It all comes down to this. The Grandmaster has been defeated. The Challenger rampages. The world is crumbling. Will anyone remember the Avengers? Does it matter? Avengers #689 — is it good?
Heroes unfrozen! Despite the horror of ten Michael Bay movies at once, the combined might of the Champions, the Defenders and everyone else will try to save as many people as they can before the world ends. For this truly is a day unlike any other!
Above the ground, the mightiest Avengers try to keep the world turning while the character who started “No Surrender” off, Lightning, makes a play for it all. Have we all learned from Wonder Man???
Oh, and apparently the Challenger is a bird.
Mark Waid is the first writer listed in Avengers #689, along with Al Ewing and Jim Zub, and you can feel his influence throughout this climactic, penultimate issue of “No Surrender.” Wonder Man’s pacifism had been a plot point earlier in the story, but finding different ways to win without punching, a la the Champions, is a main theme here. In fact, it’s Lightning’s use of his noggin that truly sets everything right again.
Of course that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and there is plenty of fisticuffs on terra firma, but it might not be what’s expected when you hear about a “throwback” Avengers story. Without it, though, we’d be left with a bunch of dialogue rehashed from 60 years of superhero stories. The slight twist on the old “what it means to be an Avenger” scenes — that it doesn’t matter if you’re remembered — is a nice sentiment, but it comes off kind of morose in an issue that should be more about fist-pumps than philosophic altruism.
Despite his banal self-deprecation, Lightning was the right choice to end the action of “No Surrender.” The writing team has continually made a point to highlight various characters throughout the story and give them their own identities and uses in a battle situation. We already know that Quicksilver will get a follow-up mini-series from this effort; one can hope we’ll see more from others like Lightning and Red Wolf, too.
Pepe Larraz also returns to draw Avengers #689, though he seems to be missing some of the weight he conjured for the early issues of “No Surrender.” There’s some nice use of perspective, especially in the first few pages, but the characters’ faces have a “scrunched” quality, as they don’t seem to want to open their eyes. Colorist David Curiel continues his run and gives his own take on each character, with particular hues surrounding the likes of Wasp and the Grandmaster.
Avengers #689 is a fine if uneven climax to the ambitious, weekly “No Surrender” story (with the denouement to come next week). The writing over the course has always been up and down, but the most impressive part of this whole thing might be the artistic consistency. You have to give it up for everyone who’s slightly modified their style to fit in, and to colorist Curiel for tying it all together. Even at such a swift pace, there have been some single issues that dragged, but the eventual collection will likely read better, with character arcs for the heroes (and even the villains) being more noticeable and memorable over a shorter time scale.