DC vs. Marvel [Face-Off]: Come on, Batman; step inside my ‘Arena’!

Oh, but of course! The busiest week in the history of GodHatesGeeks just so happens to be the week before the Big One — the San Diego Comic Con International — and we haven’t even mentioned the damn thing once.

Don’t worry; there’ll be so much infodump in a few days that you’re all bound to quit everything Nerd, and, instead, look to excite yourself with reality shows and the stock exchange. Since we’re not the type of site to cluster-fudge our readers with too many postings at once, we decided to throw on the 4-fingered mits and settle this Good Friday in the Superhero Octagon. Our Marvel maestro, Lance Paul “The Apostle”, and our resident DC stallwart, “Minister” Gabe Carassco, were brave enough to go toe-to-toe, choosing the comic they feel would best represent their own beloved Universe this week.

With all that shat said, let the games begin!

Gabe Carrasco: Another Batman origin story? How many times has Bruce Wayne’s parent’s died now? Over a hundred at least, right? So when I say this, I mean it whole-heartedly: Thank you, Scott Snyder, for skipping that entire chapter! So far, Batman: Zero Year has not disappointed. We’re introduced to Batman’s famous gallery of rogues before anyone’s put on a mask. (And of course, before a certain clown prince of crime took his off!)

Bruce, I know you got Killer Croc; but, how ’bout 36 of them!

Lance Paul: How many Batbooks are out there, Minister? More than the amount of times his parents died, I bet! Look, I know there are as many Avengers titles; but Avengers Arena is no ordinary team-up. This is a series that has run the gamut of storylines and deaths, with #12 seeing these kids finally laying down the gauntlet!  Dennis “Anything But” Hopeless delivers an issue that changes the “hunger” game.  Thanks to some amazing artwork to boot, Arena is the comic that could give Pacific Rim a run for its destructive doe.

GC: Oh, man. How many people even know that book exists? Look, Apostle, my favorite thing about prequels and origin stories is the idea that our hero isn’t just yet, to quote your pal Logan, “good at what he does.” Everything is new, and things aren’t stale and same-old, same-old.  Snyder has taken advantage of this idea brilliantly. By the second issue of the series, we still haven’t seen a utility belt, cape, or that famous pointy-eared cowl (despite the quick intro in last month’s #21). We’re watching Bruce Wayne figure out how to fight crime. And this is a great new take on The Red Hood Gang. If Zero Year goes the direction readers are anticipating, it’s a two-for-one story. The only one to wear the Red Hood before Jason Todd has always been the Joker, and Snyder is hinting pretty heavily at that (i.e. his DNA not being in any database; the “party” he throws for Bruce Wayne). Trademark stuff!

LP: Yeah, all stuff we’ve seen before! Look, I’ll admit it, buddy. Since its debut, Avengers Arena has been seen as a bit of a gimmick, or even a ripoff of Battle Royal or Hunger Games. But even with Hopeless proving this story to stand upon its own, the past couple of month’s fan forums and polls haven’t been the kindest. But, hey, when you go and kill fan favorite characters, these things are bound to happen (inside of commending his big grapefruits!). Hopefully, Hopeless’ sly execution of the proven kid vs. underdog kid vs. evil gamemaster concept will prove the book anything but a  triviality.

GC: Still sounds like Hunger Games to me. I can’t see Young Avengers Arena topping what Greg Capullo has been doing on Batman. Even with no one in masks, Cap does a fantastic job expressing everyone’s emotions and reactions through some pretty simple line work. No heavy cross-hatching, and of course, we see Bruce’s big blue eyes in almost every panel. It’s a much lighter, less gritty direction than the “Death of the Family” arc, but it’s still very Greg Capullo. I did have a problem with one scene, however. Usually, introducing some classic characters’ first interactions with one another is a treat, but Edward Nygma’s interaction with Wayne feels a bit forced, and Bruce’s deduction skills are somewhat reaching“Is that supposed to be a RIDDLE?” Perhaps this line was editorially mandated for those just jumping on Batman in the New 52, but still.

LP: Bah.. Having problems with your choice this week over there, aren’t ya, Gabe? As a fan of Kev Walker‘s art since his days illustrating Judge Dredd and his more recent acclaimed work on Thunderbolts, I was more than excited to hear that he’d be back to close out the first arc of AA. The same way Hopeless has established a clear voice for each of his.. well.. now dwindling roster, Walker just finds that right individualism — from a simple head tilt while Apex ponders her actions, to the child-like fear and bewilderment of Death Locket. Throw in the talented colors of Jean-Francois Beaulieu and ink excellence of Jason Gorder, the art returns to “Game On” in glorious fashion.

Face-Off?!!??? Somebody say.. FACE-OFF!!!???!??!?

GC: Geesh! You need to be their publicist, man! I only wanted to show that the Minister only plays fair in this first ever Face-Off, and show that both Snyder and Capullo have set the bar pretty effing high from their previous work. So, you know, my expectations for Batman #22 included both clever conversation and impressive visuals for the first conversation between the two most intelligent people in Gotham. Other than that though, the story is very well paced, with the art really bringing the tone together. It’s a younger, slightly cleaner Gotham. You know, before all the crazies took over and turned “Arkham City” into the gritty, blood-stained cesspool we all now know and love.

LP: Fair enough. I’m just rooting for this underdog, since the former Legion of Monsters/current Cable & X-Force writer is starting to really hit his stride with Avengers Arena. He’s effortlessly spun his thread of dread through such a large cast, dealing with both resurrection and numerous deaths. Not nearly as many times as Batman died in the past couple years (ha!), but it’s still a tough juggle. If the team continues the same level of pulse-pounding action — particularly on that last, great page — then maybe the double A won’t play the role of underdog, after all. Avengers Arena #12 is a stellar 4 on the Bible scale, brother!

GC: Errr… sounds like some people are going to need to read that then. Nobody I’d roll with; but people, nonetheless. Batman #22 receives 3.5 Bibles from me, but I’m really looking forward to the next issue! Time for Comic Con crap, now, though! Back for another Face-Off in 2 weeks!

LP: San Diego bound!

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