In Review: Avengers #679

The origin of the Challenger is necessary, but more Avenger moments would have been appreciated.

The covers: The Regular cover by Mark Brooks returns to one of the final images from the previous issue as the Human Torch explodes after touching one of the Pyramoids. The Falcon, Lighting, Synapse, Thor, and Beast look on in horror from below. I like the throw back to this intense scene and Brooks makes it look horrific. It’s impossible for this cover not to catch one’s eyes with all the yellow and orange. Nick Bradshaw & Jim Campbell are responsible for the next set of Connecting Variant covers. Thor is flying front and center, with lightning exploding out of Mjolnir. Behind her is half of the Falcon, who will obviously be continued on the next cover. Above them is the Challenger and the Grandmaster. At the bottom, running on some ruble, is Synapse, Red Hulk, and Quicksilver. I like this. The Hulk Variant cover is by Ramon Perez and looks as though it was created in an Avengers issue from its first thirty issues. The Hulk is front and center with his leap about to end in the reader’s lap. Beneath him is Ant-Man, Iron Man, the Wasp, and Thor. Behind him is a giant grinning Loki with the Purple Man and Namor on either side. Neat, but not a style to my liking. Overall grades: Regular A, Connecting Variant A, and Hulk Variant C+

The story: Al Ewing, Jim Zub & Mark Waid have this issue primarily focus on the history of the Grandmaster’s adversary, the Challenger. The first two pages allow this villain to finally appear clearly to the reader, but then moves back to the action on the moved Earth with the Grandmaster stating, “We…may have to consult the rule book…There’s been a development.” Johnny Storm is seen exploding after touching the Pyramoid and then both disappear. Captain Glory of the Lethal Legion salutes the humans, saying, “Well fought,” while Ferene the Other says, “Hmm…An unexpected outcome. It seems the point is yours, humans.” The villains fly off, leaving the heroes upset. Synapse quickly suggests they go after them and take them out, “…for Johnny.” The Falcon shoots that down just as fast, saying they need to protect the people from a lava flow. One Avenger has an emotional meltdown for what’s been witnessed and leaves the group. There’s another quick check in on Jarvis’s progress under the watch of the Beast and Wasp, before moving to Rome where the other team learns what’s happened to one of their members. Page 10 has a neat reveal, which is then put into perspective in the second panel on the page that follows it. The remainder of the issue focuses on the Challenger, giving his backstory and it’s interesting, showing how he’s related to some famous cosmic Marvel characters. This was a necessary issue, but not a thrilling one once the Challenger took center stage. I’m glad that I now know where he stands in this saga and the Marvel Universe, but I’d like some greater focus on the Avengers. Overall grade: B-

The art: Kim Jacinto takes over for Pepe Larraz and it’s an unenviable position. Larraz crushed the visuals for the last four issues and I’m happy to say that Jacinto is also doing a super job. The reveal of the Challenger on Page 2 is outstanding — he looks strong and fierce. Johnny’s final moments on 3 is equally strong, showing that Jacinto is outstanding at creating sparks of energy around characters. Captain Glory’s stance at the bottom of the page is an incredibly surprising pose and his words make his gesture even more out of place. The character that leaves on 5 is great, with the dismissal of a peer’s support in the fifth panel excellent. Rogue looks great when the story moves to Rome, though her shock on 9 is little cartoony. The full-paged splash on 10 is terrific, giving the reader information without any text. Both characters look superb, with the emotion captured on the individual in the foreground outstanding. The historical scenes on 12 are also great, with their progression fantastic. The large panel on 14 is outstanding and would be prime material for an update of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. The bottom of 16 allows Jacinto to again show his expertise with energy, which is followed up by two incredible looking panels from two very cool points of view. I’m liking Jacinto’s art and am looking forward to seeing what this saga looks like. Overall grade: A

The colors: David Curiel continues on this run as colorist and continues to be strong. The first two pages show a hologram focusing on the Torch and it’s neat to see this projection colored in the same colors as the character it’s focused on; often holograms are in blue or green, but full colors is a nice change up and insinuates that the technology for this device is incredibly high. The first two panels that tease the Challenger on Page 1 have it dominated by red and orange and it gives him a dangerous, out of control tone before being fully revealed with a turn of the page. The reds that are behind him on this page have him look he’s emerging from Hell. The Torch’s final moment is incredible in an explosion of yellow. The slight blues used for the upset Avenger on 5 make him stand out, even against a white background. The violets and blues used on 10 are beautiful, which makes the predicament of the characters even more sinister. The blur of colors on 15’s first two panels are terrific. Curiel is a coloring god. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, a whisper, yells, scene settings, sounds, and laughter are brought to life by VC’s Cory Petit. I like the huge scene settings that proclaim loudly to the reader a change in location. The whisper on Page 2 is nice, tiny enough for the reader to recognize that the dialogue is quiet, though it’s large enough to be easily read. The yelling in this issue is the high point. The first comes from Johnny as he meets his fate and the later ones are spat by the Challenger, making him seem incredibly powerful. Overall grade: A

The final line: The origin of the Challenger is necessary, but more Avenger moments would have been appreciated. The visuals look great, even with a change of artists. This series continues to impress.  Overall grade: A-

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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