Finding time for individual characters
The premise of “No Surrender” means that, in theory, it has every single current Avenger at its disposal. Given the aforementioned broad membership policy, that’s basically every superhero on the planet.
That might sound great in theory — a story with all of your favorite characters in the mix — but too large a cast often means no one gets the space they deserve. This was the downfall of Avengers: Age of Ultron, to pick a cinematic example, and it was a concern about the even-larger Infinity War.
“No Surrender” shrinks down the team a bit, by literally pressing pause on the likes of Spider-Man, Captain America, basically the entire X-Men, Black Panther and even the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. But that still leaves it with a bigger cast than just about any Avengers story you’ve ever seen, on the page or screen. The character recap page which kicks off every issue often features a dozen villains, and twice as many Avengers.
The real solution to this problem comes from “No Surrender” embracing its serialized nature. Each issue gives the starring role — and narrative captions — to a different character, including heroes, villains, and everything in between. It’s a great way of including a multiplicity of voices, and the writing team do a great job of making each one stand out.
A frustrated Quicksilver, desperate to prove himself after a recent mistake put another Avenger in danger. Voyager, laying out her real origins and slowly coming to understand what being an Avenger means. Wonder Man, arguing superheroes can “do better than solving every problem with their fists”.
This helps the book feel like a true ensemble piece, rather than three main characters talking while a load of familiar faces stand around in the background, and makes it possible to weave smaller character arcs in among all the big world-in-the-balance developments.
A perfect example is Miguel Santos, now going by “Lightning” (he dropped the “Living,” presumably after Justin Timberlake told him it was cleaner). He narrates the first and penultimate issues, and in the process we see him develop from feeling insecure about his C-list status to embracing it in order to save the day. It’s a great revival of a character many readers might not have heard of — and one that makes that part of his story.
Laying down tracks
Part of the excitement around Infinity War is seeing where it leaves the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and there’s no shortage of that in “No Surrender”. Don’t expect a major shift in the status quo — about the biggest development is that Avengers Manor blows up, which as the characters themselves point out, now happens on a nearly weekly basis — but it leaves many of its characters in an interesting place.
#690 is essentially an issue-length post-credits sequence, picking up with our heroes after the climactic battle. There’s no shawarma consumed, but it’s a great moment of quiet after the storm — one of those great standbys of superhero comics — that also sets up where characters are headed next. Like, all of them. Even the villains.
In some cases, it’s just a line or two, but other characters get a whole new direction. Whether there are concrete plans to pick up on the new status of Roberto da Costa or the Black Order isn’t clear, but it manages to set up at least two forthcoming books — The Immortal Hulk and Quicksilver: No Surrender.
It feels remarkably organic, perhaps because “No Surrender” manages to be simultaneously a story about each of these individual characters, and one about the entire Earth of the Marvel Universe. One that made coming back week after week thrilling and borderline addictive.
So when the final epilogue — which really is a post-credits sting in comics form — wraps up with the words “Always… to be continued,” it’s hard not to be excited for whatever comes next.
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