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So, I should probably use this for something since LJ's become a casualty of the EVE Online metagame or something. I keep thinking I should get Tumblr because all the cool kids have one, but then I balk at the idea because the world of Tumblr is weird.

Anyway. I spoiled myself for Avengers Arena #1, which is out tomorrow (12/12/12). And while I wasn't looking forward to the book pretty much at all since I heard the premise months ago (Battle Royale/Hunger Games! With Marvel kid characters!) I'm even less enthused now.

Like you figure, someone dies! And it's a well-liked character! And they off them right in front of someone they love, and bits of them splatter everywhere!

I'm kind of sick of this, actually. It was new and shocking when I was seventeen. And I know logically that somewhere out there is a seventeen year old who's just gotten into comics and this might be the second title ever that they've followed, so this will be new and shocking to them, but... at almost thirty, I'm jaded.

I feel bad for the writer, because I respect writers trying something new. I've complained in the past how much I hate how it seems like all the big houses want to do is go back to the status quo and rehash old storylines, so when people take risks on new stories or new storytelling formats, I'm in favor. At least, most of the time. The problem is that lately, it seems (especially in comics) that shaking up the status quo means "lots and lots of gory deaths." I got back into comics with the Ultimateverse in about 2001, and followed it religiously until Ultimatum, which was my breaking point. It wasn't so much that there was a decision to wreck everything--it was that to do so, the writer and artist of Ultimatum relied on shock value and the cohesive story was lost to me. Even now, years later, I can't really tell you what went on other than "Blob ate Wasp and then things were messed up for years after."

And when I got back into the 616-verse, how did major events go? In fairly formulaic manners. Kill a character in the middle and/or end of the event. Bill Foster and Cap in Civil War (though to be fair, Cap was "killed" just after the event proper). Wasp in Secret Invasion. Ares and Loki in Siege. Bucky!Cap and Thor in Fear Itself. And Xavier (again!) in Avengers vs. X-men. It's like clockwork now. Need to raise the drama quotient of an event? Kill someone. Even if it doesn't take, you have the drama!

It's lazy.

I know that you can't have lots of huge world-shaking fights without people dying, and it's not just going to be the extras who die. But death has become so cheap in the Marvel world that it's literally become a joke, even in-universe in comics like X-factor (Siryn not taking her father's death seriously because he'll just be back soon anyway) and Incredible Hercules (the afterlife being portrayed as a casino where dead heroes play slots until they win their way back into life). It's partially more of Marvel's constant returns to status quo by bringing back fan favorites within years of their deaths and partially killing off those fan favorites in a fairly clockwork manner for cheap drama.

Which brings me back to Avengers Arena. The premise of this whole title is that assorted teen heroes from the past few years (Nico and Chase from Runaways, Mettle, Hazmat, and Juston from Avengers Academy, X-23) along with a few original characters are dropped into a situation where they battle to the death. Because. The in-universe reason is because Arcade is sick of being seen as a crappy bad guy and wants to up the stakes, and the real world reason is because Battle Royale and Hunger Games are in the public zeitgeist. The thing is, Battle Royale is years old, and Hunger Games isn't new any more. The shock of kids killing kids in popular media has worn off somewhat.

Comics take time to produce, so between realizing that Hunger Games is a thing, pitching an idea, writing the idea, and getting the art out, I can see why it's hard to strike while the iron is hot. And comic fans are possessive of their favorite characters. It's one of the reasons why Marvel keeps going back to the status quo so much. Between that and the internet hate machine being what it is (I remember the days of the Potterdämmerung and I've been a Star Wars fan since I could form memories, I know how people hate what they love) this was always going to be a risky title.

I really do feel awful for the hate that Dennis Hopeless is getting for this. The closest thing I can think of at the moment is the hate that R.A. Salvatore got for killing off Chewbacca back when the New Jedi Order kicked off. I met Salvatore once; he was a really nice guy. And I'm sure that Dennis Hopeless is also a really nice guy who probably doesn't deserve the hate he's getting. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to tell a story, or wanting to try something new.

The problem is that it's perceived to be getting rid of excess characters and trying for shock value numbers by getting rid of years of character development in one big gory panel, and in principle I can't stand behind that.

I'm hoping I'm wrong, and that this story does develop well and pay off in an emotionally fulfilling way by the end. But I'm not counting on it, so I can't be disappointed.
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January 2013


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