WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Avengers #679, by Al Ewing, Jim Zub, Mark Waid, Kim Jacinto, David Curiel and Cory Petit, on sale now.
Marvel Comics’ weekly Avengers: No Surrender storyline is filled with many unsolved mysteries, not the least of which is the identity of the new character who has been embroiled in a cosmic game against the Grandmaster.
Under normal circumstances, the revelation of the Challenger’s identity would take place months down the line. However, thanks to No Surrender‘s accelerated publishing schedule, it’s only taken five weeks to learn who he really is. And, appropriately enough for a massive event like No Surrender, the big reveal manages to alter what we previously knew about a longstanding race of cosmic beings in the Marvel Universe, and also ties to one of the publisher’s most ambitious crossover events, ever.
You Stole My Name!
As the Grandmaster and Challenger survey their game board following Johnny Storm’s apparent death, the two begin to discuss why Earth was chosen as the location of their duel. According to Grandmaster, he chose Earth — or as he nicknames the planet, the Avengers World — because of its ability to stymie the Elders of the Universe at every occasion. Earth is the world that has tamed the Phoenix, bested the Mad Titan Thanos, and altered Galactus from the Devourer of Worlds to the Lifebringer. Therefore, its the perfect playing field for the two cosmic beings. The Grandmaster even goes so far as to goad the Challenger. “You call yourself the Challenger now,” he said. “Don’t tell me you’re afraid of the challenge.”
This seems to infuriate the Challenger, as he lifts the Grandmaster off the ground by his throat, screaming that his name was stolen. This is when we learn the Challenger was a member of the Elders of the Universe — and Grandmaster’s brother.
When you’re gifted with immortality like the Grandmaster and Challenger, apparently the way to spend your free time is on the playing of games. Back then, Challenger went by the name of Grandmaster, leaving En Dwi Gast the only Elder without a signature moniker. For example, Taneleer christened himself “The Collector,” and Ord Zyonyz “The Gardener.”
However, En Dwi Gast took a liking to the Grandmaster title, and plotted against his brother to steal the name by winning a game with the stakes raised to their highest point ever. The winner would be the greatest gamer of all, while the loser would be barred from this reality until it ends. Of course, the man we now know as the Grandmaster won, and the Challenger was banished. This, of course, leads to the question of how the Challenger returned to this plane of existence.
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