By Tim Stevens
While most teens will be off to the beach this August, the cast of AVENGERS ARENA will entering “Boss Level,” a powerful new storyline in their quest to survive and escape Murder World. Kicking off with issue #14, the arc finds our heroes finally able to confront the man who kidnapped and then set them against one another: the death trap mastermind Arcade.
The journey until now has been rife with pain and tragedy for the collected heroes with the deaths of several of their peers unfolding, at times, before their very eyes. Given that fact, both writer Dennis Hopeless and editor Bill Rosemann felt it important that each and every moment contain emotional honesty and not just be done for shock value.
|Avengers Arena #14 cover by Mike Deodato|
“The deaths matter when the characters matter,” Hopeless asserts. “Our primary goal from the very start has been to climb inside these characters’ heads and let readers watch through their eyes as they experience Murder World. It’s a character study of 16 teenagers fighting to survive. If we pull that off, the deaths won’t just matter, they’ll knock the wind out of you.”
“A Murder World without death is a toothless challenge, and seems to me a cheat to our audience,” Rosemann continues. “It may be at times distressing—and we will challenge or change our protagonists like never before—but along the way we will see if these developing superhumans will rise to their heroic potential or plummet into darkness.”
Hopeless remains dedicated to that mission heading into this climatic storyline, making sure not to sacrifice the book’s core in a big fight scene.
“For the most part, ‘Boss Level’ is still about all about survival,” he promises. “These kids are trying to beat Murder World any way they can. The difference is that now they’ve run out of time and their options for survival are changing.”
As the story has progressed, events have affected the protagonists to various degrees. With “Boss Level,” much of those consequences will be lay bare.
“Some of these friendships and teams are stronger than ever, while others may be irreparably broken,” Hopeless explains. “New alliances have formed and a couple of loners have become leaders. Each of these kids has been changed by this experience and those changes had a variety of effects on their relationships.
“Is there optimism or trust left on Murder World? Yes. Does it reside in all of the kids? Hell no.”
AVENGERS ARENA #7 also made clear not only the heroes have become desperate. The villainous Arcade, long a punch line, has come to the island with a singular mission: victory.
|Avengers Arena #14 variant cover by Matthew Waite|
“[Arcade] has his whole world wrapped up in seeing this Murder World through,” says Hopeless. “I’d say he’s feeling anxious and excited as the endgame draws near. He’s probably thinking about all the times he came close and trying to convince himself that this time he’ll get that W. There are definitely some interesting Arcade moments coming up.”
Whether Arcade’s newfound commitment to cruelty will break the spirit of the teen heroes remains the unanswered question heading into “Boss Level” and the writer has no intention of tipping his hand about who may survive, physically, emotionally, or psychologically.
“Desperation, fear, and anger have taken a toll and [the heroes] see the endgame approaching,” Hopeless teases. “Each character left standing as we enter the final arc has to decide how they want to go out.”
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