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Shadowhawk and Bane of Kings take a look at another new #1 from Marvel, part of its All-New Marvel NOW! launch initiative.
“A superhero comic series that deals with PTSD and survivor’s guilt and features young, teenage superheroes? Well that’s unique, certainly, in my experience. I think I’ll be sticking with this one for a bit. ” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields
“A great first issue that although not perfect, does lay the groundwork for a very interesting series with some great character development” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
Avengers Arena is not a book I’ve read, despite the fact that it is a short-lived series, only 15 issues I believe, and that it features teen superheroes. I love reading about teen superheroes, so the series was definitely on my radar, but I just didn’t get the time to pick it up. And now we have Avengers Undercover, which is a series that appears to be a spiritual successor of sorts to that. In Avengers Arena, several teen heroes were kidnapped and forced to duke it out Battle Royale/Hunger Games style until only a small handful remained. In Avengers Undercover, the survivors deal with PTSD, with survivor’s guilt, and with the feelings of anger and betrayal that result. Conceptually, it is all quite wonderful, but Dennis Hopeless’ writing doesn’t quite jive together for me.
When I heard about Avengers Undercover, I was confused as to why a bunch of supervillains were on the first cover. I avoided reading the blurbs of all the new Marvel series when they were announced at NYCC last year, so I didn’t know what this was going to be about. But I did think that it would be about the supervillains. Turns out… not so much. The villains don’t actually turn up until the very last page, which was surprising in a lot of ways. They are marketed on the cover after all.
Still, when all is said and done, I think that Hopeless provides some really interesting insights into all these teenage characters. Each of them has a different personality and he brings out the best, and worst, in them throughout the issue. These are characters that I can definitely see myself sticking with in the long run, provided that the characterisation bears out and Hopeless’ writing gets better as well, which is a major requirement.Haz-Mat and Bloodstone are characters I see myself liking quite a bit, if Hopeless continues writing them like he does here.
And, this issue makes me want to catch up on Avengers Arena, a title which was recommended to me by a lot of friends, and I’ve certainly heard quite a lot of praise for it.
Kev Walker does the pencils for this issue, and I liked the art. There’s a lot of variation to his characters, and I liked what I saw. He seems to be a good fit for the series, and I suppose that is all that counts as far as the artwork is concerned. I’m really interested in seeing how he progresses on and how he deals with the different circumstances and situations as they arise. Jean-Francois Beaulieu does the colours for the issue, and he really makes the artwork pop out of the page.
Overall, this is quite a decent beginning, but I’m still looking to see if the promises made in this issue come together. The writing generally needs to improve, and the art could be a little better too. Its in a good place, but there is a fair amount of room for improvement I think.
Bane of Kings:
Story: Dennis Hopeless | Art: Kev Walker | Colours: Jean Francois-Beaulieu | Cover: Francesco Mattina, Mark Brooks
This March, ask yourself the question: If you were a teen superhuman and all the adult heroes failed you when you were kidnapped and tortured, would you switch sides and break bad? Marvel is pleased to present your first look at AVENGERS UNDERCOVER #1 from Harvey Award winning writer Dennis Hopeless and critically acclaimed artist Kev Walker!
Damaged, broken, and forever changed by their experiences in Murder World, five conflicted young superhumans are out to prove to the world they can still be heroes. Now, Bloodstone, Hazmat, Deathlocket, Cammi, Anachronism, Chase, and Nico are going rogue and heading deep undercover with the Masters of Evil. And they’re going to take them down from the inside!
But the longer these teens spend undercover, the deeper they descend into darkness. And the line between good and evil blurs. Before it’s all over – a new super villain will be born!
I’ve been reading a lot more of Marvel’s teen line of characters and every series lately focusing on these characters has been impressive. Young Avengers for example, though recently cancelled, was my favourite Marvel ongoing aside from maybe Hawkeye and Daredevil – with Hawkeye itself featuring a Young Avenger, Kate Bishop. Then there is the always fun cosmic title Nova, featuring the adventures of Sam Alexander. And the newly launched New Warriors – of which its first issue hit shelves last month. And now comes the replacement for the recently-ended Avengers Arena, entitled Avengers Undercover.
Avengers Arena was a title that attracted quite a lot of controversy – indeed, fellow Founding Fields reviewer Bellarius gave the first issue a pretty negative review, and it received a lot of hate from fans for seemingly being a direct ripoff of the recent Hunger Games craze, with the villain Arcade even referencing that he got the idea from a Children’s Book. However, when I had the chance to read the book recently at my local library – or at least the first trade, I really enjoyed it – which took me completely by surprise. So whilst I never did get to fully catch up on the series it certainly gave a good explanation for the groundwork behind Avengers Undercover, and as a result I might not be as lost as readers coming into the story fresh.
However, if you’re coming into the book fresh, Dennis Hopeless provides a handy recap at the start of the book – and it’s not quite like the majority of recaps taking the form instead of a news report. Right from the get go you’ll know that Avengers Undercover will look at the fallout from this title – and putting the kids who survived in the spotlight – dealing how they were affected from the traumatising events. If Avengers Arena was The Hunger Games then Avengers Undercover is the Catching Fire – if Collins hadn’t had decided to revisit the Arena. And, the follow up works. Avengers Undercover’s first issue serves as a really good opening issue to what could potentially grow into one of Marvel’s best series on the market right now.
The biggest strength of Hopeless’ work is the characters, and this has the potential to be a really good character-driven book. He instantly succeeds in getting the reader invested in these characters – obviously the payoff will be bigger for readers who have been following from the start, but for newcomers you’re already starting to form emotional attachments with these characters. They’ve been through hell, and it’s not over yet. Chase, Haz-Mat, Cullen Bloodstone – the survivors of Avengers Undercover should undergo a lot of growth in this series and it’ll be interesting to see if Hopeless is done with the bloodshed yet.
The book itself pits the Avengers against Baron Zemo and the Masters of Evil but those of you expecting them to feature heavily in this issue will be disappointed, as they just show up towards the end. We also don’t get any clue on how the Undercover part of the title is going to develop, which means that the book’s title is doubly misleading. Not only are you not getting Avengers, of the Iron Man ilk, but also you’re not getting them going Undercover. But if you want a spy-themed book then Secret Avengers will be more up your street – or Black Widow. Avengers Undercover for now is about character development, but it’ll be really interesting to see where this continues in future issues once the main plot kickstarts.
Kev Walker brings some fantastic artwork to the table. His panels are striking and both pencils and inks really shine. It’s the colours that don’t always reach top spot however – Jean Francois-Beaulieu doesn’t quite do it justice and perhaps the book would have been served with a stronger colourist. But for now though, it looks like we’re going to have to make do. Plus, I don’t normally talk about the cover, but how could I not? It looks amazing, and the future issues of Avengers Undercover also boast awesome covers as well. So one thing’s for sure, the new covers of Avengers Undercover will be very good to admire.
This book then, comes recommended. It should be a very interesting journey to follow but will probably be more enjoyed by those looking for a continuation of Avengers Arena rather than newcomers to the book. But for now, I’m ready to stick with this book and hopefully there’ll be more great things in the issues to come.