawk or I may send the Fraternity of Raptors after you…