One week ago, Marvel published a Marvel NOW! teaser that left most of the comics community scratching their heads. A blood-spattered "Survive" served as the enigmatic teaser copy, promoting a December-debuting series by writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Kev Walker.
On Thursday, Marvel.com revealed the ongoing series is called Avengers Arena, featuring long-time supervillain Arcade pitting 16 of Marvel's teenage heroes pitted against each another in a tournament of death in his latest "Murder World."
If that sounds like The Hunger Games or Battle Royale to you, it's likely no coincidence. The cover to Avengers Arena #1 is a clear Battle Royal homage, and series editor Bill Rosemann didn't shy away from such comparisons in a Q&A with Marvel.com.
"Throughout history, societies have sent their young adults against one another in competition, whether that's in war, sports or “American Idol," Rosemann said. "Likewise, art has examined this phenomenon of the older generation sacrificing the younger generation — and also of young warring gangs wanting to prove who's #1 — in everything from the myth of Theseus vs. the Minotaur to Lord of the Flies to Battle Royale to Starship Troopers to Survivor to Hunger Games. Teen vs. teen competition is as old as storytelling — but now it’s time to give it the Marvel twist."
Characters trapped in Arcade's Murder World include Avengers Academy vets Hazmat, Mettle, Reptil, Juston and his Sentinel and X-23; Chase and Nico from Runaways; Darkhawk; Cammi from Annihilation and new characters including the "Braddock Academy." All of them, according to Hopeless, potentially up for the chopping block.
"Arcade has spent a lot of years building "Murder Worlds" that yield very few actual murders," Hopeless told Marvel.com "He's decided it’s time to get back a little self-respect. It’s time for a new kind of Murder World. Avengers Arena is about the unlucky kids he’s chosen to help him try it out. I don’t want to give too much away, but I can promise a lot of murder in this new Murder World."
So yes, characters will die — and some swiftly — but Hopeless said that all of them have something important to contribute to the story.
Walker told Marvel.com that setting an entire series in Arcade's Murder World provides some unique opportunities for him as an artist.
"Murder World looks like the real world, but Arcade can't help himself, smoke and mirrors are in his blood," Walker said. "Nothing makes sense in this place, tropical beaches and arctic wilderness sit side by side, dry desert and lush forest overlap."
"These kids were chosen carefully and with specific story beats in mind," Hopeless continued. "We definitely plan on taking advantage of the broad personality spectrum we have in play. Even the characters [that] die off early make their mark on the story. I didn't throw anyone into the book as cannon fodder."
Two more Marvel NOW! series are expected to be announced on Friday, the books teased with the words "Wanted" and "Killers."