REVIEW: Avengers #681

AVENGERS #681 / Writers: Al Ewing, Jim Zub, & Mark Waid / Artist: Kim Jacinto with Mike Perkins / Color Artist: David Curiel / Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit / Cover Art: Mark Brooks / Publisher: Marvel / Feb 21, 2018

“My name is Glah-Ree.” Confident and defiant, the Lethal Legion’s Captain Glory opens the narration on Avengers #681. Clever to use one of the bad guys, as to this point, the writers have stuck with Avengers as our guides through the story. Captain Glory reveals he is a Kree warrior pulled from the field of battle by Grandmaster. Thrown in with six other strangers, he becomes part of the Lethal Legion. Will they be sent on a mission? No. A rescue? No. They are pawns in a game. Their opponent, the Black Order, will challenge them in on a field of battle. Stakes? Win or die. Seems even the bad guys are short on autonomy when it comes to the game between Grandmaster and Challenger.

Captain Glory opens a visual feast of battle when he says, “Terran apes call themselves Avengers” as if Scarlet Witch, Wasp, Falcon and Synapse are little more than monkeys, too stupid to succeed. Deep in a New Mexico night, a glorious battle forms between the Avengers and the Lethal Legion. This two page spread took my breath away the first time I laid eyes on it. Frenetic energy and million colors leave me wondering where to look first. Wasp making life difficult for the Blood Brothers? Falcon and Ferene tussling far above Scarlet Witch and Metalmaster going toe-to-toe? How am I supposed to focus on Drall vs Citizen V when Synapse is in a stare down with Mentacle? Taking my time is the only option. So many of these characters are brand new to me. What are those sweet purple sky vipers Citizen V’s got going on? What can Proxima Midnight do and should I be worried for Falcon?

If nothing else, get this issue just to gaze at these two pages. Worth it!

Captain Glory narrates for us through the entire battle. He has little respect for these “Terran apes” but as the battle progresses, and his Lethal Legion seems truly challenged, he reluctantly gives them the respect they’re due. A battle between Scarlet Witch and Metal Master is particularly beautiful. She’s got him on the ropes, pushing him to reveal his true purpose. The way the Scarlet’s powerful energy (brilliant red) and the black of night collide as she tosses him around like a rag-doll was particularly satisfying. His response to realizing she had no idea the breadth and depth of the game made me smile. “Oh this will be delicious,” he crows.

Way down in Antarctica, the Avengers, led by Rogue, are picking up the pieces after their battle with the Black Order. The ramifications to Rogue touching Corvus Glaive with her bare hands, killing him, are revealed to everyone. She’s taken on his thoughts and powers. All is revealed to Rogue: The Lethal Legion, The Black Order, Avengers, humans, all are just pawns in this game. What’s it feel like to be pitted against one another, constantly battling for survival and defense of the place you call home, only to find out the aggressors are just as trapped as you are? Out of nowhere, another pyramoid presents itself and the Black Order takes a point. The round over, Voyager is too drained to transport everyone back to the Avengers makeshift HQ. She’ll go on her own, rest up to power up, and return.

This little character quirk, that Voyager needs to rest to recharge her abilities, provides for an aside, a chance to dig into her backstory. A lab accident as a small child transformed young Valerie into something very special. She learned she could travel instantly along the lines of quantum entanglement. Soon she found others like her, formed the Avengers and found her true calling. Although this little flashback was interesting, she was a ridiculously cute little kid, I’m left wondering what all this means. So far, Voyager’s main function has been to transport Avengers to and from the battlefield. Is she more than a glorified soccer mom?

Back in New Mexico, my new favorite bad guy, Mentacle, gets to shine with her DALEK-like speech patterns and corresponding personality. She’s got her mental tentacles deep into Da Costa’s mind, despite his attempts at blocking her invasion into his mind. Working around the block, she learns Professor X has worked with her victim, teaching him to protect himself. After trash talking Charles Xavier for a quick minute, Mentacle succeeds in mapping out everything Da Costa knows. Just as she’s about to wipe his mind completely, she learns, a little too late, that the Avengers never have just one leader. Falcon swoops in to rescue Roberto and fly him to safety.

Captain Glory returns to narrate as he turns the tables on Synapse. Instead of keeping her out of his brain, he lets her in. He lets her see the entire plan. Grandmaster. Challenger. Lethal Legion. Black Order. Earth as the gameboard. Avengers as the obstacles. But what happens when it’s game over? Synapse learns the dangerous truth and it distracts them all. It’s then we learn just how lethal the Lethal Legion really is. Sacrificing one of their own in an attempt to get the pyramoid, we see that their team is not one build on trust or faith in each other or love for the planet. The Lethal Legion is here to win or to die. Sacrificing one of their own is little price to pay. Just as one of the Blood Brothers is about to grasp the pyramoid, securing their win and his own death, a perfectly place arrow blows the Lethal Legion’s plan out of the sky. Guess who????

I absolutely love the panels in this scene. The mix of horizontal panels to amp up the action and the vertical panels of each Avenger’s reaction conveys the true shock each of them feels at this strange turn of events. Can the pyramids even be destroyed or only captured? How? Who? All in all, this is one of my favorite scenes in this week’s story.

The issue ends with a single page set in Arizona, amid the ruins of The Mount. I’m so excited to see where this goes next!

Kim Jacinto and Mike Perkins, along with their color artist, David Curiel used all the crayons in the box this week. This entire issue was a buffet of color and movement. Each week, battle after battle, these two teams duke it out. It could easily feel repetitive but it doesn’t. Characters are given moments to shine and the colors used in each battle help a newbie like me discern what’s happening. The focus on Metalmaster, Mentacle, and Captain Glory really made me happy. Their are so unique in style and color. How Synapse and Wasp are characterized make me want to go back and learn more about each of them. What’s their backstory? What else can they do? What can’t they do? That’s gotta be the purpose right? Why else would Marvel throw everyone, and the kitchen sink, into a weekly series if not to inundate newbies like me with an opportunity to move beyond my favorites from the MCU.

I’m so excited to see where this story goes next. If the hint at the end bears fruit soon, I’m feeling things are going to get smashingly exciting.

Verdict: 5 out of 5

I'm a curious, creative, comic(al) woman. I am unapologetically Team Cap, but not HydraCap because there is a line in the moral sands of the universe and that whole thing is on the other side of it. I teach high school students all about the joys of mythology through comic books, graphic novels, and films. I wandered into the comic book world in 2015 and is a proud member of the #DoYouEvenComicBook gang.

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