Squid Game meets the Marvel Universe in Murderworld: Avengers #1, the first installment in a new series starring the nefarious supervillain Arcade.
Ever since his introduction in 1978, Arcade has been an enduring fan favorite baddie in the pages of various Marvel storylines, so it’s not surprising that his deadly theme park —the titular “Murderworld”— would become the subject of its own series. It’s technically not even the first one, either. Unlike Avengers Arena, however, Murderworld moves the focus from established superheroes to a cast of newbie civilians who’ve all “won” a spot in Arcade’s latest death trap, promising them implausible wealth if they’re the last one left alive by the end of it. If you’re getting vibes of the aforementioned Squid Game, that’s probably intentional. You didn’t think Marvel wouldn’t take advantage of its own “battle royale” property after the runaway success of that one, did you?
Murderworld: Avengers #1 is a pretty compelling first issue, clearly outlining its premise and offering you a taste of what the rest of the series will deliver while still throwing in a twist or two to keep you on your toes. We’re introduced to Paul Pastor, a superstar streamer/influencer who is flown to Murderworld to see if the long-standing rumors of the place’s fatal designs are true. You can imagine how things may proceed from there. (If you’re wondering what the titular Avengers have to do with it, well… read the issue and find out for yourself, cause it’s probably not what you think.)
I’ve been a fan of Jim Zub’s Marvel work for a while —including his lovely Figment series from the short-lived Disney Kingdoms imprint— and his script with co-writer Ray Fawkes is snappy fun, while artist Jethro Morales matches the tone perfectly, especially with Matt Milla’s candy-coated colors befitting that of a carnival-like theme park. (Yes, even one where “murder” is the word of the day.) If you’re someone who prefers small, self-contained storylines, then you can’t go wrong with this one.
My main quibble with Murderworld: Avengers #1, though, is Marvel’s characteristically overcomplicated publication strategy for it. They’re doing the “one-shots that aren’t actually one-shots” thing where each issue has a distinct title and a #1 on the cover, even if they would each be fairly incomprehensible if you read them separately or out of order. I know why they do this —a shiny new #1 sells better than a #2, #3 or #4 would— but it’s such an annoying habit of theirs and I wish they would break themselves out of it. This is the kind of thing that prospective new readers often complain about when they say they’d like to start reading Marvel comics but don’t know where to start: needlessly making the process of finding and reading comics more convoluted than it needs to be. (When Murderworld inevitably makes it to Marvel Unlimited, for example, they’ll be listed alphabetically as separate one-shots, even though the alphabetical order won’t also be the correct reading order… you see what I mean?) So if you’d like to keep up with the series, make sure you look out for the differently-titled, distinctly-numbered Murderworld: Spider-Man #1! And then whichever issues follow those!