SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Avengers #646 by Mark Waid, Al Ewing, Jim Zub, Pep Larraz, David Curiel and Cory Petit, on sale now.
Someone has stolen the Earth and displaced it in time and space, and whoever it is has even larger plans in mind. In this week’s installment of Avengers: No Surrender, we see the arrival of both The Black Order and The Lethal Legion, who seem to each be representing some unseen force that has placed wagers on their victory and chosen Earth as the battlefield.
There are a few candidates within the Marvel Universe as to who this could be, Of course, whoever it is has to have the power and desire to move an entire planet out of orbit for the sake of a game. With that admittedly limited clue set in mind, we’ve got some ideas as to who it most likely will be.
Contest of Champions
The most obvious guess as to who is responsible for this game is En Dwi Gast, better known as The Grandmaster. Recently popularised by Jeff Goldblum’s portrayal in Thor: Ragnarok, The Grandmaster’s entire deal is that he challenges other cosmic beings such as himself and uses superhumans as his pawns in his games. This issue even calls back to his first appearance in Avengers #69 - 70, where he challenged Kang The Conqueror using The Avengers and Squadron Sinister as their representatives. He’s perhaps best known for his role in the Contest of Champions, where he challenged Mistress Death herself in the first ever Marvel Comics crossover, predating the original Secret Wars by a year.
The Grandmaster is often seen engaging in competition with his brother and fellow Elder of the Universe, The Collector and based on what we know from Avengers: No Surrender so far, those two are the odds-on favorites for the beings responsible for the worldwide chaos. However, it’s just as likely that’s what we’re supposed to think, and the flashback to Avengers #70 was a red-herring to plant the idea of The Grandmaster in our heads before pulling the rug out and revealing it to be someone else.
Fortunately, the Marvel Universe is filled with cosmic beings powerful to move the Earth and manipulate supervillains into a big bust-up. One of the first that comes to mind is someone that has been absent for a long, long time — The Beyonder. The Beyonder was first introduced in Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars as a formless omnipotent being who brought the heroes and villains of Earth to Battleworld to fight for an ultimate prize. Later revelations dug into The Beyonder’s personality and origins, and he was later confirmed to be a “child unit” of a much larger race also known as the Ivory Kings, but the individual hasn’t been seen long enough that his return would be one of the biggest moments of the year.
There’s plenty of other cosmic beings that could be responsible for the global chaos, any one of which would be a huge surprise. It could be Origin and Un-Being, the two beings responsible for Earth’s superhumans; it could be Master Order and Lord Chaos, or Mistress Love and Master Hate; it could even be Kobik, the living embodiment of the Cosmic Cube who has been missing in action since the end of Secret Empire. Whoever is responsible for the events of Avengers: No Surrender, it’s much, much larger than Earth and the story is only going to get more cosmic going forward.