"Avengers Arena" #18 ends the murderous melodrama from writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Kev Walker. The issue opens with total chaos and looming additions to the series' body count, but the conclusion of this series leaves questions unanswered and stories untold.
Hopeless brings the story home, leaving a handful of survivors, but the hows and the whys of their hollow victory will have to be followed elsewhere. The survivors -- including the devilish mastermind Arcade, who escaped the island prior to this issue -- attempt to corroborate their tale, finalize their own account of what happened and truly just want to go home and start over. Before buttoning everything up, however, Hopeless throws a few more curves and surprises at the readers, as well as a final casualty or three. The definitive outcome of "Avengers Arena" #18 is less about the bombastic displays of blood, guts and gore that peppered this series throughout, nor is it about the killing or the maiming of several fan favorite characters. Hopeless makes it quite clear that the true cost of this adventure is not the unmistakable body count, but the emotional one. The impact of Hopeless' story will forever shape these characters and the readers' expectations.
Kev Walker's art is spot-on as it has been. Filtered through a gritty lens that magnifies the consequences of every decision in Murder World, Walker gives emotion and purpose to the characters. Never is that more evident than when Reptil fights through Anachronism to save Hazmat. A silent collection of panels presented under an excerpt from "The Art of War" finalizes the fates of several characters, but leaves a couple characters' conclusion far from complete. Captain Britain, Hank Pym and Wolverine all make appearances, but contribute only their sorrow, confusion and toned-down relief to the story through their silent appearances
"Avengers Arena" #18 is less of a solid conclusion to the story and more of a finishing of a chapter. Hopeless and company don't end the series with a "The End" or even a "For Now..." choosing instead to simply leave the story continuing from the final panel with the Avengers logo "A." With more adventures on tap for several of these characters and Arcade still scheming, there's no doubt that the Avengers will have a hand in the further development of the remnants from this series.