In Review: Avengers #688

The story is moving to its conclusion and characters are making life changing decisions.

The covers: A very different pair of frontpieces for you to choose between. Mark Brooks continues to wow with this cover that’s anything but Regular. Using a beautiful Art Nouveau style, the Scarlet Witch seems taken aback as her brother Quicksilver attempts to grab her hands from behind. Both characters are wearing ornate headpieces. They look incredible. Framing this is the repeated imagery of Captain America’s shield and Mjolnir. The bottom corners feature Iron Man and War Machine, while a small, disgruntled Vision tries to crawl out the image, looking over a shoulder unhappily at the gigantic mutants behind him. There’s even a tiny Wasp zipping out of the image. This may get old by my stating it, but it remains true nonetheless: this deserves to a print, poster, or tee shirt. The Variant cover by Chris Sprouse, Karl Story & Marcio Menyz has Captain America in an armored suit, but missing his mask, leaping in the air to bring a fist down upon Tony Stark, who’s wearing silver Iron Man armor. Stark is clearly seen from this angle, but Steve is difficult to make out. The background is a pile of ruble and a mushroom cloud…? It’s hard to tell because of the coloring of the background. The rest of the coloring is fine. I just wish that Cap could have been seen from a different angle. Overall grades: Regular A+ and Variant C+

The story: After speeding off last issue in pursuit of a blue beacon of energy that he can’t catch, Quicksilver sees that the Earth is dying. Whatever has kept the world at this new location is failing. Even with this knowledge he races after the beacon, believing if he catches it the heroes and villains held in stasis will be released. However, it’s too fast for him. He stops before a frozen Black Panther and says to himself, “Okay. Plan B…” Meanwhile, the Challenger, who killed the Grandmaster, has arrived on Earth. He’s there to gloat in his victory and seek praises and applause from the humans before he destroys them in five minutes. He also now calls himself Grandmaster Prime. This is obviously the beginning of the end of the No Surrender saga from Mark Waid, Al Ewing & Jim Zub. Voyager reveals to the heroes that there’s something on her father’s satellite that could save the world, so they have to figure out a way to distract the Challenger so they can get up there. This is the only weakness of this story: a hitherto unmentioned device that can save the day. True, there’s no need to mention it earlier, but to have one device suddenly appear in the story to solve many problems is too much. Luckily or unfortunately, one of their members has decided to make the first strike against the villain. Pages 7 – 9 are really fun, but end too quickly. Another character makes a decision that could change his life forever, but it’s to help the team, naturally. Quicksilver finds an ally that can help him catch the beacon, which creates a unsuspected reaction on Page 18. The final page gives the characters the hope they need and is sure to excite the reader with its final words. The story is moving to its conclusion and characters are making life changing decisions. Very enjoyable. Overall grade: A-

The art: Artists Kim Jacinto & Stefano Caselli take over this issue and it’s hit and miss. The book opens with a close-up of Quicksilver and it’s not the greatest image of him. The fourth panel on the same page has him with a really long left arm. Better is the final panel of the page that’s an extreme close-up of his eye. I’m not keen on the character running in profile, with his back hand getting a curl that reminded me of the work of Don Martin. When it comes to energy bolts, this team does a great job. The Challenger’s arrival on Earth is awesome, with bolts and tendrils of energy whipping about him. The montage of humans reacting to the antagonist’s declaration is great; there’s quite a bit of exceptional setting work done. The hero that first battles the Challenger looks great except when he throws his fists, with speed lines used too often. For example, check out the second panel on 8: the character’s fist has speed lines that go beyond the character’s hand, making it seem that the fist is pulling away from the villain, but it can’t be because the baddie is getting batted back. When speed lines aren’t employed, jagged edges are given to a character to represent speed, such as in the bottom panel on 7. These do not work, instead making the character look shaggy. The hero’s face looks amateurish, not intense, on 9, which is entirely the wrong tone for what’s occurring. Thankfully, the characters look better after this action sequence. Page 12 is a great way to showcase a character and have the individual visually look in command of a situation without smashing someone else’s head. Excellently done. 14 also is done exceptionally well done, with good emotion in the third panel and the final panel fantastic. The page that follows again excels with awesome energy, but the speed lines and jagged edges diminish their effect. The final page is the perfect illustration to end the issue with enough to fire up readers for the next issue. A decently drawn issue, were it not for questionable speed choices and that first tussle. Overall grade: B-

The colors: David Curiel starts strongly out of the gate this issue by giving a really cool violet to Quicksilver’s narration. The energy in the sky gets an eerie red to disrupt his speedy blue trek. The Challenger’s declaration to the citizens of Earth is given a flat, harsh red that makes his words visually terrifying. The energy that crackles around him as he states his newly chosen name is fantastic for the blues and whites used. I like the crimson colors of the Avengers Auxiliary Headquarters, reinforcing the threat of the previous page. The colors of the hero in the opening battle are fantastic. Reds are excellent on 14, beginning with a pair’s emotion rather than the go-to shade used for the more famous Avenger. Pages 17 – 18 have some exceptional colors as the panels dart back and forth between the fight and the character on a mission. The last page isn’t working for me though, sadly. That’s because of the background colors; they are two flat, blanket colors. White would have been more preferable. A great job until the last image. Overall grade: A-

The letters: This issue’s text by VC’s Cory Petit has narration and dialogue (the same font), tired and muttered speech, scene settings, the Challenger’s declaration, sounds, yells, and a one word command. I always want dialogue and narration to be in different fonts rather than differed by the shape and/or color of their balloons, as is done here. The scene settings are incredibly powerful, like a visual blast to the reader’s face as to where the story is now set. The Challenger’s speech to all of Earth is in a terrific font and looks monstrous. The sounds are incredible: big, strong, and wonderful. I’m liking what Petit is doing. Overall grade: A-

The final line: Things begin to wind up as the story winds down. One Avenger is on a quest, another makes a life changing decision, and the final page gives the fans what they want. The visuals are off occasionally, but work for the most part. A transition issue that introduces the last threat of this saga. Overall grade: B+

To order a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/Avengers-2016-688/digital-comic/637766?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC90b3BSZXN1bHRzU2xpZGVy

To see the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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