In Review: Avengers #689

This is how to end an epic. Wow.

The covers: Take a card, any card. That seems to be coming out of this Regular cover by the sensational Mark Brooks. The Grandmaster has a maniacal look upon his face as he flips cards at the reader. Some of illustrations on the cards are visible: the Falcon is the Jack of Clubs, Rogue is the Queen of Diamonds, the Scarlet Witch is the Queen of Hearts, and Cap is the King of Clubs. This is another great cover from Brooks. The villain looks fantastic. Look behind him and you can see the Earth. Just so cool. The Variant cover is Chris Sprouse, Karl Story & Marcio Menyz and it’s an odd piece. Iron Man, Thor, Ms. Marvel, Falcon, and Spider-Man are within an area that is composed of several Kang heads. Why the characters are in distress is unclear and it’s hard to find a focus with the soft coloring. Overall grades: Regular A+ and Variant C-

The story: All of the heroes and villains are free from stasis and racing around the world trying to save humanity from the destruction of the Earth. Evidently all the damage is occurring in the United States, because that’s the only place the heroes are shown, but writers Mark Waid, Al Ewing & Jim Zub have their hands full trying to give all these characters their moment while winding up the threat of the Challenger on Earth. After three pages of people saving, the story moves to the Grandmaster’s Cosmic Game Room, where the “world-engine” is being stopped by the heroes to preserve the Earth. That’s when the Grandmaster makes his reappearance. But he was killed by the Challenger! C’mon, you knew that wasn’t gonna take, didn’t you? One hero decides to confront this uber villain, but does so in a very unconventional and awesome way. While this is going on, several Avengers (Rogue, Falcon, Doctor Voodoo, Beast, Wonder Man, Hawkeye, Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Synapse, the Wasps, and Squirrel Girl) battle the Challenger. Each character gets a good swing at the baddie, with Voyager getting some special attention and vengeance from him. I’m buying this book to get the same feels I got when I read this title as a kid and I loved the fight, but I was completely sucked into how that hero was fighting the Grandmaster. It was just so smart and ended perfectly. The take down of Challenger is equally fantastic. The final four pages put a period on this saga and they, too, are perfection. This is how to end a story! But wait! There’s a coda in the next installment. Overall grade: A+

The art: Pepe Larraz is back as the artist and he’s brilliant! The issue opens with a splash page in New Jersey as Ms. Marvel, Viv Vision, and Spider-Man help some motorists escape death from a fast moving river. This is followed on the next two pages of other heroes doing what they can to help humanity and it’s exactly how the reader wants to see these heroes. Notice that when the Grandmaster reappears from the ether the only hero whose face is shown is Lightning, foreshadowing that he’s going to have a major moment with this villain. The antagonist isn’t fully revealed to the reader until the bottom of Page 5, with his head turned with disdain to respond to one of the heroes. The challenge made to this character is illustrated beautifully, with his response being a text free panel: the look communicates everything one needs to know. When next shown, the hero and villain are sitting on the ground, doing something so common it’s jaw dropping considering what they’re next to. The conclusion of their battle isn’t with fisticuffs, but logic and it’s as powerful as any of the fight sequences of the book. The battle against the Challenger is spectacular. Larraz goes all out with every hero looking magnificent as they take a shot at the villain. When characters such as Hawkeye and the Wasps get good digs on him, you know you’re looking at incredible art. It’s truly cheer worthy visuals. One particularly neat panel is the one shown from the Falcon’s unique viewpoint, which allows him to take a swing at this cosmic baddie. Page 21 is almost a full-paged splash and it’s a magnificent illustration of the Challenger dealing with attacks from all sides. Dang! I didn’t think that anything Larraz could create could top this, but he does. Pages 23 and 24 are incredible as it shows all the heroes. The action on 26 is perfection: this is what the reader needs to see after fourteen issues. The return on 28 is great, followed by the montage of settings and characters on 29 terrific. The page that will resonate with readers after this run of issues is the final page. That’s visual payoff, people! WOW! Overall grade: A+

The colors: One of the best colorists in the biz is David Curiel whose talents make the visuals shine. Look at the incredible reds and oranges in the background on the first page to show that something horrific is occurring beyond the reader’s view. Check out the incredible work done with the water in the foreground and in the distance. Pale colors are used for backgrounds on the second and third pages to make the colors of the characters’ costumes stand out, and they do. The Grandmaster’s setting has cool, subdued colors, giving it an alien feel, but also allowing the characters to be easily seen and to show off his points that no longer matter. I so appreciate that sometimes Curiel allows the background to stay white so that the characters pop out of the panel, such as when Hawkeye shoots off three arrows. The colors used for the Falcon’s vision is wonderful, looking as though it comes from an early 80’s computer. The violets on 23 and 24 are wonderful, with every shade of the color used. The action on 26 is fantastic in crimson. Curiel should never stop working because he makes the art glorious. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: VC’s Cory Petit creates scene settings, mental transmissions, dialogue, distant speech, sounds, yells, screams, and this saga’s title as rallying cry. For all the mayhem on the page, Petit places it perfectly so that no detail of this epic smackdown will be covered. The scene settings are incredibly strong and I hope other Marvel titles use the same. The distant dialogue from the Grandmaster as he walks closer to the heroes is easily read, but communicates space perfectly to the reader. The sounds — Wow — they are perfection. These are the sounds that comics are famous for and they are amazing, with WHOOM, BOOM, and THWAK being my favorite combo. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Perfect payoff. This is how to end an epic! The heroes are brave and smart, the villains tremendous. The story gives you all you could want and more. And the art is to die for. This works brilliantly. And there’s a coda in the next issue? Wow. 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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