REVIEW: Avengers #690

AVENGERS #690 / Writers: Mark Waid, Al Ewing & Jim Zub / Artists: Pepe Larraz / Color Artist: David Curiel / Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit / Cover Art: Mark Brooks / Publisher: Marvel / April 25, 2018

Earth’s back in orbit and spinning as she should, but at what cost to our heroes? Who’s left standing? Marvel’s Avengers: No Surrender wraps its tremendous run with issue #16 this week. As with all good endings, it’s time to shake off the dust, embrace survivors, mourn the lost, and figure out how to move on. Considering the intensity and pace of the run–sixteen weekly issues–I freely admit that catching my breath feels great.

Early on in the story’s run, I thought quite a lot about how characters, despite all their skills and strengths, were reduced to pawns in another’s game. It’s humbling and frustrating to think that no matter how great and powerful you are, there is someone out there with the power to knock you on your ass. There are days I’m convinced the United States–my homeland–acts like the Grandmaster around the world. Then there are days I’m convinced our people are just pawns in games played by corporate oligarchs. Either way, it’s a dismal feeling knowing that’s our current reality. Of course, the Avengers are here to remind me and to inspire me. Avengers: No Surrender closes with the age-old Avengers wisdom: it’s not just that we must stand up for those unable to stand for themselves, but also how we make that stand that matters.

We do it together, and if we survive to get to the other side of our battle, we need to forgive each other and ourselves. We need to make amends and move into the future.

This week’s issue highlights the fallout on a few important characters. I particularly appreciated the time in the story dedicated to Clint and Bruce. It felt like a very honest, melancholy moment. It reminded me of the scene in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King when Frodo readies to leave the Shire forever:

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand… there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep, that have taken hold.”

Frodo’s words ring true for a few characters in this issue. Other characters seemingly bounce back without a care in the world, happy rebuild and make plans, for everything to be fresh and clean again. But that’s the rub, isn’t it? No one knows how an event such as this will impact them, how they will find a new normal after sacrificing so much. Avengers: No Surrender does an admirable job showing a range of reactions, from darkly resigned, to solemn determination, to brightly hopeful.
Don’t think the entire issue is an emotional waterfall. It’s not! There are moments of humor and snark to lighten the mood. Pay attention to the announcement of each new location. They are quite funny, and it’s not gallows humor by any stretch. I just read it in the tone of a person who just got through an unbelievable experience; a little snark goes a long way towards bringing sense back to the world.

My favorite scene in the issue revolves around a conversation between Clint and Bruce. It’s as powerfully quiet as you’d expect, and Pepe Larraz and David Curiel bring that scene to life beautifully. There’s one panel in particular that caught my eye. During their diner conversation, the black and white checkered floor is covered in Bruce’s and Clint’s long black shadows. Those shadows are like the consequences looming for all our heroes. We can’t see them clearly, but we know that they are there and always will be. The contrast of light and dark in that scene felt appropriate. Bruce continues in darkness, and Clint, as much as he can, tries to bring some light. We will have to wait and see if anything good can come from it.

Looking back, Avengers: No Surrender entertained, challenged, and exhausted me. Audiences more familiar with the wide cast of characters and storylines will surely get more out of this than I did. Thankfully, No Surrender can be an introduction to newbies, at least newbies sharp enough to catch on and manage all the moving parts of a big, bold series such as this. 

Verdict: 5 out of 5

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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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