Mark Waid, Al Ewing, and Jim Zub deliver the goods on who The Grandmaster's opponent is. This story is well paced, and the new artwork from Kim Jacinto is just as stellar as Pepe Larraz's!
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The Challenger Revealed!

After four issues of action, “Avengers: No Surrender” finally presses on the breaks a bit to give us some backstory. We learn a lot about Grandmaster and even more about his opponent, The Challenger. What’s even better? We gain some emotional leaps with characters like Living Lightning and Rogue, two fresh leaders trying to find their way in this crazy world of Avengers. AVENGERS #679 is a much-needed addition to this storyline that manages to be one of the best yet in this series in regards to proper storytelling.

The Plot of AVENGERS #679

Chaos Ensues in AVENGERS #678!

The beginning of this comic immediately touches upon what happened to Johnny Storm and Black Dwarf. We find their bodies transported to The Grandmaster’s area, and it is learned the humans have earned a point. However, what’s intriguing here is that neither The Grandmaster nor The Challenger has gained anything from Johnny’s sacrifice: The Challenger casually states “the board” has more points than his opponent. This may be a useful bit for later in the series.

Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

Back down on Earth, Living Lightning expresses remorse about not being able to save Johnny; Rogue is in shambles, unsure if the Avenger life is for her; Nadia and Beast declare Jarvis has “Avengers Fever,” a condition from being around so many exposed Avengers over the year.

Al Ewing, Mark Waid, and Jim Zub do a good job briefing us on our heroes and villains, and what’s nice is that after these intermediate scenes, the story shifts back to The Grandmaster and The Challenger. We learn The Challenger was once a friend of The Grandmaster, until one day they played a game with stakes pushing The Challenger out of space and time (similar, I’m assuming, to an area Al Ewing explored in THE ULTIMATES). The Challenger eventually escapes this area and returns to challenge (hah, get it?!) The Grandmaster. The three writers, however, are retconning cosmic history. The change comes with claiming The Challenger is as old as Grandmaster and The Gardener despite never being mentioned before in cosmic storylines. So far, however, it seems to be fine.

A Well-Paced Issue

As stated, AVENGERS #679 paces itself stupendously. In previous reviews, my main gripe was how quickly the story moved along and how confusing the battles could be. That isn’t the case in this comic book. Instead, we’re given a solid history of the two main galactic enemies. We’re also given quality characterization with Rogue and Living Lightning, as well as some of The Lethal Legion and The Black Order. There aren’t any fight scenes in this issue, making the pacing even better.

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The only thing really lacking in this issue is that there isn’t any follow up with Scarlet Witch, Brother Voodoo, and Quicksilver. It would be interesting to hear Quicksilver’s thoughts. Did he comprehend the freezing? I’m sure we’ll get to this in the next issue, but it certainly left me disappointed having to wait.

The New Artist in “Avengers: No Surrender”

Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

AVENGERS #679 marks the beginning of Kim Jacinto’s artwork. Continuing after Pepe Larraz is a daunting feat, but Jacinto does it with grace. Thanks to David Curiel staying on board with coloring, the transition is smooth. Jacinto and Larraz have a similar style in regards to the proportions of their characters, with Jacinto having slightly rougher facial features that give characters distinct emotions. The look of shock and sadness on Rogue when Living Lightning delivers the news about Johnny doesn’t even need dialogue: Jacinto’s drawing says it all. And Curiel’s colors are as spot on as they’ve been for the past four issues.

What to Expect Next

I’ve no doubt there will be more backstory dealing with The Challenger and The Grandmaster. I would like to hear more about the area The Challenger was placed in, and I’m even more curious about a final player he has stored on Earth. The final page of AVENGERS #679 cuts to New Mexico with The Challenger noting his final player “understands the purpose of rage.”

Who could it be? We’ll have to wait another week to find out!

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