I do not have a single new comic coming out this week. Given I ought to have about 10 books this month, that's a little odd.
Avengers Arena #13, by Christos Gage (writer), Karl Moline (penciler), Mark Pennington (inker), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer), and Avengers Arena #14, by Dennis Hopeless (writer), Kev Walker (penciler, inker), Jason Gorder (inker), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Who does Chase remind you of on that cover? He sort of looks like a young Harrison Ford, but I'm not sure. I feel like Andrasofszky was definitely using someone as a reference. It's kind of an adorable cover, setting aside the truth of their absence, which is terribly depressing.
Gage takes us outside Murderworld, to examine why no superheroes have come busting in on Arcade's little hell. The answer is there are people concerned, but Arcade's managed to set things up well enough their concerns can't solidify. The kids he targeted all have reasons they might take off that seem probable to those around them. Either that or nobody noticed they're missing. Sorry Darkhawk. If other people do want to keep in touch, he's got ways of sending out texts or phone calls to keep in touch. He's apparently gotten his hands on some of those good LMDs, the ones that behave like the person they're meant to imitate and don't start getting weird ideas. Not so far anyway. I can't help thinking the little dustup Arcade had with his helper bot was more than just a sign of how either delusional or self-destructive Arcade is right now. That comment about A.I.'s developing quirks. . .
Moline's artwork is, it's not bad, but some of the faces are kind of lop-sided, and he (or Pennington, I guess) get a little too busy with the extra lines. Arcade looked really old in some of those panels. There's some good work in there as well. The panel of the Bamfs stealing Logan's beer, the first two panels on page 5. He reined Molly's emotions in a little, which made them feel more real (even though I know she's prone to stating what she wants and feels in an exaggerated manner), and the depressed Old Lace, drove the point home. Generally, the less he has to worry about, in terms of action, characters, backgrounds, the stronger the work is. Otherwise it looks rushed, and Pennington's inks couldn't really cover it.
Issue 14 brings us back to the kids, who had decided to go find Katy and give her a beatdown, not realizing Nico had risen from the (almost) grave intent on the same thing. Not that it matters. Arcade kept them walking in circles and systematically split them apart. Cullen's had enough and is lashing out at everyone left, including his best friend/unrequited love, but Cammi manages to get him to spill on that secret she saw in him several issues ago. Turns out Ulysses Bloodstone could give Magneto a run for his money in a Terrible Father competition. OK, it wasn't as though he meant to abandon Cullen for two years in a dimension of Soul Eaters. At least he left the kid well-armed, better than Elsa being thrown to that one demon with naught but a spoon (when she was too young to even speak). Cullen survived the experience, but there's something within that's not too pretty. But it might be the only thing that can keep them alive, because Arcade flooded the entire area with trigger scent, which means X-23's out to kill them all now (which means we've reached the point where the series started, Hazmat wounded and fleeing). So it's whatever the hell is inside Cullen against a completely berserk X-23.
Considering the sheer amount of Trigger Scent Arcade's whipped up, I can't see why Katy was his favorite to win, rather than X-23. We're talking an adamantium-laced mini-Wolverine, with an even better healing factor, he can send into a killing frenzy whenever he likes. I guess he was thinking in terms of kids willingly killing each other. I like that exchange between Cammi and Cullen near the end. As she's blasting at X-23 and he's yelling at her to keep it up, Cammi calmly replies, 'Cullen, she's X-23. I can't stop her.' There's something perfectly deadpan about it, and Walker's art helps a lot. The grim, but calm expression he gives her in the second to last panel, and the fairly casual stance she's firing from in the panel before that. It makes the whole thing feel perfunctory. Cammi knows she can't save Aiden or Nara in the longterm, she's buying them a few seconds at the most, but what the hell. Cammi's always fought to survive, and she has the ray gun, she might as well do something. Even if it's useless. Plus, it dovetails nicely with Cullen's rant earlier in the issue, where he tells her she's refusing to accept the reality that they're beaten. There's no wool over her eyes here.
Walker did a really good job here. In the very first panel, his Cullen actually has a bit of a Steve Dillon vibe. Maybe because Dillon's so fond of profile shots, but the angry weariness in Cullen's eyes is familiar, too. But it's a great picture, you can almost see how he's getting more and more fed up as he thinks back over the past three days. Also, that last page, how the second panel zooms in on his hands as he removes the ring, then the rest of the page is a wide shot of the creature charging at X-23. Like that thing emerged from him (well, he changed into, I guess), and he exploded out of that panel to X and us. This is going to sound strange, but the first time I read through it, that last panel felt very Conan-ish. Like some John Buscema would have drawn. A huge beast charging towards the reader, and the only thing between us a slightly hunched over figure with a sword. X-23 ain't Conan, but the posture, the perspective, seemed familiar. Bit of an inversion, though, since the human figure is the thing hellbent on slaughter and the monster is (theoretically) what's going to protect everyone.