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Avengers #679: Review

Feb 2018
Mark Waid, Kim Jacinto

Story Name:

No surrender: part 5

Review & Comments

Rating:
4 stars

Avengers #679 Review by (February 16, 2018)
We met several of the Elders of the Universe before we ever heard that name.
Some say the Stranger is 1. If so he was the 1st we saw, in X-Men #11 cover-dated May 1965.
Collector started his habit of trying to collect Avengers in Av#28 May 1966.
Ego the Living Planet 1st appeared in Thor #132 Sep 1966.
Grandmaster began using the Avengers as pawns in his games in Av#69 Oct 1969.
Possessor cropped up as Kamo Tharnn in Thor #235 May 1975.
Contemplator was known as Mister Buda in Captain America's Bicentennial Battles Treasury Special Jun 1976.
Gardener was introduced in Marvel Team-Up #55 Mar 1977. He had what would later be called the Time Gem of the Infinity Gems. Adam Warlock had the Soul gem and Stranger had the Power gem.
It was Collector who 1st claimed to be an Elder in Av#174 Aug 1978, and he indicated that Grandmaster was 1 too. That was during the Korvac saga where he was killed.
Grandmaster confirmed their connection in the original Contest of Champions in 1982 where he played a game against Death to get Collector restored to life.
And Steve Englehart brought the Elders to the fore in his 1987 Silver Surfer series where he linked in the others and introduced many more, and also gave us the Infinity Gems.

It's no secret that Hulk is going to be brought back in a later issue. The person under the Mount is presumably Bruce Banner - "Help me" doesn't sound very Hulky. In Secret Empire Hydra sent a resurrected Hulk to destroy the Mount which was the secret base of the Underground resistance.




 

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers #679 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Image from Avengers #679
The Earth has been abducted to act as a board for a game, and all superbeings but a large group of Avengers have been 'frozen'. However these Avengers aren't the players or even the game pieces. They are merely 'obstacles' to be overcome by 2 teams of aliens.

The players are the Grandmaster (as usual) and an unknown opponent - 1 whom we are now going to learn more about. Known only as the Challenger he seems to have a personal grudge against his foe even though they were once friends. But the rules of the game have just been bent. The 2 teams have been vying to grab 2 Pyramoids. But now 1 of the obstacle Avengers has taken 1 of them.

That Avenger was the Human Torch, and the Pyramoid just vapourised him. Lightning had zoomed here from the site of the other Pyramoid to warn his friends that the same thing happened to the alien Black Dwarf when he won that target. But he got here just too late.

Here is Peru, and the other place is the Colosseum in Rome. The alien teams are the Black Order and the Lethal Legion. 3 of the Order (Corvus Glaive, Ebony Maw and Proxima Midnight) were contending against Captain Glory, Drall and Ferene of the Legion. Now they all withdraw from the field, leaving the humans with the victory.

Synapse wants to follow them for revenge, but team leader Falcon says their priority must be saving the locals from the lava flow that had been caused by the fiery Pyramoid. He sends Red Hulk and Wonder Man to deal with that. But Lightning blames himself for Johnny Storm's death and insists on racing back to Rome to tell Rogue what happened - Rogue who was in a relationship with Torch.

But we don't follow him there immediately. Instead we pop in to Lenox Hill hospital in Manhattan where Beast and Wasp (Nadia Pym) are still tending comatose Edwin Jarvis. Wasp has a theory about what's wrong with him. He's been butlering for the Avengers for so long he's got something she names Avengers Fever - all the toxins  and strange energies and radiations the various Avengers have been exposed to over the decades have accumulated within him.

In Rome the other Avengers team are also helping civilians who were caught up in the battle of aliens. Cannonball and Quicksilver were both sent home injured last issue. Rogue now only has Hercules and Thor (Jane Foster) with her, and she's continuing to doubt her leadership abilities. Then Lightning turns up with the bad news about Johnny's death.

But at the same time we find out that he and Black Dwarf are probably not dead. They've just been removed from play and encased in giant crystals. Challenger gloats that Grandmaster lost an opportunity to even the score - an 'obstacle' won the point which means the gameboard is now beating him. En Dwi Gast replies that he deliberately chose Earth to play on because of its level of difficulty - for both players. This is Avengers World whose inhabitants have beaten the Phoenix and Thanos and changed Galactus from Devourer to Lifebringer.

Challenger gets angry at Grandmaster reminding him of his name - which he has only because Gast stole *his*. And we learn of their shared past. They are both Elders of the Universe, unique survivors of the earliest races in the universe. (We see them with others who appeared early in the Marvel Age - Collector, Contemplator, Gardener and Possessor.) When they became (virtually) immortal they each took up a hobby/obsession to fill their time. En Dwi Gast and the so far unnamed Challenger both chose gaming, and frequently played against each other.

After a while the Elders adopted names related to their hobbies, and he who is now the Challenger became the Grandmaster. He suggested Gast could be the Gamesman or the Competitor, but Gast was envious of his friend's superiority. Their games became more competitive and the stakes rose until they played a final game to establish the greatest gamer of all time. (Actually it was just a standard chess layout with strange names for the pieces and moves.) The loser would be banished from reality until the end of the universe. Grandmaster suggested this was madness but En Dwi was adamant. And he won (with deliberate irony he is depicted as winning with the same move that Grandmaster beat him in the 1st game we saw). And as his opponent faded away Gast claimed the name Grandmaster for himself.

Challenger relates how he was in an existence with no time, no space and no self. There he waited alone for the universe to end. (These 2 sentences are contradictory.) But then the universe, indeed the multiverse, *did* end (Secret Wars III). And it restarted, but the Challenger was free. And now he's here for a rematch with the same stakes (but a different game). In his anger Challenger starts to throttle Gast, but is reminded that would constitute cheating and so Challenger would suffer his fate again. Challenger says he'd do it if he was losing, but since he's winning he'll leave En Dwi for the worse end.

Last issue the teams were fighting for 2 Pyramoids representing Earth and Fire. Now it's time for the other 2 elements Air and Water. This time Challenger gets to choose his element 1st (I couldn't see what difference it made last time *who* played *which* element) and he chooses Air which means the Pyramoid will be guarded by thunder and lightning. Grandmaster is left with Water which he says in this case means ice.

Gast reminds Challenger that his Black Order team started with only 6 members to the Lethal Legion's 7 (this means they count the 2 Blood Brothers individually). And now he's lost Black Dwarf who won the Earth point, so he's 2 players down. But his opponent laughs and says he was never a player short. He's kept a special pawn in reserve ...

... and we go deep under the ruins of the Mount in New Mexico where there's a green glow and the words "Help me" on a green background.


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Kim Jacinto
Kim Jacinto
David Curiel
Mark Brooks (Cover Penciler)
Mark Brooks (Cover Inker)
Mark Brooks (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Cory Petit.
Editor: Tom Brevoort.

Characters

Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Beast
Beast

(Hank McCoy)
Falcon
Falcon

(Sam Wilson)
Hulk
Hulk

(Bruce Banner)
Human Torch
Human Torch

(Johnny Storm)
Red Hulk
Red Hulk

(Robert Maverick)
Synapse
Synapse

(Emily Guerrero)
Thor
Thor

(Jane Foster)
Wasp
Wasp

(Nadia Pym)

Plus: Captain Glory, Drall, Jarvis (Edwin Jarvis), Lightning (Miguel Santos).