Avengers: No Surrender brings a particular era in the long-running franchise to a conclusion, while setting the stage for what comes next.
Without warning, the Earth is “stolen” and moved to another dimension. With many heroes thrown into a mysterious state of suspended animation, the rosters of three different Avengers squads converge, summoned by Voyager, who purports to be a “forgotten” founding member. With havoc exploding across the globe, two groups of deadly aliens, the Black Order and Lethal Legion, arrive on the planet for a violent contest, with various Avengers in the middle. Watching from a remove is the twisted Grandmaster, the cosmic gamesman, and the mysterious, powerful Challenger, locked in a game that could leave the Earth a desiccated ruin. The return of the believed dead Hulk, Voyager’s true nature and a falling out between Grandmaster and Champion sets the stage for an epic finale that brings in a wide swath of Avengers past and present.
Marvel merged its three pre-Legacy era Avengers titles (including Uncanny Avengers and USAvengers) into one weekly book, with the writers of the three series (Mark Waid, Al Ewing and Jim Zub) collaborating on the epic. With a massive cast, vast canvas and numerous plot threads to juggle, the writing team does a fairly strong job of keeping this behemoth on track. This is truly the kind of epic storytelling that’s in the franchise’s DNA. It makes good use of decades of history, but also manages to feel of the moment, a nice balancing trick that gives both old school fans and more recent converts something to latch onto.
As mentioned, the cast is huge, mixing the rosters of the three pre-Legacy era books, plus a host of other Avengers and related characters and a truckload of villains. That means not everyone gets to shine, but the writers effectively play the three team leads (Falcon, Rogue and Sunspot) off of one another, while providing welcome moments in the spotlight for a diverse group of older and more recent members, including Wonder Man, Hulk, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, both Wasps, Beast and ever loyal butler Jarvis. Voyager is a great creation, the team doing a neat job of crafting someone who could be the long-lost Silver Age heroine she was supposed to be, then giving her a compelling arc across the story. Another unusual choice getting an effective spotlight is erstwhile West Coast Avenger Living Lightning (now just Lightning), who gets a surprisingly central role and is used effectively throughout.
Among the villains, Grandmaster is reliably creepy and Challenger proves to be a worthy new enemy. As for the Black Order and Lethal Legion, those collectives come off a bit on the serviceable side, though each is positioned for future returns that could give the bad guys more time in the spotlight.
As is highly common with these kinds of weekly event series, the art is handled by a small army of pencilers and inkers, including Pepe Larraz, Kim Jacinto, Mike Perkins, Stefano Caselli, Sean Izaaske, Paco Medina and Joe Bennett. There are no major stylistic differences among the group and the art comes across effectively for the most part, selling the blockbuster scale of the drama without sacrificing the human emotion of the smaller moments. The art collaborative comes across with some striking images, including some first rate fights scenes and a few impressive splash pages. For the most part, the artists take advantage of the expansive real estate afforded them and rise to the plot’s challenge. Colorist David Curiel is the crucial unifying link, handling the entire saga with some strong chops, nailing the shifting tones, the mix of bright pops and muted shades and the variety of special effects needed, giving the proceedings the right sheen to drive home the impact of the visuals.
As with many sagas of this nature, No Surrender benefits from the collected format, with the ability to read the chapters in quick succession smoothing out any pacing issues from the weekly release schedule. That leaves fans with a big ticket action spectacle that works in some well done character moments and brings this era of the Avengers franchise to a fitting close.