I didn't want to like this book, in fact I was convinced I wouldn't like it before I'd even read it. It seemed just way too sensationalist to me, and a pure Battle Royale rip off. Killing off young Marvel characters, some very popular characters, just for the thrill of it appalled me, but I've got to admit, this is a damn fine story.
I still don't like the premise of the story, but the interaction between each character in such a desperate situation is played out very well, and very dramatically.
In the first volume you had the introduction of the characters, from various academies, Arcade's new Murder World set-up, and how they split in to various different factions. It also gave you an insight into the different personalities each character has, which was told expertly, and you really got to know each one very well in such a short run of issues.
What the last issue lacked was any form of explanation. I gave several opinions on what I thought was happening, and I got it totally wrong. This issue explained why Arcade went from a joke of a villain to a all-powerful major player. The first part of this volume was a flashback dedicated to Arcade, and how he was the fool, that even the rest of the villain fraternity thought of as the proverbial joke.
A question I have at this point is, who exactly is this Miss Coriander, because she seems pretty powerful, and without her this Avengers Arena thing couldn't have happened. Arcade would have just been plain old Arcade.
Flashback over, we now return to the games once more, where we once more delve in to the strengths and weaknesses of each teen hero. For me this book was a book of revelations, we've already had the Arcade insights, this was followed by the Apex revelation. It turns out that Apex, from the Braddock Academy is in fact two people in one. Not a split personality thing like Moon Knight, but two people occupying one body. Apex is the evil sister that holds dominance over her hidden Brother, Tim Bashir. She has the stronger will, so holds her gentle brother within her.
It's only by accident that he fights his way out, which is when he explains about their history, but obviously this doesn't last long and Apex breaks free once again. Her power, it turns out, is control over all machinery/technology, and once she's back in control, she takes control of Juston's Sentinel, Death Locket, and the new Darkhawk (Chase).
She doesn't believe she's the villain of this piece, just doing what she has to, to survive and win, which means killing everyone else. A lot of this book revolves around the teens trying to survive her onslaught, and trying to take her down. In the Battle Royale mentality there has to be death, and she's very good at it.
Apart from Juston having his neck snapped by Apex, we get to see the death of one of the most popular characters out of all these teens, Nico.
This was very dramatic, and very gruesome, with Nico sustaining a broken leg, with bone sticking out of her leg, and her left hand severed by her friend, Chase, in his Darkhawk guise, controlled by Apex. The scenes where she's crawling through the snow, bleeding out through her various injuries was brilliantly told.
We also see her resurrection. Her magic is 'Blood Magic', which normally takes a small amount of her blood to heal herself, but because she lost so much blood, it was able to bring her back to life, and grow her a new hand, so Arcade tells us. Now she's pissed, and takes on Apex, Darkhawk, Death Locket and Juston's Sentinel single handed, and wins.
Without her technology Apex is pretty weak, and no match for Nico. At this stage you think Apex, and Death Locket are dead, encased in rock, but they're not. They've fallen through the earth in to Arcade's underground lair. The final page see's Death Locket looking into what appears to be some sort of lab' containing the bodies of those that have already fallen. If you look at the picture below you can see Kid Briton's head in a jar, but the main point of interest is Chris Powell suspended in a tank connected to wires, so you would presume he's not actually dead.
Here ends the second volume, and for me it was far better than the first one, with a lot more made clear. So we now know that it's not some computer game, when the kids die, they actually die. I'm looking forward to the final volume, 'Boss Level', and I've tried not to read too many reviews of the comic run which came to an end this month. I want the end to be a surprise! I have my thoughts on how it will end, and who will survive, but whatever happens, I'm sure it will be great.