REVIEW: Avengers #688 (What it Means to be an Avenger!)

The Challenger has come to Earth, and the planet is doomed if Quicksilver can’t go fast enough to catch the beacon keeping the planet’s heroes in a stasis. Is this the beginning of the end, or will the Avengers survive?

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Avengers #688
Writers: Mark Waid, Al Ewing & Jim Zub

Artists: Kim Jacinto & Stefano Caselli
Color Artist: David Curiel  
Lettering: VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics


What You Need to Know:

The Grandmaster and the Challenger stole the Earth to use as a cosmic playing board, and whoever won should have been granted the title of Grandmaster…but now the game is over. The Grandmaster cheated by planting his daughter among the Avengers as the lost hero Voyager, and when his trickery came to light, the Challenger decided to destroy his opponent – and their playing board.

Now the Challenger is on the warpath, but most of the world’s heroes and villains are trapped in the stasis Grandmaster enacted to limit the number of “designated obstacles.” While recovering in the med bay, Quicksilver realized that a beacon moving faster than the speed of normal perception was what was keeping them frozen.

If he can catch it, the Avengers will have all the reinforcements they could dream of. If he can’t Earth is doomed.


What You’ll Find Out:

Speeding through Berlin, Portugal, and even across the Atlantic, Quicksilver chases the beacon across a dying Earth. He knows this beacon is what is keeping certain heroes and villains in some kind of stasis, but it is too fast, even for him…

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Meanwhile, as lightning strikes throughout the world, the Challenger arrives in Manhattan, New York, proclaiming Earth’s irrelevance and demanding praise before he destroys the planet entirely. He then gives the people a title to pray to…Grandmaster Prime.

Voyager and the others inside the Avengers hideout know of the Challenger’s arrival on Earth, but as they strategize, Bruce Banner is listening to their conversation. Voyager informs the remaining Avengers about a machine of her father’s that is keeping the Earth at the current rotation and temperature, but they will need a team to reach it. Before they can finish, a crashing sound shakes the area and Jarvis comes in to inform everyone that the Hulk has gone after the Challenger.

As the Challenger laughs at the primitives of this planet, the Hulk smashes down on top of him and begins pummeling him into the ground. This infuriates the Challenger, and with one strike to the face, he sends the Hulk flying into space.

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Inside the Cosmic Game Room, the Avengers including Voyager discover the machine known as the World-Engine. It has been damaged and only continues to spin because of the energy remaining in it, however, once it stops, the Earth will die. In order to prevent this, Lightning and Thor must use their electricity to charge the machine, but the wheel spinning must be held stable during the process. Hercules’ strength alone won’t be enough, so Roberto Da Costa volunteers and removes his regulator headband. Now that both him and Earth have a limited time to survive, he starts to work quickly.

Back inside the Avengers’ Auxiliary HQ, Quicksilver rushes in to find Emily and Wanda preparing for the Challenger. He stops them and tells them of the beacon he chased across Earth. Although he can’t go fast enough to catch it, he knows with both Wanda and Emily’s help he can bring the rest of Earth’s heroes out of their stasis. The two eventually agree, and Quicksilver kisses Emily then tells his sister that he loves her before racing off after the beacon. This time though, he isn’t alone. He has Wanda’s sorcery and Synapse’s mental powers to help him be faster than ever before.

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As the Avengers fight against Earth’s destruction on multiple fronts, Quicksilver shows what it means to be on the team and sacrifices himself to finally reach out and grasp the beacon…The Scarlett Witch falls to her knees in response, knowing he’s gone.

At the Avenger’s Auxiliary HQ, Voyager comes into the room just as the stasis on all of the heroes collected there is broken. She knows it’s her time now, and with Earth’s reinforcements all around her, she reaches out and calls for anyone who calls themselves an Avenger to assemble!


What Just Happened?

As the Avengers “No Surrender” arc enters the climactic battle against the Challenger and Earth’s destruction, it seems like all hope rests on Quicksilver and his ability to catch the beacon keeping so many heroes in a stasis. While the intricate storylines have sometimes intruded on the cohesiveness of the reading experience, issue #688 successfully brings together these narratives and truly puts the perils of the situation into perspective.

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Following the Hulk’s return to rampage, readers are thrust into Quicksilver’s desperate attempts to free the reinforcements that are so desperately needed. While this turns out to be quite engaging, the various breaks that focus on the World-Engine machine distract from the excitement with dialogue filled panels about a threat that is seen far too often in such cataclysmic events.

The artistic direction remains top-notch though, showing why this is a flagship series for Marvel. The sheer scope of the story is presented beautifully through Quicksilver’s struggle to capture the beacon streaking through Earth. The dark shadows used punctuate moments of despair, but are offset by the vivid blues of hope, creating a contrast that gives visual depth to the dire situation Earth and its heroes are facing.

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Although the “No Surrender” arc is now in its fourteenth entry, the story ramps up not just the tension and danger surrounding the Avengers, but also the urgency of their battle. As we see more of the original and fan-favorite Avengers return to the forefront like Captain America and the Hulk, the series is showing signs that it really is headed in the right direction!


Rating: 8/10

Final Thoughts: Despite the current distaste for world-changing events in comics, Marvel shows that it can still be quite entertaining with interesting narratives and beautiful artwork. By focusing on Quicksilver’s struggle to give the remaining Avenger’s the reinforcements they need so desperately, the issue delves into exactly what it means to be a member of the team.


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