Avengers Undercover is a direct sequel to the Battle Royale/Hunger Games like series Avengers Arena. If you haven’t read the prior series the book does a great job of filling you in the first couple of pages, as the character Hazmat is at a burger joint and overhears some customers talking about her ordeal.
Writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Kev Walker are back and they’ve decided to switch things up a bit. The official synopsis from Marvel:
“WHEN TEEN HEROES INFILTRATE THE MASTERS OF EVIL, WHO WILL BREAK BAD? Damaged by their experience in Murder World, five conflicted young superhumans go rogue and infiltrate the Masters of Evil, planning to bring the Avengers’ rivals down from within. But the longer the teens spend undercover, the more they descend into darkness, and as they start to build relationships with these multi-layered criminals, the line between good and evil blurs. What will happen first…joining the Masters for real, or getting exposed and killed?”
Where I feel Hopeless excels once again is his character work. He shows us how each of these teen superheroes deals with the horrific events of Avengers Arena. Whether it’s Chase who is sporting a new look, appearing on talk shows, and apparently has a book deal and a reality TV offer, or Bloodstone who has declared a one man vendetta against Arcade. This is very much a book about fame and notoriety in the digital age and how our young heroes react to their current situation and past trauma.
Kev Walker’s art is the same that he displayed in Arena, and if anything he’s gotten a bit more detailed. His art reminds me a bit of Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers, and that is not a bad thing. Many of the characters are rocking new looks which is representative to their changed place within the Marvel Universe. The one downside of the art is I feel Jean Francois-Beaulieu’s colors don’t complement Walker’s art as well as Frank Martin’s did on Arena. The overall murky color tones didn’t appeal to me.
Overall Avengers Undercover #1 is a smooth transition for fans of Avengers Arena, as it has some of the same characters and is by the same creative team. But it also make for a good jumping on point for those unfamiliar with the prior series. The book capitalizes on the issues that comes from surviving a traumatic experience and once again entering the real world. It’s not something we’re used to seeing in our heroes, especially lesser known ones.
A minor critique is the this issue is it doesn’t do a lot to establish the undercover part of the title, in a way it’s almost Avengers Arena aftermath. Baron Zemo on the cover probably fooled you into thinking he would not just show up on the last page.
The art and the writing will keep me coming back, I just hope they pick up the pace a bit.
4 out of 5 nerds