Avengers #675

Writers: Mark Waid, Al Ewing & Jim Zub
Artist: Pepe Larraz
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artist: Mark Brooks
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Review by Nico Sprezzatura

With the release of Avengers: Infinity War fast on the horizon, it makes sense that Marvel would seek to capitalize on it with some good ol’ fashioned, cross-platform synergy. Just last week, they published Rise of the Black Panther #1 (which I reviewed here) in the lead-up to T’Challa’s first-ever solo movie; this week it’s the Avengers’ turn. Avengers #675 is the first chapter of “No Surrender,” a three-month crossover story arc told over weekly installments that will —ever so conveniently— conclude right before Infinity War hits theaters.

Does it justify its own existence outside the context of an upcoming movie, though? Based on this introductory issue, I think it does. While comic book cash-ins seemingly conceived via SEO have become the norm at Marvel and DC, they’re often quite good — just look at the recent revival of Runaways, no doubt greenlit in preparation for Hulu’s live-action series of the same name. While it could’ve been a cheap stunt to take advantage of timing, Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka have been delivering something pretty special in the pages of their comic. “No Surrender,” thankfully, seems more akin to that result.

It kinda seems like every major Marvel event lately has involved the hook of “heroes versus heroes.” Civil War II, Inhumans vs. X-Men, and Secret Empire are just a few of the most notable examples of this. With CWII, it at least made sense, given its close proximity to the release of Captain America: Civil War that year. But the others? Not so much. Perhaps because Infinity War kinda sorta requires all of its heroes to get along to prevent Thanos from destroying the world, “No Surrender” similarly unites a bevy of Avengers for one common goal.

While Thanos doesn’t seem to be involved in this story (at least, not yet) the stakes are equally apocalyptic, when every current faction of Avengers —the flagship team, the Unity Squad, the USAvengers, and the Occupy Avengers— realizes that Earth has literally been stolen from the universe. With the help of some key figures like Captain Marvel and Black Panther (neither of whom are currently-active members) and the Champions, it’s up to the Avengers to figure out what’s happening to their home planet before it’s too late.

It’s a fairly straightforward plot, and that’s not a bad thing. A common complaint of modern superhero comics is that they’re too dense with continuity and contrived plotting, and while “No Surrender” seems to be drawing from both pools in this first issue, it’s a pretty breezy read. Considering how this story is being written by three different writers —Mark Waid, Al Ewing, and Jim Zub, who are the most recent architects of the Avengers line— it’s a relief to see how easily their voices mesh together. Ewing’s USAvengers and Zub’s Uncanny Avengers both recently concluded to make way for this consolidated Avengers title. And, while I was disappointed by both of those cancellations, elements of those books have clearly made the jump here.

Complicating matters is the return of Voyager, a new creation who was apparently a founding Avenger we’ve never known about until now. I’m mixed on the trope of “forgotten character who’s actually super important to the plot!” as it rarely sticks around for very long —remember the Sentry? No?— I’ve got some ideas as to who this mystery player is, and I’m interested to see exactly what role she plays in this story.

Speaking of unexpected characters with a major focus, one aspect I really enjoyed about Avengers #675 (which I assume will go largely ignored in other appraisals of this issue) is that it’s largely told from the perspective of Miguel Santos, the superhero formerly known as Living Lightning. Now answering to the abbreviated “Lightning” —people always confused him with the minor villain Living Laser— he’s not only a blast from the past of Avengers comics, but a gay man of color (specifically, Mexican) as well.

And that’s important! Not only have Waid, Ewing, and Zub dragged Lightning out of editorial purgatory for this story, but he’s the first major character we see at the beginning, and he essentially serves as the audience surrogate for what’s happening. It definitely feels like a purposeful inclusion for a long-dormant character who offers a bit of much-needed diversity, not unlike Steve Orlando’s recent revival of The Ray at DC. I’m not sure how big of a role Lightning will ultimately play in “No Surrender,” but the writing team have mentioned him a lot in conversations about it, and he’s included in the official character breakdown page, so I have a good feeling that we’ll be seeing more of him in the weeks to come.

A major story like “No Surrender” requires some lofty art, and Pepe Larraz —the first of a rotating team of artists that includes Kim Jacinto and Paco Medina— seems pretty up to the task here. Visual consistency in a weekly comic series is a crucial element that can’t be overlooked, so it’s appreciated that “No Surrender” has a capable crew of artists to help convey the story from here on out. Larraz’ illustrations in particular are suitably action-packed and expressive, and very akin to the aesthetics of both Jacinto and Medina. That’s not to say they’re interchangeable, obviously; I’m really looking forward to seeing how each of their styles compare and contrast as the story progresses.

I’m not sure if “No Surrender” will be colored by one person throughout, but if David Curiel is sticking around for the duration of the story, I think he’s a good choice. Coloring is way more crucial to visual consistency in a comic book series than people realize — Ian Herring, for example, has been a lynchpin of the Ms. Marvel creative team throughout its many artist changeups, unifying all of its myriad artists under a recognizable color palette. If Curiel is onboard for all of “No Surrender,” then Larraz, Medina, and Jacinto are in good hands.

The Verdict:
Buy it. 
With an interesting plot, appealing art, and a variety of characters both beloved and obscure, Avengers #675 launches the weekly “No Surrender” storyline with a great result.

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

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