By: Dennis Hopeless (Writer), Timothy Green II (Artist), Jean-Francois Beaulieu (Color Artist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (Letterer), Francesco Mattina (Cover Artist)

The Story: Revenge is a dish best served with gratuitous violence and radiation blasts.

The Review: That cover! Interestingly, the title logo is in the lower third, and the Marvel brand logo all the way on the bottom. More interestingly, the words “game over” overshadow the title logo, of which the words “Avengers” are the smallest of all. It’s rare to have copy/blurb, title, and logo in nearly opposite ratio to each other from what we expect. Perhaps it speaks to what’s inside in a more metaphorical way: this is a comic where traditions are inverted, expectations are reversed, and anything might happen.

The art inside, however, maintains a mix of great and not-so-great expectations. There are many good elements, including key panels that use the depth of field in background/foreground very expertly, and colors that are amazingly vibrant and textured/gradated (especially in the depictions of superpowers.) However, there is a bit of 90s aesthetic to Green’s art, such as an overuse of thin lines and hash marks, and a similarity of faces and clothing choice that can often lead to confusion between characters. Perhaps accordingly, there are even a few lapses of basic anatomy and the facial expressions fail to exhibit a range of expression. The attempt to integrate a flashback scene was not integrated well.

There’s enough goodness here to compensate, though. In particular, a double page spread of Arcade being attacked, and the full splash page of Hazmat’s final answer to their archenemy. These moments are effective too because they perfectly culminate the tension and tone that’s been building. The characters argue among themselves, amid the confusion and trauma of their experiences, but it’s balanced well with the action that is both in the background (in Arcade’s latest iteration of the Murder World theme) and in the forefront (as the characters work together on two fronts to face down Arcade himself.)

Rarely have I felt such tension for characters as I have when reading this issue, not even in reading previous issues of this or Avengers Arena. Hazmat, in particular, is a character I want to see “win,” and seeing her particular arc in this issue made me feel very anxious but also very concerned. It’s still completely up in the air if we can call her victory a “win” or not. And thus the tension continues. In the end, the true Masters of Evil, with my favorite, Baron Zemo, show that they will move soon out of subplot and into main plot. Madame Masque declares that this is all going “exactly as planned.” If it means a continuation of the momentum of plot and character so far, let’s hope so.

The Bottom Line: The art overall takes a bit of a dip, although the coloring and storytelling remain strong. Story-wise, Hopeless continues his exploration of character growth, philosophical themes of ethics and morality, and ominous subplots that bode even more suffering and dilemma for our heroes. The cover says “game over,” but in many ways, the game is really just getting started.

The Grade: A-

-Danny Wall

Other Tidbits:

— Are there really THAT many idly rich millionaires to provide Arcade with a steady stream of hundreds of participants in his new “pay to play” Murder World?

— My peculiar reading style actually glosses over the lettered sound effects, and it took me a few reads to catch that the sound effect of Cammi’s kick to Arcade’s crotch reads “NUTZ!” On one hand, I did laugh, but I also think the scene is too heavy to try for levity.

— I love little Easter eggs, like the titles of the books in Arcade’s library that made this armchair philosophy student smile.