Because, seriously, why are they killing all these kids? (Because it’s edgy! Killing kids is IN!)
It’s true, the premise (“Villain kidnaps a bunch of kids and forces them to kill each other until only 1 remains”) could totally be a bait and switch or something but:
a) Who approved Lord of the Hunger Flies? Kids on an island! Killing each other! Because some lunatic bad guy said so!
b) They’ve already killed off 2 of the kids, one of whom was a well-liked character with several years of history behind him (more on this later…). The other was one created just to be fodder.
The series is pretty obvious about its ties to certain pieces of popular culture – Arcade makes a crack about having read a recent book in prison (I’m thinking Hunger Games-ish), and the cover well, it’s not even shy:
FYI: Battle Royale. BR may be great cinema – I’ve certainly heard that argued – but, at this point in my life, I have ZERO INTEREST in things that involve children killing each other. Yes, I know, a century ago a 12yo could be an adult, go to war, whatever. Still happens in some places in the world. Still, we have this cultural definition today of what makes a “kid” and a general idea of what bounds that term. And teenagers are still kids. And there’s just something about kids dying that I find terrible. Call me crazy… I know.
Especially kids dying for shock/money/exploitation purposes. Like, you know, in movies/books/etc. True, there’s definitely something more palatable about doing it in a book – probably the lack of direct imagery. But I’m still not a fan. I haven’t read Hunger Games, so I can’t comment on that directly, but several people whose opinions I value like the book. So, I’ll just stick to Marvel, which is what I know.
Except for this tangent… as far as I know, DC tried something like this already with the Teen Titans/Superboy/Ravagers/Legion crossover last year – a locked down area underground where super-powered kids were forced to battle each other to the death-ish. The differences being (so far) that the kids weren’t explicitly told something like “Kill everyone else, only 1 lives”, but more like “Fight for your survival and to get more badass” or something. I could be wrong, as I only know what I found on the net. But from what I can tell, I don’t think I would have found DC’s version nearly as offensive.
Nothing personal against the writer (Dennis Hopeless?): I’m not familiar with his work (and he doesn’t even have a wiki page yet!), and one interview I read made it sound like the concept was already created and he was assigned or asked to take the job. Although, I’m curious why he didn’t turn down that job… I mean, at some point a writer has to take some responsibility: “Yes, I need a paycheck, but can I write something else? How about yet another X-Force series – there’s lots of killing there!”.
In reference to point “b” above: In the first issue the villain (a now ludicrously powerful Arcade) blows up Mettle (that’s right, he killed the only black person FIRST. Totally not a fucked up cliche) with a gesture. That’s right, think of someone just nuking Colossus from the inside with the snap of a finger. Someone who has never had powers before… Which hints that the whole thing may just be a brains in a vat/Matrix style setup. I’m sure many readers are hoping for that because – if the series makes good on its claims – it will be wiping out a good portion of Marvel’s super youth. That doesn’t make the series any less exploitative to me – the kids are still dying graphically (Mettle explodes all over his girlfriend’s face in the first issue and some generic bird girl crashes into a forcefield, breaks her neck then falls back to the ground to splat near the others) and will potentially be shown killing each other.
While the cast is decently diverse (compared to comics in general…) – of the 14 cast members on the cover, 5 of them are minorities (Mettle is black, Hazmat & Nico are Japanese-American, and Reptil is Latino, and there’s a new Indian girl in the UK kids/fodder squad – sorry the fodder fish girl doesn’t count!) – that potentially means 5 minority characters dead, 4 of them actual characters with history. That’s, sadly, a very sizable chunk of the current Marvel minority characters. These 4 in particular have had a lot of (deserved!) attention and development over the last decade, so it’s not like they’re just taking some never used characters off the board. Remember: there are literally only a handful or two of “old” minority characters, so new creations is where most of the diversity comes from.
Look, I like the idea of permanent death in comics as much as the next reader. In fact, I love it! Not the killing aspect, but the idea that editorial is actually willing to stick to its guns a let a story maintain its resonance by keeping a character dead (the resurrected vastly outnumber the dead at this point – it’s easier to count characters who haven’t died than those who have). But that death has much more “value” when a) it’s not done in a cheap/shocky manner and actually resonates (see: Dark Phoenix) and b) it happens to an OLD character. Getting rid of old characters makes room for new/legacy characters and new goddamn STORIES too… Whatever.
So. In closing, WTF?!