In Review: Avengers #681

This story and its visuals are as strong as the classic Marvel tales of my youth.

The covers: Two to track down in the seventh part of this saga. The Regular cover by Mark Brooks has Voyager fully shown in the center, creating an orb of energy with her hands. Surrounding her are several members of the Black Order: behind her is a head shot of Proxima Midnight. Next, going clockwise, is Black Dwarf, then Supergiant, Ebony Maw, Black Swan, and Corvus Glaive. The layout is great, the art great, but the coloring is too dark. Much of the details are lost in the visuals due to dark coloring, such as on Black Dwarf and Black Swan. This looks good, but brighter colors would have improved it considerably. The Connecting Variant cover by Nick Bradshaw & Jim Campbell is phenomenal! Voyager is in the center of the image as a yellow explosion goes off behind her. In the bottom left a barely visible Captain America is seen, with Rogue standing in front of him. On the right Hercules reacts in shock at seeing Voyager appear. In front of him is the Human Torch who’s on his rear, just starting to ignite, gazing up the floating transporter. The Kirby Krackle is excellent and the colors are vibrant. I need these variant covers as posters. Overall grades: Regular B- and Connecting Variant A+

The story: This installment of “No Surrender” by Al Ewing, Jim Zub, & Mark Waid begins with a nice one page origin of Glah-Ree as he’s momentarily out of the fight that’s occurring. He relates how he came to be involved with the Grandmaster and how the Pyramoids feature into the plot. This concise, perfect summary then leads into the battle occurring between the Black Order and the Avengers in New Mexico. Sunspot takes a hit from one of the villains, while the Wasp is doing her best to keep two of the villains at bay. A magical character gets some assistance from a neat supernatural creature during the fray. During the fracas, the Scarlet Witch scans one of the baddies and learns the plot of the Grandmaster. Meanwhile in Antarctica, the other team of Avengers is still reacting to what Rogue did last issue. The mutant relates to the rest of the team that she’s learned the same information as the Scarlet Witch. Unfortunately they learn this just as another character grabs one of the mysterious four sided glowing shapes. Voyager’s origin is given in this issue. It’s brief, it’s cool, and instantly gains her the sympathy of the reader. Back in New Mexico, the villains are about to sacrifice one of their players in this cosmic game, until the timely intervention of two other Avengers. The final page shows the rising of an iconic Marvel character from the ruins of the Mount in Arizona. This character has been teased for the last few issues, but the color and size of his hand confirms this icon’s identity. This is heavy action issue, with the heroes learning why the Earth has been moved, plus the origin of Voyager is given. This was a tight read, which is impressive given all the characters in motion. Very enjoyable. Overall grade: A

The art: In a monstrous superhero tale the reader wants highly detailed art of all the heroes and villains in action. Kim Jacinto with Mike Perkins do not disappoint. The first image of the book is an heroic vision of Glah-Ree who looks awesome. His quick flashback on how he came to New Mexico sums up much, as well as showing one of the objects that everyone is searching for. Pages 2 and 3 is a spectacular double-paged splash of the all the characters in conflict. No matter how far or close they are from the reader, they look terrific. This is a chaotic fight of titans that films rarely can capture. I love the images of the Wasp in action, especially that close-up on 4. The memories that Rogue has stripped from a villain are also great, with all the characters at the top of 7 killer! The energy spilling about on 8 is fantastic — this element is truly Jacinto’s signature visual. The style of the book changes slightly beginning on 10 when Voyager’s origin is given. This is a really clever way to present the flashback: the art has a lot more pencil work on it that’s not inked. I really liked these two and half pages; normally in books the colors are tinted to age the tale, but the colors remain the same as previous pages with just this slight tweaking in the art. The Falcon has got some really cool action scenes in the book’s climax. Page 18 is a particularly effective creepy page as the Order sacrifices one of their own. The character that’s forced into this situation elicits a lot of sympathy, with the fear on his face excellent. The shocked looks in the tight and tiny six panels of the Avengers on 19 are outstanding, leading to the reveals at the bottom. And I’m seriously standing and applauding the older character’s costume: that’s the only way that character should ever look, in my opinion. The final page is cinematic as it slowly pulls in to a pile of ruble that has a huge hand emerging from it. This book looks great. Overall grade: A

The colors: David Curiel is the colorist on this book. I, too, am in awe in how he can have so many characters in a panel stand out with their own colors and not get lost in the throng. The shine on Glah-Ree’s Kree armor is excellent, as is the energy attacking him in the second panel. The double-paged splash has got wonderful coloring, with the heroes and villains battling in a twilight sky. Look at how well Cruiel uses the background colors, such as that striking red, to highlight the characters fighting. Rogue has got some creepy pasty skin in this issue so the reader can recall whom she took out last issue. Page 8 has a white clad figure getting blasted by a white light and it’s gorgeous. The violets used for the background during Sunspot’s battle are also really sharp. Colors are incredibly important for the final panel of the issue, which confirms the character’s identity. Overall grade: A+

The letters: This book’s narration and dialogue (the same font), scene settings, sounds, yells, and whispers are created by VC’s Cory Petit. The scene settings are really cool, with a fat font making them instant eye catchers for the reader. The sounds are also big and bold, making the action extra outstanding. I really want to draw attention to the yells. There are several different varieties in this issue, showing the reader explicitly how loud each utterance is. My favorite yells are the pitiful bellows on Page 18, adding a lot of emotion to the proceedings. Overall grade: A 

The final line: This story is officially in full swing, with the heroes learning why the battles are occurring, while they’re battling the many antagonists. This story and its visuals are as strong as the classic Marvel tales of my youth. What a gift to Marvel fans, old and new. 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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