by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
We’ll often chide middle chapters for failing to maintain dramatic momentum while setting up the climax — when he actions in those middle chapters feel motivated more by what the climax needs than what came before. We refer to that phenomenon as “putting the pieces in place,” as it reduces the dramatic interest of a story to setting up a board game. It’s an unfortunate tendency that tends to crop up in event series with huge casts, and has already led to some consternation with “No Surrender,” but Avengers 679 hangs a lampshade on its game-iness, zooming out from the game board to focus on the real players.
It’s an approach that makes sense on paper — if the game itself feels kind of low-stakes, there should at least be drama to mine from the characters playing it — but in practice, infinitely powerful eternal beings aren’t that easy to relate to. This issue does everything it can to humanize them, giving them a backstory of camaraderie, jealousy, and betrayal, but it does little to characterize them beyond those abstract dramatic concepts. What does life mean for these characters? Do they ever do anything besides play high-stakes games on a featureless platform floating in space?
Without a sense of what their life is beyond the game, the stakes can’t really be anything other than the game itself, which is what we already had.
What’s worse, drawing our attention to the game-iness of the narrative only emphasizes how insignificant our Earth-bound heroes’ actions actually are. From a pawn’s perspective, his sacrifice may be heroic or inspiring, but that perspective falls apart as soon as we’re aware they’re literally a pawn. For me, this visit with the Elders vastly reduced the stakes of the Earthly battles while failing to introduce any of the new ones. Suddenly, “No Surrender” feels like watching a sport I’ve never seen before — the rules feel bizarre and arbitrary, I don’t care about the outcome, and I can’t help but be aware of the fact that my life was just as satisfying when I didn’t know this thing even existed. This series has never felt more disposable.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?