Avengers: Infinity War might be dominating the cultural landscape like a Mad Titan right now, but it’s not the only big Avengers release this week. Avengers #690 is the last issue of the Marvel comic book series before it relaunches with a new #1 -- and, more importantly, it wraps up the 16-part “No Surrender” storyline that’s been running since the start of this year, from the writing trio of Al Ewing, Jim Zub and Mark Waid, and with artists including Joe Bennett, Kim Jacinto, Paco Medina, Pepe Larraz, Sean Izaakse and Stefano Caselli.
It’s a great end to one of the most enjoyable event comics of recent years. So, as we all reel after the major developments from the latest big-screen adventure of Tony, Steve, Nat, Thor et al, here’s what makes "Avengers: No Surrender" the perfect comic book blockbuster.
Facing the biggest possible threat
“No Surrender” opens like a disaster movie. Like all of them at once, in fact, as earthquakes, floods, volcanoes and hurricanes suddenly sweep across the globe. Plus, this being a superhero comic crisis, the sky turns blood red.
It’s not initially clear why any of this is happening, but it’s clearly a pretty big deal. Especially as half of the world’s superheroes inexplicably freeze in place. And doubly so when the remaining heroes realize that the Earth has been moved. Yup, the entire planet -- plus the moon -- are teleported straight out of the solar system by an unknown force.
All of this makes for a genuinely global catastrophe. The book remains anchored in New York City -- this is still the Marvel Universe, after all -- but over the course of the series we visit everywhere from Iceland to Peru, Egypt to the Antarctic.
An emphasis on teamwork
It isn’t long before more traditional supervillains appear, in the form of the Black Order and a newly assembled Lethal Legion, but dealing with natural disaster movies shows us a different side of these heroes. It’s a refreshing change of pace to see Human Torch and Scarlet Witch combining their powers to hold back a tidal wave -- and, more than that, it taps into a couple of things which make the series’ approach to superheroics work.
The first is making the most of the fact that the Avengers are a team. Multiple teams, in fact. All three preexisting Avengers books -- adjectiveless, Uncanny and U.S.Avengers -- were consolidated into this single title, and “No Surrender” brings together members from each cast. You could even say… they assemble.
“No Surrender” identifies this team catchphrase as a genuinely magic word, and repeatedly uses it so show what makes the Avengers special. Namely, that the team’s boundaries are so wide, stretching from a literal god to a guy who shoots arrows. From household names like Hulk and Spider-Man to C-listers like Wonder Man and the superhero formerly known as Living Lightning. From a newbie like the Unstoppable Wasp Nadia Pym, to a founding member like… well, the original Wasp, Janet Van Dyne.
But when summoned, with the "A"-word, these disparate heroes all come together for the common good of humanity. Speaking of which…
Superheroes who actually save people
The characters of “No Surrender” don’t save the world just by finding the biggest possible bad and punching them. The team’s primary purpose isn’t fighting, as perfectly summed up by Falcon. “Avenger rule number one: Save lives. Even the poisonous ones.”
Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of punching. Almost every issue comes with at least one double-page spread filled with heroes and villains clashing, often in interesting and inventive ways that reward a closer look. It’s just not the only way that problems are solved.
As a pacifist, Wonder Man tries to reason with everyone from an enraged Hulk to the Lethal Legion. In an attempt to cure Jarvis of a mysterious ailment, Beast and Wasp fantastic voyage their way inside his brain. Even #689’s climactic battle cuts back and forth with a hand of Texas Hold ‘Em, just as pivotal to the fate of the world as the big punch-up.
“No Surrender” also tasks its heroes -- and readers alike -- with solving mysteries. What is the strange pyramid-shaped meteor that crashed into Rome’s Colosseum? Who is Voyager, the alleged founding Avenger we’ve never seen before? Why have half the world’s heroes frozen in place?
And, of course, where the heck did Earth actually go, and who put it there?
These mysteries pull you from issue to issue. Reading “No Surrender” as it came out, on a weekly basis, the pace was perfect -- providing answers while the questions are still fresh in your head, while constantly adding a new mystery to the pile.