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#HelpMolly Locate Avengers Arena

Avengers Academy writer Christos Gage talks about helping Hank Pym and Molly Hayes launch their search!

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Avengers Arena #13 cover by Kalman Andrasofszky

By Ben Morse

As readers have watched the teen heroes of AVENGERS ARENA battle, struggle and in some cases fall over the last seven months, one question has come up time and again: When will the rest of the Marvel Universe react?

On August 14 in AVENGERS ARENA #13, guest writer Christos Gage steps in to help provide an answer.

The writer of AVENGERS ACADEMY, Gage has more than a vested interest in the cast of AVENGERS ARENA, which includes characters he shepherded such as Reptil and X-23, not to mention one of his own co-creations, Hazmat. Joined by artistic collaborator Karl Moline, Gage will explore what has been going on outside Murder World and how characters like Academy founder Hank Pym and Molly Hayes on the Runaways have been dealing with the loss of their friends and charges plus what they plan to do about it.

You can aid in the youngest Runaway’s search for her surrogate family by using the hash tag #HelpMolly on Twitter; here at Marvel.com, we will be tracking tips and thoughts for inclusion in upcoming issues of AVENGERS ARENA.

We spoke with Gage about how this story came about, his thoughts on AVENGERS ARENA, who will show up in issue #13 and much more.

Avengers Arena #13 preview pencils by Karl Moline

Marvel.com: How did this opportunity to revisit some lingering AVENGERS ACADEMY threads in AVENGERS ARENA come about?

Christos Gage: Bill Rosemann, my longtime pal and editor on AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE and AVENGERS ACADEMY, called me up and said Dennis Hopeless could use a breather on AVENGERS ARENA, and asked if I’d have any interest in writing an issue about what’s going on with the people “left behind” as it were; the folks you’d expect might miss the kids kidnapped by Arcade. I thought it would be a blast to revisit some old friends, both fictional—Hank Pym, Tigra, Finesse—and professional, like Bill and the great Karl Moline, who is drawing the issue, and who I previously worked with on the two issues of AVENGERS ACADEMY that contained the Runaways crossover. And a blast it was!

Marvel.com: How closely have you been following AVENGERS ARENA and what have you thought of the story so far?

Avengers Arena #13 preview pencils by Karl Moline

Christos Gage: I’ve been buying every issue and been very impressed. In all honesty, the premise is not one I would normally gravitate to, as reader or writer, mostly because I hate killing off characters; even when I create characters specifically knowing I’m going to kill them, half the time I chicken out. It just feels like giving up one of my toys, when there’s still so much potential fun to be had. I’m also not a fan of death in comics for its own sake, or shock value. So what’s impressed me about what Dennis and [artist] Kev [Walker] have done is that they’ve made the story about the characters; getting you invested in them, making you love them or hate them, exploring who they are and why they react the way they do in this deadly pressure cooker of a situation. That’s not an easy thing to do with a large cast like this, and they’ve pulled it off beautifully. I love the Braddock Academy characters they created; writing them, even just briefly, in my issue was great fun.

Marvel.com: How do you think Dennis has handled some of the characters you helped create?

Avengers Arena #13 preview pencils by Karl Moline

Christos Gage: There were only two I co-created with original AVENGERS ACADEMY artist Mike McKone—Mettle and Hazmat—and I think he’s done a hell of a job. Did I love seeing Mettle killed in issue #1? Of course not. But what Dennis had him do is exactly what he would have done in that situation. Dennis knows the characters. I talked with him for an hour or so about this issue, and if I had any doubt about his love for all the characters before—which I didn’t—that would have ended it.

Marvel.com: What will your issue be exploring?

Christos Gage: We’ll be looking at what’s happening in the outside world. Where do their families and friends think the kids abducted to Murder World are? Do they know they’re missing? If not, how has Arcade managed to cover up so many abductions? It’s something readers have been curious about, and I’m glad I got to provide an answer; I feel like my guest stint on the book is an important part of the larger saga, not a “fill-in,” but I also don’t feel like I’m stepping on Dennis’ toes either, because I’m looking at a completely different side of things.

Marvel.com: What has been going on with the Academy since Arcade kidnapped the kids?

Avengers Arena #13 preview pencils by Karl Moline

Christos Gage: Keep in mind it’s only been about two weeks. Since the full-time students graduated in the final issue of AVENGERS ACADEMY—available in handsome collected editions as well as digitally!—Avengers Academy has become less a boarding school and more like a community college or continuing education facility, where young heroes come in for short periods to study specific things, like hand to hand combat or flying or whatever, but most of the time they’re out in the world doing heroic stuff and living their lives. So it’s not as if anyone was plucked from the tight-knit group we saw when the Academy students were all living together. When I spoke to Bill about this story, the main thing I insisted on was that no one realizes the missing kids are missing. Because let’s face it, if the Avengers know these kids they took under their wing to train have been kidnapped, and they’re not out there looking for them with all of Iron Man’s tech and Dr. Strange’s magic and so on, then the Avengers are colossal jerks. So what we see is that Arcade has planned everything very carefully. The people who are supposed to notice when folks like Hazmat and Kid Briton go missing think they know exactly where they are.

Marvel.com: How does Molly come into the story and what’s the dynamic like with her and Hank Pym?

Avengers Arena #13 preview pencils by Karl Moline

Christos Gage: In the Runaways two-parter I did with Karl in AVENGERS ACADEMY #27-28, Hank Pym struck a deal with the Runaways. He wouldn’t oppose them continuing to live on their own, if they promised to check in with him once a month so he could make sure they were okay. This is one of those check-ins, and Molly says she’s not okay; two of her friends, Nico and Chase, are gone, and they must have been kidnapped by bad guys because they’d never stay away so long otherwise. Fellow Runaway Karolina Dean, who is dating Avengers Academy’s Julie Power, patiently says there’s an explanation for why they’re gone and Molly’s just upset, but when Hank—who’s a pretty sharp guy—learns they left at the same time several Avengers Academy students also departed suddenly, he decides it bears looking into. I love the dynamic with Molly and Hank, because he’s like me: totally awkward and unsure what to do around kids. But he means well, and he tries, and he talks to Molly like she’s capable of understanding as much as any adult and Molly appreciates that.

Marvel.com: Will we see any of the other MIA Academy cast members like Finesse or Striker? Will you be addressing any Academy business besides the search for the missing students?

Avengers Arena #13 preview pencils by Karl Moline

Christos Gage: You won’t see Striker. I would have liked to check in with him if it made sense to, but one of the things I kept in mind was that I wasn’t writing the Avengers Academy Reunion Special, I was writing AVENGERS ARENA, so you’ll only see Academy characters if they figure into the story being told. That said, we’ll see Finesse, Julie, White Tiger, Hank, Tigra, and I couldn’t resist a Butterball cameo because that’s just how I roll. As for Academy business, not really, except a bit of follow-up on the Finesse/White Tiger/Reptil triangle.

Marvel.com: Are you going to be touching on any of the ongoing events in Murder World or is this issue set purely outside its confines?

Christos Gage: Just outside. Well, we do see Arcade in his lair, which is technically in Murder World, but we don’t see the kids who are there. I feel like Murder World itself is Dennis’ story, and there was plenty to cover in the outside world.

Pre-order the next issue of AVENGERS ARENA and join Christos Gage and Karl Moline for issue #13 on August 14!

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