Avengers #681

 Mark Waid, Al Ewing & Jim Zub
 Kim Jacinto with Mike Perkins
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover: Mark Brooks
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Review by Nico Sprezzatura

Still reeling from the loss of one of their own, the Avengers must continue moving forward in this week’s Avengers #681. With an iconic Avenger’s possible return from the dead, and another (forgotten) founding member divulging details of her origin, is this issue worth your time?

Still no major update as to whether or not there’s someone operating above all else, but the nature of The Grandmaster’s game with The Challenger is cemented here if you forgot: Grandmaster’s Lethal Legion vs. Challenger’s Black Order in a battle to the death. The Avengers are merely ancillary to the proceedings, as occupants of the planet Grandmaster has chosen to use as a playing field for his game.

But still, it does feel a bit convenient that Grandmaster chose Earth of all places to wreck and ruin as collateral damage. I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t actually his decision.

She’s been out of focus for the past stretch of issues, but Avengers #681 gives us more clues about Voyager — specifically her origin story. As presented to us in her own words through flashback, we learn that Valerie was the daughter of a quantum physicist who gained her abilities during a traumatic childhood experience, who then grew up to become one of the founding Avengers.

Given Voyager’s early prominence in “No Surrender,” I’m surprised it’s taken us this long to get an official —according to her, anyway— back story on where she came from and how she became a superpowered being. I’m not sure I totally buy what she’s selling just yet, even though she’s yet to do anything that makes me doubt her intentions. We’ll surely find out more as this arc continues!

For the second time in “No Surrender,” our POV character is one of the bad guys. Captain Glory has been at the forefront of the Lethal Legion from the beginning, serving as their field leader of sorts, but Avengers #681 gives us some insight into his psyche. In typical Kree fashion, he views humans with disdain, fueling his disregard for their lives as he fights the Black Order.

But he also doesn’t seem to hold his own teammates with high distinction either, because he makes an executive decision to sacrifice one of their own after deeming them expendable. In all, Captain Glory wasn’t a character I particularly wanted or expected to learn more about, but the writing team makes a good argument for choosing to do so here.

Kim Jacinto is joined by Mike Perkins on art for this issue, with the latter illustrating the issue’s final third. Their styles aren’t totally asynchronous, but you can definitely tell there’s been an artist switch-up when it happens. The visuals of “No Surrender” have been pretty seamless up to now, so even the slightest change can be noticeable.

Regardless, Jacinto’s run continues to deliver very nice art — Voyager’s origin is told rather nicely. Those pages in particular have a sketchy, faded quality to them otherwise not seen in his work here, suggesting a long-past time period. It’s a really nice, yet simple, touch from Jacinto and the colorist David Curiel.

Also, Hulk’s much-teased return continued to be strung-out and left dangling in the air, and it’s unclear when he’ll make his grand re-entrance. Maybe next week! (Or more likely, issue #684, since he’s front and center on that cover.)

As ever, Avengers #681 is worth checking out if you’ve been following “No Surrender,” which throws a few new wrinkles into The Grandmaster’s game.

Nico Sprezzatura
Nico Frank Sprezzatura, middle name optional. 24. Schrödinger's writer.

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