AVENGERS #681 isn't the strongest issue of "No Surrender," but it certainly adds to the epic in a positive way. The origin of Voyager and revelation of the Grandmaster's involvement show strong writing, and the artwork of Jacinto and Curiel continues to be a highlight.
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A Heroic Surprise

After a quick introduction in AVENGERS #675 and #676, Voyager is more closely observed in this issue. We learn of her origin, how her molecules underwent a transformation after running through an invention of her father’s. What’s even better about this issue is that we learn more about the players in the Grandmaster’s game, including how the Lethal Legion came to be. If you’ve been curious about any of these aspects, or want some fast-paced action, AVENGERS #681 has it covered!

New Players Revealed

Captain Glory of the Lethal Legion takes over narration duty in this comic. We learn through him how the Grandmaster gathered this team: all were on the brink of death, the Grandmaster offered them a second chance. What does this mean? Well, they certainly have something to fight for. But it also means they’re not entirely evil. This may prove to change the tides later in “No Surrender” when our heroes search for a way out of this mess.

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We also learn of Voyager’s origin in AVENGERS #681. Toni, upon mentioning Arthur Vector, triggers Voyager’s memory: Arthur was her father. Voyager recounts how she overheard her parents talking about a divorce, leading her to run into one of Arthur’s inventions. The machine changed her molecules, and voila! We have another teleporter in the Marvel Universe.

Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

This origin is brief but to the point. While it is explained, David Curiel adjusts his coloring accordingly. He gives a much chalkier and rougher look to it, like how a memory looks in our minds. What I like too is that it really looks like a scene from the fifties during the Cold War: a giant laboratory and a giant invention dealing with nuclear physics. It’s very pulp fiction, and in a good way.

The Fight Scenes in AVENGERS #681

Last issue, “No Surrender” hit the breaks a tad and allowed for proper characterization to develop. In this issue, however, we receive characterization but at the expense of a plot that moves a bit too fast. The concluding fight scene in the Arctic has clarity, as Rogue explains the Grandmaster and the Challenger are behind everything. Remember, she gained the memories of Corvus Glaive. A bit after this, though, there’s a chaotic fight scene that takes place in New Mexico where a reluctant Blood Brother (of the Lethal Legion) nearly touches the pyramoid before a spray of arrows stops him in his tracks. Hawkeye has arrived!

I loved this inclusion of Hawkeye. It’s reminiscent of HOUSE OF M, where Hawkeye’s arrows discretely appear in the art as members of S.H.I.E.L.D. lose control of the situation. It’s interesting Ewing, Waid, and Zub have chosen Hawkeye to be the savior in this crossover as well, but perhaps an adequate reason will be given. Regardless, it’s a nice little surprise.

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However, this surprise was the only thing I truly enjoyed about the fight scene. Because of the large number of characters (half of them basically unknown to us average fans), the fights induce a bit of head scratching. It’s a shame, as it had me rushing through the pages instead of stopping to appreciate the fine artwork of David Curiel and Kim Jacinto.

The Many Hues of AVENGERS #681

Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

David Curiel is the man in this issue. His colors are wonderful, from the reds used on Synapse and Captain Glory to the smooth blacks used to depict Sunspot. It really makes the pages pop. Kim Jacinto and Mike Perkin’s drawings also shine in this issue. Their scenes aren’t exactly linear; they give each character and their opponent their own little space in their panel. This gives you an odd overall picture, but the individual scenes are clear and crisp. As with previous fight scenes in “No Surrender,” the ones here are confusing more so because of the script layout rather than what’s actually displayed on the page.

What Can We Expect Next?

As a weekly series should, “No Surrender” has many plot points, some of which aren’t coming up in each issue. Teased earlier this week, we now know the Hulk is in fact returning. That’s the final page of this issue, and it has me very gleeful. Will this be too reminiscent of WORLD WAR HULK? Or is this the extra weight our heroes need? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure: the Hulk certainly isn’t happy.

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