Marvel's younger heroes have dealt with life-threatening challenges before in the pages of "Young Avengers" and "Avengers Academy" from foes earthbound and beyond.
Now, in "Avengers Arena" they're squaring off against each other, costume-clad pawns in a decidedly deadlier game they've no control over and no hope of escaping from in the series from Marvel Comics that came out Wednesday.
Writer Dennis Hopeless called the series — which sees 16 characters from Marvel Entertainment awake on an island run by the villain Arcade — as a chance to look at the individual characters, including Mettle, X-23 and Darkhawk, among others, and glean what type of heroes they could be, provided they survive.
And if comparisons to "The Hunger Games" or the film "Battle Royale" or even William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" arise, that's OK, he said, but ultimately the series is about individuals learning who they are and what they're willing to do to survive.
"That's the interesting thing about the concept of fighting for your life or being in a death match; it gets down to the core of who a person is. They're making decisions that are going to shape who they are as adults," said Hopeless, whose writing credits at Marvel include "Legion of Monsters" and "X-Men: Season One."
Bill Rosemann, who edits the title illustrated by artist Kev Walker, said "Avengers Arena" centers on conflict and strife between friends, and foes alike, but it also explores the deeper topic of how one generation is willing to sacrifice another.
"Go back to the myth of the minotaur and sending in the young people to sacrifice them and fight him," Rosemann said. "Look at the wars: Who do we send to fight? Our youngest generation. Reality shows? It's all young people competing. And we, as a culture, are obsessed with that."
That issue is paramount in "Avengers Arena," he said.
"Who's going to rebel, who's going to give in? Who's going to sacrifice their morals to survive? How far will people go to save their friends?" Rosemann asked. "It's young adults who are walking a fine line and we're going to find out if they're going to become the next generation of greatest heroes or the next generation of the Masters of Evil."
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Marvel Entertainment is owned by The Walt Disney Co.