Finally out of their stasis, the Avengers are able to take on the Challenger with all their might! But even that might not be enough…
Writers: Mark Waid, Al Ewing & Jim Zub
Artists: Pepe Larraz
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 tricker came to light., the Challenger decided to destroy his opponent – and their playing board.
While the Avengers fight to contain the Challenger’s rampage on Earth, a handful of heroes teleported to the Grandmaster’s cosmic game room, where the world engine holding Earth in place was rapidly deteriorating. As they fight to keep the machine stable, the Scarlet Witch, and Synapse hyper-accelerated Quicksilver so he can catch and destroy the beacon that was holding most of the planet’s heroes in stasis. He succeeds and Voyager sends the call out far and wide…
What You’ll Find Out:
Earth’s mightiest heroes are scattered and struggling. Devastating natural disasters are tearing across the nation, and they are only getting worse. Inside the Grandmaster’s cosmic game room, Miguel’s plan worked, leaving Earth stabilized as long as Hercules can keep the world-engine from unspooling. Just as Thor lends a hand to their cause though, the Grandmaster himself approaches. He has lost the game and now seeks to abandon everything.
As the Challenger rampages through the city, the rest of the Avengers have teamed up to bring reinforcements. As each squad moves in on him, the Challenger discovers Voyager hiding and blasts her unconscious. Just before he can lay a fatal blow, the Avengers bear down on him with everything they have.
Meanwhile, the Grandmaster continues to make his exit from the cosmic game room, but Miguel follows and soon discovers the trapped Avengers, who the Grandmaster considers as only points scored. Though he expresses his wishes to return in a few centuries and ask for a rematch, Miguel stops him in his tracks with an offer of a game of poker. They start the game with a bet, Human Torch’s freedom against Miguel’s, but it quickly escalates. Miguel bets his life in exchange for Red Wolf, and the Grandmaster counters with another raise. Planet Earth’s freedom if Miguel wins, and its enslavement is the Grandmaster wins…
The Avengers continue to battle against the Challenger, as the two Wasps take his eyes out, the remaining squads attempt to stop him. Squirrel Girl tells Falcon to use his powers to see through the Challenger’s eyes, hoping he had evolved from some type of common ancestor. Although its painful, Falcon makes a connection and allows Synapse to enter the Challengers mind and twist his pain centers. The Avengers see their opening and beat the Challenger into the ground, but only momentarily.
In response to the Grandmaster’s last raise, Miguel finally reveals his hole card and offers a raise of his own. His history. If the Grandmaster wins, all memory will be lost of Miguel and anything that remains will only be of him as a loser. However, if Miguel wins, the Grandmaster must do the same. This overwhelms the Grandmaster and he is forced to fold, saving the members of the Avengers and Earth as well.
Although the Avengers believe they are finally winning the battle against the Challenger, Voyager sees their flaw. The Avengers’ power is finite, and the Challenger will only keep going. Beast tells her to control their memories and make them remember what it means to be an Avenger. Empowered by their own past, the Avengers combine their strength and with the words of power granted by Scarlet Witch, they deal one last fatal blow to the Challenger.
As the Earth appears once again before Captain Marvel and the rest of Alpha Flight, the Avengers witness their completed mission, finally standing together once again.
What Just Happened?
As we reach the confrontation between a full team of Avengers and the Challenger now rampaging through New York, there is yet another high-stakes gamble happening in the cosmic game room between Miguel and the Grandmaster. This interestingly provides a climactic backdrop to the epic battle against the Challenger by reaffirming the gambling theme that has been so decisive in this event. Although the spotlight of the characters continues to shy away from the beloved core members, we are able to see some fan favorites in leadership positions. Rogue specifically makes an emotional impact, showing how hard it is just to be a hero.
Artist Pepe Larraz brings a grand flair to the issue with large-scale battles over modern panels that are driven by the colors of the Avengers. This adds to the epic nature of the event as it reaches its penultimate issue, but Scarlet Witch really proves to be one of the most powerfully depicted characters. Her struggle with her brother only seems to empower her abilities, and when she is able to recall what it means to be an Avenger, her power fuels those around her in a beautiful red aura.
Unfortunately, the issue relies heavily on characters that have a hard time wielding the weight of the storyline. Captain America, Captain Marvel, and others are background players while Rogue, Falcon, and Miguel receive most of the attention. While it is nice to see these characters become more prominent, I can’t help but be excited for the future where the team emphasizes more of the core roster.
The latest issue in the No Surrender event is more than just punches. The plotline continues to seemingly hinge on the high-stakes games played in the cosmic game room, but the heart of the issue and the event itself remains to be the exploration of what it truly means to be an Avenger. I could think of no better precursor to the new upcoming Avengers series.
Final Thoughts: Although relying heavily on characters that struggle to hold the weight of the narrative, the latest Avengers issue succeeds in utilizing these heroes in an exploration of what it truly takes to be on the team. It eloquently addresses the concerns of many fans who question the relevance of so many characters in the team, showing that the heroes are those who don’t act simply to be remembered.
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