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Tuesday Q&A: Dennis Hopeless

The writer of Avengers Arena and Cable and X-Force puts his heroes on the run!

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Avengers Arena #6 preview art by Kev Walker

By Jim Beard

As a major part of his job, writer Dennis Hopeless enjoys sending heroes on the run and fighting for their lives.

In Hopeless’ two Marvel NOW! titles, AVENGERS ARENA and CABLE AND X-FORCE, mutants and teenagers face challenges unlike any they’ve ever faced before, with stakes as high as they can go—literally life and death.

With both books cranking up the volume and heading into new story arcs, we pulled Hopeless aside for a quick Q&A to ask him about what’s in store for the heroic kids trapped on Murder World as well as Cable and his outlaw team.

Marvel.com: Dennis, as we build up to the Arcade spotlight in #AVENGERS ARENA #7 this April, what's the big picture right now on Murder World?

Dennis Hopeless: As the first arc comes to an end in AVENGERS ARENA #6, our players’ nerves are starting to fray. The night attacks have people paranoid and some of the easy alliances based on outside world familiarity have begun to break apart. Issues #5 and #6 focus on Kid Briton and Anachronism, giving us a little insight into the Braddock Academy and its students. After the Arcade issue we spend some time in the minds of X-23, Apex and Nico.

Marvel.com: What lengths are some of our kids willing to go to win Arcade’s challenge? How have things changed for them since #1?

Dennis Hopeless: At least one player will do anything to win. Most of them aren’t there yet but will be tested as things move forward. There are a few who believe they’d rather die than play. Whether or not that turns out to be true, we’ll see.

I think more than anything they’ve come to realize this game will play itself out whether they like it or not. In the first issue, Arcade showed them how powerless they are to beat him. Throughout the rest of the arc, he’s showing them how trapped they are. No one is coming to save them. Everyone has a breaking point.

Avengers Arena #6 preview art by Kev Walker

The game doesn’t hinge on every player deciding to kill. It doesn’t take everyone. It takes one or two. By AVENGERS ARENA #6, this fact will become extremely clear.

Marvel.com: We hear someone's not what they seem to be among the characters; as a writer, what's it like to set up and carry through such a gamble with the readers? How do you maintain the secret yet not pull it out of nowhere?

Dennis Hopeless: I think the key is to keep things ambiguous. If the only possible answer to the mystery is the truth, it’s a bit tougher to keep things hidden. You don’t want readers calling BS on you when you pull a reveal out of nowhere but at the same time, you don’t want to choreograph everything. The Internet makes this a lot harder. You have legions of fan sleuths all working together to solve our mysteries. They’ve gotten pretty good at it.

Marvel.com: How would you describe Arcade's character at the moment? What's significantly changed with him to make him who he is now?

Dennis Hopeless: Issue #7 delves deep into this. You have a man obsessed with competition who has spent his entire career losing. He’s also extremely arrogant and has put a lot of energy into justifications for his failure. Arcade has always told himself the game mattered more than the outcome, that fair play was a necessity. It’s self-delusion and he’s great at it.

In #7 we see Arcade stripped bare of these defenses. He’s forced to see himself as the rest of the world has: an ineffectual C-list villain who always fails. It’s a hitting rock bottom story. We see Arcade at his absolute lowest and watch that experience change him into a much scarier villain, a villain who is no longer willing to lose.

Marvel.com: What event over the next few issues are you most looking forward to, and why?

Dennis Hopeless: The end of issue #6 is a big one. It totally changes the game and sets several things into motion. The first arc was all about setting up the game and convincing the players they have to play. After that last page of #6, it’s game on. Beyond that, there are a couple of reveals in #8 that twist the knife in interesting ways.

Cable and X-Force #5 cover by Salvador Larroca

Marvel.com: On that note, let’s segue over to CABLE AND X-FORCE; who on the team is dealing the best with being on the run, and why? Who's having the worst time of it?

Dennis Hopeless: Cable and Domino are pretty good at this sort of thing by now. I don’t know how proud they are of being good outlaws, but it’s a fact.

Colossus is definitely having the worst time of it. He’s dealing with a lot of guilt—old guilt and new guilt—and wants to atone. There’s a simple solution to all of this, but it’s tough to save the world from behind bars. Pete is torn between his guilt and his loyalty to X-Force and their mission.

Marvel.com: How is it that Colossus is captured and hits jail? How's he going to feel about that? And why will prison be difficult?

Dennis Hopeless: He wants to make amends, do his time and move on from all the guilt. He likes prison in a weird way. It’s as though a weight has been lifted from his chest and he can breathe again. The only thing particularly difficult about jail is that Domino, Cable and X-Force won’t leave him alone in there.

Marvel.com: With Cable and Hope and Cable and Cyclops, are these X-Men parents and their children just the same as everyone else in the real world? Does Cable have a harder time with Hope than his father has with him?

Dennis Hopeless: I think in both cases, the relationship is hard because of how similar the fathers are to their children. Hope drives Cable nuts because she’s just like him. She’s headstrong and self-righteous, quick to grab a gun and solve every problem herself. Cable knows she learned it by watching him but wants his daughter to have an easier life than he did. Also, he trained her for life in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and now expects her to settle down and be a normal teenager. That’s never going to happen.

Cable and X-Force #6 cover by Salvador Larroca

Scott and Cable have a similar problem. They’re both arrogant tacticians who prefer giving orders to explaining themselves. Their relationship is more complicated because Scott didn’t get the opportunity to raise Nate. Cable respects Cyclops, but as a peer not a parent. And yet, nature beat out nurture in this case because Scott ended up with a son who shares his most irritating personality traits.

Marvel.com: How do the mutants in the Uncanny Avengers feel about being on the hunt after some of their own?

Dennis Hopeless: They’re very torn. Havok in particular has made it his personal mission to both catch his nephew and prove his innocence. Nobody wants to believe Cable has turned heel, but the longer X-Force stays on the run, the harder it is to believe otherwise. By the time these two groups meet face to face again, the relationships involved will be strained in all sorts of fun ways.

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