AVENGERS #686 BY AL EWING, MARK WAID, JIM ZUB, PACO MEDINA, AND JESUS ABURTOV
Plot
Characterization
Artwork
Summary
Al Ewing, Mark Waid, and Jim Zub deliver some of their best writing in this issue. Hulk drops some hard truth bombs on Wonder Man. The artwork of Paco Medina and Jesus Aburtov elevate this comic to greatness.
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Who can stop the Hulk? It’s such a loaded question, one that usually depends on the era and writer. But Al Ewing, Mark Waid, and Jim Zub take a stab at it in AVENGERS #686. But Hulk isn’t the only problem in this comic: what’s up with Voyager? Is she actually turning good? What does her convoluted role mean for her father, Grandmaster? AVENGERS #686 answers this alongside stellar artwork from Paco Medina and Jesus Aburtov.

Real World Issues Touch Upon AVENGERS #686

My emotions during AVENGERS #686 were essentially on a roller coaster. As Wonder Man tries to maintain non-violence and get through to Bruce, I couldn’t help but think, “you idiot! Talk to the Hulk!” But of course, these three writers know what they’re doing. Sure enough, Wonder Man slowly realizes it’s impossible to get through to Bruce; he needs to communicate with the green monster in front of him. This is where the comic really becomes nuanced. Wonder Man finally realizes this after Hulk delivers some hard truth: “You’re a Hollywood snob [Wonder Man]. Drowning in ego. Preaching nonviolence when it’s easy–when violence can’t ever reach you. Well, I can reach you, Williams. I can hurt you.”

AVENGERS #686
Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

I love this. It’s subtle, but it presents the elitist view Westerners have. It’s so easy to say how others in harder predicaments should live. We scoff when such acts of violence and chaos are happening outside of our immediate society, but what right do we have? Hulk is a force of destruction, yes, but his impact is immediate. Wonder Man choosing to be passive and non-violent arguably has a large impact as well. He chooses not to stop those who push harm on others. While Waid, Ewing, and Zub may not have exactly intended this meaning, it really sent my mind whirling.

Whose Side is Hulk On?

As my mind was performing said whirling, the plot of “No Surrender” thickened. For when Hulk finally busts through the door where Voyager and the last Pyramoid are located, he does something inconceivable: he destroys the Pyramoid. After Voyager announces her decision to help the Avengers, Hulk one-ups her and helps the Avengers himself! Even better: Bruce finally returns to us.

As he’s smashing towards the Pyramoid, Wonder Man continuously shouts how even Challenger — the man who freed Hulk — couldn’t leave Hulk alone. All the anger and frustration in this moment stems from Challenger, and these emotions give Hulk the ambition to destroy the Pyramoid.

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Where Does This Leave Us?

The pacing of AVENGERS #686 is fast. There’s no other way to describe it. During my initial read, I thought this was annoying since I wanted to see the Hulk unload even more. But this is a weekly series: these artists are on a clock. With that in mind, I think the dialogue between Wonder Man and Hulk is phenomenal. Some real-world issues are brought up, Hulk gets to flex, and Wonder Man redeems himself a bit. Plus, while this is all happening, Voyager is able to pledge her allegiance to the Avengers. This has me so excited! Her character is beyond cool, and the idea of having her in future Marvel installments really excites me.

Besides the pacing, though, this is one of the strongest issues of “No Surrender.” We even see drama breakout between Grandmaster and Challenger. Once the truth about Voyager is revealed to Challenger, all hell breaks loose in the game room, and AVENGERS #686 ends as Grandmaster is attacked. Will this bleed over onto Earth? Does Voyager still feel loyal to her father? I’m very curious to find out.

The Artwork of AVENGERS #686

AVENGERS #686
Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

Paco Medina and Jesus Aburtov are, once again, superb. Medina’s drawings of Hulk are so stunning. The way he shows Rogue putting this brute into a chokehold is beyond badass. I was waiting for Rogue to really cut loose, and this delivery doesn’t disappoint. In fact, all of the depictions of Thor, Hercules, and Rogue fighting off Hulk are stunning. You can feel the intensity as they try to ward off the green monster. Of course, this is all assisted by Aburtov’s coloring. The way he sprinkles purple around Wonder Man is so soothing, and the way he makes the eyes of Hulk and Rogue pop with green is a really nice touch. Of course, the lightning from Thor’s attacks pops on every page it’s featured in. AVENGERS #686 is such a pretty book.

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The Beginning of the End

With just four issues left in “No Surrender,” we’re finally seeing immediate conflict between Grandmaster and Challenger. What implications will this have for our heroes? Will we learn about the heroes outside of Earth, in space? Like Captain Marvel and the rest of Alpha Flight? At this point, I doubt it, but I’m quite curious.

Ultimately, I’m really hoping Voyager redeems herself and doesn’t sacrifice herself for the betterment of mankind. In just a few months she has proven to be a unique character with a cosmic background that could allow for fun and trippy adventures. Hell, put her on the Guardians of the Galaxy.

And remember to put THE IMMORTAL HULK on your pull list. A smart, talking Hulk: no wonder it’ll be a horror story.

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